Does Meditating and Mindfulness In Darts & Other Sports Lead To More Success?
Darts is a sport that has long been associated with pubs and drinking alcohol. Considering that it operates as a traditional pub game, this is of no surprise. Prior to World War I, pubs throughout the United Kingdom had dartboards available that we made from solid blocks of wood, and this became a common form of competition for guests. It was in 1973 that the British Darts Organisation (BDO) was founded, with tournaments for this often aired on the BBC.
During the proceeding years, darts continued to be played in pubs, and thereby it was not uncommon to see a player with a dart in one hand and a pint in the other. However, those times have changed recently. It seems as though some players are ditching the tankards of ale for a quiet period of meditation and reflection. And as it happens, some professional players have attributed this to them securing darts championship wins. What exactly is it about meditation that helps players to hone their skills and play better? And why is it that drinking has become a thing of the past when associated with darts?
We will take a look into the current association between darts playing and meditation here. Not only that, but we intend to have a look at the other sports where players have frequently taken to meditating before a big event, and what the process for this is. Can it be said that meditation works to provide a much more focused level of play?
Mindfulness in Darts
There is likely a number of ways in which darts players can focus their mind and hope to play a better game from doing so. In fact, hints and tips for gaining that concentration needed for throwing the darts directly towards the numbers needed have been crafted fairly consistently – both online and in physical book format. However, one of the largest tips that is frequently provided to darts players is to keep a positive mindset. Without such, you will be thinking negatively, and that is bound to affect your play.
However, it is not so easy for someone to just push negative thoughts to one side. Or at least, it is harder for some people than others. As a sort of associated tip with thinking positively, it has been suggested that meditation is practiced by players. Through meditation, your mind is cleared of all other thoughts and you are left focusing on the task at hand. Meditation is the key to ridding yourself of any negative thoughts for the time period in which you are playing. You then get to focus solely on the game at hand.
The most common method of doing this is to practice traditional meditation. Essentially, players should block out all sounds and thoughts around them and place their mindset into complete focus on the dartboard. Mastering meditation for this purpose is likely to enhance a player’s attention skills, and attention is something that is craved by darts players when it comes to aiming at the board. Obviously, the best way to practice this is from home when there is nobody else around. You can get yourself into that zone where nothing else bothers you and you can place a sole focus on throwing the dart.
After doing so, it would be ideal for a darts player to increase the sounds around himself, so that work can be put into blocking the noise out. Professional darts tournament halls are not usually super noisy but enhancing meditation skills can ensure that you are able to utilise them in both noisy and serene environments.
The Story of Devon Petersen
Devon Petersen is a South African professional darts player who has qualified for the PDC World Championship on seven occasions. His best results came in 2014 and 2019, when he reached the last 16 both times. However, in 2020, he had quite the rise to outstanding form, when he won his first PDC title at the German Darts Championship. This saw him become the first African to win such a title, much to the disappointment of his final opponent Jonny Clayton.
After his victory though, Petersen revealed that while he had received certain help and assistance from Wayne Mardle and Colin Lloyd over how he played darts, it was actually meditation that had been a huge help. After he secured the PDC title, Petersen spoke with Sky Sports and said:
“Over the past 7-8 weeks, I’ve been working on personal development and I stumbled across meditation. There’s a few things that I do before games and whilst I’m in practice. Everybody else listens to music, I don’t, I listen to meditation tapes”.
He went on to describe the meditation side of things as being “fantastic”, and he continued on to say that he hoped other darts players do not catch on to how wonderful it is. Yet, it is a far cry from his previous warm-up and focus routines, which often involved him dancing on stage to “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira. And due to the fact that he managed to secure his first PDC title after introducing meditation to his routine before gameplay, there must be something in it for Petersen.
Benefits of Meditation to Sportsmen and Women
It is not difficult to imagine that sports, of any kind, when played at a competitive level, are stressful. After all, you could be going up against several opponents, all of whom have their own achievements and accolades. Your sole determination is to put on your best performance and, in the end, win the competition. And stress does not only happen during a game, but during training for the tournament ahead, in the moments before the competition starts and so on. All of this can amount to a great deal of mind and body tension, which is where meditation can help.
A study that was published by the Journal of Health Psychology showed research on athletes who practiced meditation. The information within displayed that these sportsmen and women experienced a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. Practicing mindfulness through meditation constantly allows a person’s body to learn the ability to relax and manage any stressful moments that occur in a much healthier way. At the same time, studies suggest that it helps to create a much more positive and proactive mental approach towards general problems. This is helpful for sports people looking to improve their performance.
