New Zealand Darts Council Inc.
Beginners Guide to Coaching
New Zealand Darts Council Inc.
Beginners Guide to Coaching
There is a need among darts coaches for training in teaching or instructing. Coaching New Zealand (CNZ) Sport Trusts periodically publicise course presenters' workshops for sport coaches, but few darts coaches have been able to avail themselves of them. Therefore this guide emphasises the teaching aspects of coaching.
The guide should also be of interest to dart players who are considering becoming coaches. It begins with information about the role of a darts coach, and about the coach accreditation procedure. It then gives attention to the skills required for proficient coaching. These are:
Why the need for coaches
Darts like any sport needs coaches to insure the future survival of the sport. Coaches impart the knowledge and skills needed to give new players the ability to continue in and enjoy the sport.
There are some who say "How can you teach darts, all you have to do is stand on a line and throw at the board" This is a very basic and simplistic view of the game and the same could be said about other sports, e.g. Golf "all you have to do is hit a ball around until you get it into a hole". We all know golf has coaches so why not darts the similarities and game objectives between the two are not that far apart. In darts like golf you have to learn the correct grip, targeting "keeping your eye on the ball", the execution of a throw "swing", the release "striking the ball" and the follow through. The objectives in both sports are to complete the game in less shots than your opponent. So by coaching we can help players achieve these skills and the objectives earlier than they would .by themselves.
Becoming a Darts Coach
Motivation for Coaching
Coaching is a role that performers in many other sports adopt when their playing career is drawing to a close. They can thereby focus on their coaching and have no concerns about whether they are in form or out of form as players. The playing role is no longer vital to them. Darts has many individuals who sometimes compete and sometimes coach. Coaches who play regularly tend to divert their attention to how well they are playing, and how they might improve. They might even set themselves a program of playing improvement and practice. That activity not only requires time that might not be readily available but distracts the focus of the individuals away from their coaching role. Applicants should decide whether they intend being players who sometimes coach, or coaches who sometimes play. It's really a matter of emphasis. When playing and coaching commitments conflict, which will hold sway? These situations are fair tests of a coach's true motivation.
Before dart players apply to become coaches, we recommend that they validate their motivation for coaching. Some dart players become coaches mainly to obtain a badge or a personal qualification. Those motivated for selfish reasons seldom become very active as coaches. They will tend not to renew their accreditation after the initial 4-year term. Reasons for becoming a coach may range from a desire for recognition or control, to a desire to help others and to experience vicarious pleasure from seeing others enjoy learning to play darts. Coaching is essentially a helping vocation. Those who tend to be self-centered in their approach to the sport might not find the coaching role a very satisfying one. Therefore we recommend that applicants validate their motivation. Those who are unable to do so will lack the necessary insight to discuss motivation with pupils.
Budding coaches would be wise to avoid any notion of being able to give gratuitous advice to players who have not indicated any receptiveness to advice. Otherwise they would put the credibility of themselves and of their role at risk.
Some practicing coaches are not familiar with approved manuals, so there are gaps and inaccuracies in their teaching. The accreditation process gives candidates an opportunity to make themselves aware of the subject matter that coaches should know and be able to teach dart players. Once accredited, coaches should maintain familiarity with their manuals, and plan their activities around them.
Some clubs may have a head coach. A new coach must be willing to accept direction from any club-appointed head coach. Some associations may develop co-operative coaching arrangements between the brother and sister clubs. A new coach must be willing to operate within such a framework.
Those thinking of becoming accredited would do well to keep in mind that dart players do not need access to coaching in the way they need access to doctors, solicitors and similar professionals in the community. Players do not beat a path to a coach's door. Coaches may be leaders who make things happen, followers who help to make things happen, or uninvolved individuals lacking any real purpose and direction. Candidates should want to become pro-active coaches who will make things happen.
Activities that they can organise include:
Attitudes to Coaching
The gospels illustrate a 2000-year-old facet of human nature along the following lines: 'a prophet is not without honour, except in his own community, among his own kin, and in his own house'. Similarly, coaches tend to have less credibility at their own clubs where they are familiar figures, than at one another's clubs where they are commonly unknown yet assumed to be competent at their job. Highly motivated coaches whose services are not in demand at their own clubs should consider seeking coaching opportunities elsewhere.
