Wayne Mardle has called for the PDC to implement new measures to promote darts coaching at the top echelons of the sport, before predicting that coaching is ready to ‘boom’ at professional level.
Sky Sports’ leading darts expert boasts his own ‘School of Darts’ based at his home in Essex, where he provides one-to-one coaching for players of all abilities – from budding amateurs to world champions and multiple major winners.
During the Coronavirus pandemic which has decimated the darting calendar, Mardle has been posting several coaching tutorials on his dedicated YouTube channel, but in an exclusive with Josh’s Dartistry, he revealed he focuses predominantly on the technical side of the game.
“I try not to get involved with the mental side,” Mardle admitted. “I know the right way to throw darts – I know what faults people are making, whereas the mental side of things – I don’t believe that Player A thinks exactly the same as Player B.”
“I don’t quite believe in giving people thought processes when we all think slightly differently. I don’t like the psychology of ‘he will be thinking this right now’. I’ve said things in commentary myself: ‘Now he should be thinking this’, I never say they will be or confirm because I don’t know.
“I do know the technical side of the game, that is what I do know. My school of Darts is going well; at home I’ve got a purpose built room, I call it the hub. It’s fully equipped and every dart that people throw is recorded from two different angles and I’ve got this scolia system now.”
Mardle has worked with a number of established stars over recent years – including five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, former Premier League stars Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts and more recently, South African World Cup ace Devon Petersen.
Van Barneveld and former BDO world champion Stephen Bunting are two notable players to have employed sports psychologists in a bid to improve their mental approach, but Mardle admits his technical and objective focus may inadvertently give players greater confidence.
“Nothing is ever my opinion. I show the player exactly what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong and people like Devon [Petersen] come to me, he wanted help, but he’s got the game. I just pointed him in the right direction, just said ‘this could be better, that’s absolutely perfect’.
“Once people have visual confirmation of what they’re doing right and that confirmation is on video looking at them, but the visual confirmation for them – naturally seeing the darts travel the way they want them to travel – where they’re going in.
“If they’re throwing well and they can see the 140s and 180s coming, they feel there’s a consistency there in the action, that’s where every player wants to be. Devon Petersen has run with all the advice I’ve given him and as are a few more, but right now, Darts coaching is about to boom.”
Darts is somewhat of an anomaly when you compare the approach to coaching with other individual sports such as Tennis and Golf. The likes of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods have had several coaches throughout their respective careers, but this is not reciprocated in the darting world.
Many of the game’s leading lights have managers and agents that regularly accompany players to major tournaments, although Mardle has a theory behind the reluctance to consider more technical advice, an attitude he concedes was prevalent during his playing days.
“When I was at my best – call it between 2000 and 2008 – I never ever thought about what I was doing. I was just doing it. I only started paying attention to what I was doing when it was going wrong. When I became an ex-professional in 2011, I then started to work on my game.
“I then thought come on now, why am I not as good as I was? Obviously we all have our time, but I was still only 38, so I knew it wasn’t an age thing. We can’t be as good as we were all the time at our peak, we’re not Phil Taylor or Michael van Gerwen, whose B-games are ridiculously brilliant.
“I decided to work on my game and when I was at my best, I didn’t really listen to what anyone was saying when I was playing. If I was having a dodgy game I just saw it as ‘ I didn’t have a very good game’. I never asked myself questions and I wish I had.
“I just chose to not watch the game. I never watched them back. How many times have you heard ‘bad day at the office?’ Now I don’t believe that. I do agree that sometimes things conspire against us, whatever you try doesn’t work and if you don’t feel comfortable that’s absolutely fine.”
The five-time World Championship semi-finalist insists that it’s often too simplistic to simply attribute a poor performance to a ‘bad day at the office’ and he believes that coaching will continue to develop at the top level if the world’s elite are willing to become more self-critical.
“When someone is playing really badly, it’s like hold on, why is he playing well below his best? If Michael van Gerwen was to go up there and average 82 or 83, there would be ‘he’s just had one of these days’ from some.
“From me, I’d be thinking why on earth is he playing that badly. What’s happened? If I can see it in the action I have an answer. Once you start asking yourself questions – Why are you playing well? Why are you not playing well? Then the coaching will start to boom within the pro ranks.
“These players have got to ask themselves questions and more and more are by the way, I’m getting more and more questions from Premier League players and from world champions – can you help me? What can I do here? What’s happening here?
“I tell them and once you can help and they know you can help, then that grows the game because they all talk to each other. Give it a couple of years and I’m sure that we’re going to see coaching take off within darts.”
We’re already seeing tangible evidence of players becoming more open-minded in regards to coaching within the professional ranks and Mardle has urged the PDC to implement an innovative method which would further promote coaching in darts.
“What has to happen – this is a massive point – The PDC has to allow a person from – call it Michael van Gerwen’s team, Gerwyn Price’s team, Peter Wright’s team – backstage during a break on a televised event.
“What happens now is these players come off for a break and they don’t know what’s going wrong, they’re just losing 3-0 that’s all. Someone out there from their team has seen what can happen, whether it be a slow rhythm or quick rhythm.
“If they had someone there like that who could say something, that would promote coaching in darts because they realise I don’t know everything about my game, I don’t know everything about what I’m doing so anyone helping would be a massive added bonus point. I think it starts there.
“Some games you find yourself in trouble but you feel that there’s a way out. You’re not panicking. In other games you find yourself in as much trouble scoreline wise, but it’s all different, because you’re not playing well and they’re playing better than you. Then you start to panic. You know it’s wrong but we’ve all seen that.
“If someone is just there [backstage] they pull them to one side at the break and give it: ‘Look, you’re panicking. You’re throwing too quickly, you’re throwing too slowly, just relax if you can. Maybe even speed up, just change something because what you’re doing is not working’, or if they want to get really technical, they call in the cavalry.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC