goal setting
sports science

You Loser! We look at getting the maximum benefit from losing.

Coaching Clinic 50

Posted: 21.10.15 in Coaching Clinic Blog category

You Loser! We look at getting the maximum benefit from losing.

What a loser! What a fail! These are insults that are hurled at people, you may have described people in this way, and maybe someone has hurled this insult at you? There is a stigma attached to being a loser. It’s embarrassing, degrading and makes you feel down and we have developed a fear of failing because of those feelings.

In his latest book just out, Matthew Syed – who is a former England table tennis player who “choked” at the Olympics, points out that “we are not born with a fear of failure. It’s not an instinct. It grows as you age”.

This is why competitors in all sports make excuses for losing. In darts for example I’ve heard them all. Whether it’s the crowd booing, the opponent slowing down, the oche too long or too short, this that and the other! Players making their excuses are merely protecting their ego – I lost but it was not my fault, I will be back to my best next time out!

If this attitude of “excuses” was used every time there was an air crash then safety would not have improved in the dramatic fashion it has over the years. Syed points out that every procedure, rule and safety design is there due to crashes and loss of life.

This may be an extreme example compared to a dart player protecting their ego with some feeble excuse for playing poorly and losing, or is it? How many of you come away from a loss and actually work out what went wrong and how are you going to put it right?

When Matthew Syed suffered meltdown in his Olympic table tennis match he worked out what caused his psychological stutter on the day, worked on it and corrected it. So as dart players how can we go about reflecting on a loss and pinpointing the area we need to work on?

On our darts improvement website we came up with a checklist that members could use to grade themselves out of 10 after a match (and in particular a defeat) on how they did. We had for example:

Match Preparation


Mental Toughness


We then had some of the more conventional darts stats:

9 dart average

Checkout %

3 dart average

We also left some areas for players to fill in their own suggestions. Suggestions such as; pre match nerves, nerves in the game, playing a slow opponent etc. Now can you see how the feeble excuse of playing a slow player develops into something that can be analysed, thought about, solutions and practice games can evolve until the “problem” is dealt with. Once it has been resolved you are a better player and you can move onto the next area you want to work on.

By being brutally honest you may find an instant answer to your problems or maybe a theme will develop over time that points towards an aspect of your game that needs help. There are plenty of books and blogs available (the DPC blog area is a mine of information) and remember don’t ignore info about other sports. Each competitor goes through the same issues, especially mentally whether it’s a ping pong ball you are hitting or a lump of tungsten you are throwing!

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed in available now

Table Tennis Pic courtesy of: Jomphong/www.freedigitalphotos.net


The Darts Performance Centre is a resource to assist dart players of all standards play better darts. The site is arranged as an online coaching manual. There is advice on technique, nerves, psychology, goal setting, practice games, an area to log your statistics and an interactive area where your darting questions are answered by two sports scientists, one with 30 years dart playing experience. You also get an invite to our free but exclusive members only events and access to our members only darts coaching app! Membership is £25 per year!

Author: Paul Gillings ( paul@dartsperformancecentre.com )

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