Dart players are reluctant to recognise a need for coaches, except that of initial training of novices. They commonly regard only elite level players as having natural pre-requisites for coaching, even though such players rarely seek a role as coaches. They tend to overestimate the capacity of elite level players to analyse their own imagery of delivering a dart to the target, and their own instinctive movements, and to teach them. They also tend to undervalue the accreditation, knowledge and teaching skill of darts coaches. They seem unwilling to differentiate excellence in darts from excellence in coaching.
Negative attitudes to coaching among dart players, except juniors and young adults, seem to be common in many associations. Many coaches will be aware of this negative climate but will still maintain a positive outlook. Satisfying opportunities for them to apply their skills inevitably arise. The competency and success of their efforts will eventually be self-evident.
Accreditation of Coaches
Each level of accreditation requires completion of courses in coaching principles, practical coaching, and coaching practice. The CNZ coaching principles course covers mainly the preparation of athletes for competition. It examines the sport sciences, i.e. physiology, biomechanics, sport psychology, etc, and the principles and delivery of organised coaching. Regional sports trusts and Coaching NZ present attendance-based coaching principles courses, and conduct the associated examination. The prescribed text book and companion workbook are available through the course presenter. Coaching principles courses could be moving their focus from the 'science' or theory of coaching to the 'art' or practice of coaching, thereby reducing any gap between the general course and individual sport courses.
The NZDC practical coaching course covers applied coaching specific to darts. Regional coaching directors should present practical coaching courses. Where necessary, they may present parts of the course as correspondence-based modules.
The prescribed coaching manual is free and is available to level one candidates through their relevant regional coach. It is the framework for the practical coaching course.
The coaching practice component is not so much a course as a qualifying period of "hands on" coaching with some supervision.
Candidates without any experience of the coaching role are unlikely to pass a test of practical coaching skill. Regional coaches have authority delegated by NZDC to conduct coaching examinations. However they may lack ready access to provide candidates with opportunities for preparatory practice. Darts associations should avoid recommending for coaching accreditation candidates who have not done any elementary coaching tasks. In clubs with accredited coaches, candidates can obtain some experience in an assisting role. Clubs without an accredited coach should contact the Director of Coaching or their Regional coach for assistance in the training of new coaches
A candidate normally requires to have successfully completed the CNZ level one, NZDC sports specific, and 30 hours of practical coaching to be eligible for Level 1 accreditation. An application requires the recommendation of the candidate's association. Regional coaches will assist candidates preparing for accreditation examinations wherever possible. Applicants receive detailed instructions at each stage of the accreditation process. Unsuccessful candidates are normally not eligible to reapply for 12 months. The director of coaching approves accreditation of successful candidates and issues shirts and/or lapel badges for presentation to each of them. The regional coaches arrange for the director of coaching to include names of successful candidates on the national register.
The Director of coaching forwards logbooks, shirts, cloth badges, and service cards direct to newly accredited coaches. Coach identity cards bear the expiry date of the 4-year accreditation period. Qualifying coaching activities recorded in a coach's logbook are the basis for renewal of accreditation for the ensuing 4 years.
The NZDC coaches manual identifies six factors of coaching skill: knowledge, observation, evaluation, organisation, motivation and communication. Worthington's model of coaching illustrated in ACC's Better Coaching and Towards Better Coaching identifies four aspects, i.e. coaching, knowledge, organising, and observing. He regards evaluation as an extension of observation, and personal motivation as an element of coaching. By including observational skill as an aspect of the coaching or teaching role, darts coaching skills can be discussed here under just three headings, i.e.:
The minimum experience qualification has the principal purpose of ensuring that candidates have adequate knowledge for the coaching role. Extensive experience as a player is not in itself an adequate knowledge for the coaching role. Experience increases knowledge in a random, unstructured way. What a player has learned by experience may not be adequate for coaching of others. Concepts that some coaches espouse may be the result of deductive reasoning about their experiences. So, what they teach could actually be misinformation. Thus all coaches, irrespective of their experience in the sport, have a duty to continually enlarge and validate their knowledge.
'Technique' embraces not only the movement skills of players, but also the mechanics of the darts. Coaches should have a sound knowledge of the characteristics of the playing area, objectives of the game, and the static and dynamic characteristics of darts. They should also understand causes and effects of common faults, together with the realisation that the effect sometimes described might be related to age, sex, and physical development.
