A very warm welcome to my first UniBlog of 2017, I hope you had a great festive season! As usual mine, and perhaps yours, was made all the more enjoyable by the PDC World Champs being on telly. Many congrats to MvG on his thoroughly deserved second title and to The Flying Scotsman for following up successive victories with a third final. Several other members of Team Unicorn also performed very well, especially Barney, who hit the fourth highest World Champs average (109.34) in his semi only to be outdone by Mighty Mike’s record-breaking 114.05.
After such a mouth-watering entree, as I write I am in the midst of enjoying the follow-up course of the BDO Champs. I’ll re-visit this epistle before finally posting so I can report on the results at the end, but one encouraging aspect of the event that has stood out for me already are the signs of an increasing strength in depth of the women’s game. No longer is it just the very top female players who are capable of the high averages and the big finishes.
Which brings me, somewhat circuitously, to the main topic of this blog. If I had to offer just one piece of darts coaching advice to a novice player it would probably be “extend your hand toward the target on the follow-through”. Top players may exhibit a vast and varied array of grips and other aspects of throw technique, some even break the supposed golden rule of maintaining stillness and balance on the oche (the big Highlander John Henderson for one, perhaps invoking the spirit of the late, great, Jocky Wilson), but very few neglect to continue stretching out their arm long after the dart has left their hand.
Of course some players do this in a more extreme fashion than others, with variation even amongst multiple World Champions. Barney’s beautifully elegant, relaxed, throw ends with his arm extending almost lazily as it arcs slightly downward. In contrast his old adversary Phil Taylor shoots his arm out like a piston, dead straight.
However there is a player that it seems to me exaggerates this straightening even more than Phil, so much so, in fact, that his elbow almost seems to hyper-extend with each throw. Given the above image (from 2012), no prizes for guessing this player is none other than the new two-time World Champion, the Green Machine himself, Mr Michael van Gerwen.
Is it possible that it is some innate looseness and hypermobility in his elbow joint that has enabled MvG’s record-breakingly accurate throwing style? It’s an intriguing possibility, and there may even be some corroboration in that two other players with notable elbow looseness in their throw are those prolific 180-hitters Michael Smith and Adrian Lewis.
Whether or not that argument has merit, before you rush out to test the theory by buying that elbow grease your parents were always advising you to apply, let me first offer up another multiple World Champion whose follow-through is far less exaggerated than even Barney’s but hasn’t found that any bar to darting success. Lisa Ashton.
In my mind any technique that allows one to achieve a 98.84 average (as Lisa did on TV in 2015) isn’t to be lightly dismissed, which just shows that coaching standard technique is all very well, but one should always allow for exceptions. In my own mind I call this the “Peter Marshall Principle” - if you want to know why either check out my November 2013 UniBlog or ask another squash coach!
Well, that’s almost it for this time, but before I put this blog aside to wait for the BDO results, just a couple of left-over questions from last time. For Mr K, Unicorn tell me that Gary’s “glasses darts” are just his 23gm Phase 3 model, at 52.32mm long (and 6.35mm in diameter) indeed a little shorter than the 55.14mm Phase 4s which he used for a time. Lastly, apologies to Warren for the delay, but his dart design has now been located in the UniCave archives and I’ll be commenting on it in a follow-up post to this blog in due course.
OK, Stop Press; a couple of days have passed since that last para and the BDO results are in. Many congrats to Glen Durrant on his long-overdue first men’s title, and on the women’s side guess what? Yep, The Peter Marshall Principle strikes again, as did The Lancashire Rose (and in some style, albeit her very own). Well done Duzza and Lisa!
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