Not only that, but meditation can also improve pain management. And while darts players are not likely to suffer any sort of hugely crippling injury, competitors in football or tennis for example, who are a lot more active, could benefit from such.
Research by Kent University showed that injured athletes had an increased tolerance to pain thanks to the practice of meditating. A sample of 20 professional athletes (14 male and 6 female) between the ages of 21 and 36 who had suffered serious injuries were divided into two groups for this. Both went through the normal path of physiotherapy, but one of the groups also went through one-and-a-half-hour sessions of mindfulness meditation each week. The instruments used to assist with mindfulness for those athletes increased the pain tolerance for all participants, according to that research.
One final point to mention about the benefits of meditation is that in addition to reducing stress, it also leads to an improvement of the immune system. Research suggests that it not only strengthens this, but it reduces blood pressure and improvise cognitive function. Therefore, this suggests that athletes are less likely to be stricken down with an illness or problem that will halt them from playing their favoured sport.
Sports Stars Who Meditate
While Devon Petersen has noted his affinity with meditating in the darts world, multiple competitors from other sports also utilise it to assist them with gameplay. One of the finest examples of this is tennis player Bianca Andreescu. The Canadian sportswoman stunned spectators in September of 2019 when she won her first Grand Slam title by defeating world-renowned player Serena Williams. The 19-year-old has spoken of her mindfulness practices, stating that she meditates every morning after waking up. Since the age of 12, both meditation and yoga have been a big part of her daily routine.
Former Major League Baseball (MLB) star Derek Jeter, who played for the New York Yankees until 2014, experienced five World Series Championships during his time with the team. Jeter has stated that he has practiced meditation since 2012 and has specifically credited it with enhancing his gameplay in final two years of active competition. Not only that, but he has also stated that it has made him a better person in himself.
Carli Lloyd, one of the USA’s best soccer players, has also mentioned her affinity with meditation. By incorporating this into her practice, she has managed to teach herself to block out distractions while on the pitch. The two-time World Cup winner, who is currently signed to Sky Blue FC, has represented her country 288 times so far and has also scored 121 goals. Prior to heading on to the field, Lloyd utilises visualisation techniques, which she says prepare her for what she needs to do once a game begins.
One final athlete to mention is long-distance runner Deena Kastor. She won the bronze medal in the marathon at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and has claimed silver medals from the IAAF World Cross Country Championships that occurred in 2002 and 2003. Kastor has noted how being a professional athlete can be quite stressful and is responsible for anxiety flare ups in numerous people. However, she uses meditation to overcome those stressful feelings, ensuring that she is in the right mindset to compete at her best form. According to Kastor, she has become so good with meditation, that she can even do it while riding the subway at the busiest of times.
Different Approaches to Meditation
When most people think of meditation, they think of simply sitting in a quiet room in silence with your eyes closed. It can conjure up images of yogis and gurus sitting cross-legged and humming gently. However, there are actually different approaches to being mindful, especially for athletes.
Conscious breathing is one route to take, which sees a sportsman or woman focus on their breathing. Essentially, the person will inhale slowly, counting to four or five as they do, hold that breath for the same time period, and then exhale slowly afterwards. The time you hold your breath can be increased week by week or biweekly and it can become a part of a daily routine.
Mindful movement is something else for athletes to consider. This is done before any sort of seated meditation begins, and the user spends a bit of time slowly moving around to turn the body down to a zero level. It essentially slows you down instead of going from full force to zero movement in an instant. The conscious breathing can be done while going through the basic mindful movements, too.
Guided meditation is available and is the most common form of mindfulness that everyone knows. You will find various downloadable apps, YouTube videos, personal meditation classes and so on that provide this. You get to listen to someone’s voice guiding you through the meditations, and this can be quite helpful, especially for those people just starting out with it.
The final variation of meditating is affirmation during exercise. It is possible for an athlete to meditate during practice or training. So, if a sportsman or woman is going through a particularly gruelling moment of training, this can be brought into effect. If someone is not specifically such a fan of using the rowing machine in the gym, then to pass the time (which always seems longer when you’re doing an exercise you do not like), it is ideal to imagine the goal they are working towards. Perhaps this includes being the winner of the upcoming competition they are competing in. These positive affirmations not only allow the user to continue rowing for longer, but the mind is also cleared at the same time.