There is a common misconception that coaches teach their own skill and thus the greater that skill, the better the acquired skill of their pupils. Skillful technique is the result of practiced conditioning of the subconscious mind. Skillful players give attention to their objective for each delivery, not to the mechanics by which they will achieve it. Their imagery of the line and target required automatically translates into appropriate body movements to put the dart put in motion and achieve the objective. The skill resides in the subconscious mind and is incapable of conscious recall. Thus dart players can teach others their style, but not their performing skill. What coaches do, irrespective of playing background, is to teach with reference to a model or concept of an ideal delivery movement. This is the delivery movement described in the NZDC coaches' manual, with which all coaches must be thoroughly familiar. Coaches may modify that movement to minimise the effect of any physical discomfort of pupils.
Coaches should appreciate the adjustments to stance and delivery required to execute and to teach accurate shots.
In teaching the delivery movement, coaches will take advantage of familiar skills their pupils bring from other sports. For example, a golf stroke involves a grip, stance, swing, and a follow through. A poorly executed swing is somewhat like a badly executed throw. Coaches will also be alert to negative influences of previous sports. Again with golf as a case in point, golfers execute a swing side-on and there is an initial tendency for some former golfers to deliver a dart from a similar stance.
Lifestyle habits that affect physical capacity for competitive darts include:
Coaches should appreciate the adverse effect of these, even though they might rarely be able to induce players to change adverse habits.
Coaches should appreciate the effects of heat, insufficient hydration, tiredness, and should instruct players how to cope with and avoid ill effects from such conditions.
The mental skills that can contribute to performance in darts are similar to those of value in everyday life. Most dart players have engaged in goal directed behavior in obtaining a job, a car, or a deposit on a house. So strategy of goal setting and related attributes such as self esteem, self confidence and drive or motivation are not new to them. Most players use their imagination during general reading, or when mentally rehearsing ways of overcoming daily problems. Many have discovered the value of controlled deep breathing and other techniques for moderating anxiety.
Competent performances in any sport demand optimum levels of concentration, physical and mental arousal. For darts, concentration should be relatively high, and arousal, at an optimum level. Players can achieve these states by practiced use of mental skills. They can learn these skills, but will not necessarily acquire them through experience. Darts coaches should teach players how to use mental skills, but obviously should first become competent in their use themselves. One very important application of mental rehearsal is the imaging of the execution of the throw and the subsequent hitting of the target aimed for.
Coaches should explain to pupils that errors may be beneficial to the learning process. Coaches should expect that early attempts at a new skill may be awkward as pupils give selective attention to the various limb movements that constitute the complete skill. With further practice, pupils develop motor programs. Their movements become smoother, more consistent, and require less conscious attention. Once players have developed an efficient and automatic style for delivering a dart, the value of practice is in exercising concentration and mental skills more than movement skills.
All practice should have predetermined goals. Individual practice is usually more valuable than practice with a partner. Practice with a partner usually becomes an impromptu singles game, which is usually at odds with practice goals.
Practice conditions should include:
A small improvement in the performance of a player can considerably increase the winning potential of a team or a side. Coaches might do well to remind teams that the outcome of many games is not so much which team played the better, as which team wasted fewer opportunities.
Organisation is the process by which coaches review club coaching needs, plan a range of suitable programs and arrange the resources they need to present those programs when the opportunity emerges. Dart players can distinguish between coaches who are organised and those who are not. They tend not to patronise disorganised coaches. Organisation will include a system of record keeping to chart the progress of each pupil. Well-developed programs are essential to the effective coaching of groups players. Selected modules of such programs are invaluable for the coaching of individual players.
Setting program goals
Coaches should conduct every program with reference to clear objectives, which are essentially the skills that players should acquire. Any secondary objectives should be comparable with the primary objectives. The criteria for success should be readily apparent in the defined objectives. An example of a performance objective appears under the heading Documenting lesson plans. Definition of program objectives involves a similar form but a broader scope. Coaches should continue regular coaching of new players beyond the "first game" stage to continue the improvement in their knowledge and skill. A more complete program of coaching will give them a comprehensive understanding of the sport and may stimulate their motivation to excel. Their skills may not advance as quickly as their knowledge. However, when they encounter new tactical situations, at least they will be able to analyse them competently, even if their skills lack the refinement needed to make a successful response. Otherwise, once a coach completes an initial program players tend never to return for continuation coaching. Having learned the simple concepts and the easy skills in a methodical way, partly trained players then try to teach themselves the more complex skills and advanced concepts through "experience" or "trial and error".
There is a common tendency for coaches to ignore aspects of the game other than delivery technique. The probable cause of this excessive focus on the mere mechanics of the delivery is that movement is:
Assessable as to form and style,
Commonly regarded as the exclusive determinant of outcome, and
Easier to deal with than judgements, feelings and emotions of players.
Coaches who lack the skills to help players to develop their physical and mental capacities for competition are unlikely to have a significant role beyond that of instruction of beginners.
Coaches should design training programs by identifying appropriate outcomes of training and teach all the prerequisites vital to those outcomes. If programs are merely a grab bag of lessons traditionally regarded as interesting, useful or worthwhile, there is no guarantee that they will provide expected outcomes.
The sequencing of subject matter should be logical. Any general or individual weaknesses in the knowledge or skill of a player at the start of a program should receive preliminary attention. Coaches should teach firstly any skills that are prerequisites for more complex skills.
Logical sequencing of some random subjects might be as follows:
Counting and/or finishing
Individualised coaching is usually the best method of catering for needs of individual players. Direct instruction, sometimes referred to, as the "chalk and talk" method is helpful in ensuring that all the subject matter will receive attention in the available time. It is an efficient method for coaching of players as a group. Learning by 'doing' is the best method for most skill teaching.
Individual players can temporarily work alone on skill development tasks. One practice task might involve playing a solo game of 501 recording the number of darts to complete and the finishing double. Another might involve playing against an imaginary opponent who finishes the game in under a certain number of darts.
Teaching alternatives are the whole skill method and the part skill method. The whole skill method involves teaching the whole of the skill as a unit. It suits teaching of simple skills such as the stance, grip, and the set or "aim". The part skill method involves teaching the skill in sequential parts, and integrating the parts successively into the whole skill. It suits teaching of complex skills such as the delivery of a dart or "throwing action". Coaches should teach part skills that occur earliest in a complex skill before the other part skills. Having identified the part skills of a delivery, a coach should teach them in logical sequence as in the previous list.
Coaches should teach by challenging as many senses (i.e. sight, sound and touch) of pupils as possible. They will enlist each of the senses most effectively by presenting new skills in the following stages:
Coaches should test the understanding of pupils by asking questions at each stage.
Documenting lesson plans
Every lesson plan should begin with a concise statement of its knowledge and its skill objectives. A lesson plan should define:
For skill practice, the coach may vary the task difficulty by changing performance conditions, or evaluation criteria, or both.
If tasks have a balanced degree of difficulty, pupils experience a "flow" in performing them. They avoid the boredom of tasks that are too easy, and the anxiety about possible failure of tasks that are too difficult.
Coaches should always consider the feasibility of distributing summaries of lesson information or practice sheets to players for learning at home.
However, they should follow up with questioning techniques to test compliance with study and practice tasks.
Coaches should insist on punctuality and start lessons on time. They can quickly undermine their timetables if they allow outsiders to disturb continuity of lessons. Coaches should arrange for a club official to intercept and deal with incoming calls during a lesson. Coaches should courteously but decisively postpone discussion with people who approach them during a lesson. When faced with unforeseeable, urgent and important interruptions during lessons, coaches should try to complete the current lesson segment, if possible. They could give their players a practice task so that lesson momentum can continue during their temporary absence.
Coaches should segment their time to maintain good momentum and to maximise the productivity of total lesson time. When coaching a group, they should avoid having only one pupil busy at a time.
In setting the lesson timetable, coaches should try to introduce variety to enhance pupil interest. They should also determine an appropriate strategy for feedback.
The criteria for evaluating coaching effectiveness should be explicit in the performance objective. Pupils are usually more willing to accept achievement criteria in which they have had some say in setting.
Any intermediate objectives in programs for teaching new skills should make allowance for possible "plateauing" in performance improvement. However these pauses are often compensated by rapid skill improvements at other times. Meanwhile the underlying learning process tends to continue at a more even pace.
Coaches should plan supplementary instruction for any pupils who are unable to attain necessary performance goals
Competence as a teacher is one of the aspects of coaching skill identified by Worthington, and is arguably the most important of them all. For effectiveness in teaching, and therefore in coaching, darts coaches need:
Many pupils of darts coaches are of mixed age. This has implications for the teaching approach.
Mere enrollment of pupils for darts coaching against competing demands on their leisure time is indicative of high initial motivation. Their attendance is voluntary. Their learning has a purpose. They feel they 'need to know'.
Coaches can considerably influence the motivation of their pupils to learn. They should:
Coaches should recognise the past experience of novices. Novices will inevitably relate darts concepts and activity with their life experiences. They may experience some difficulty in learning about matters unrelated to their own experience. Some concepts may contradict their assumptions based on that experience. In such cases, coaches should induce pupils to 'unlearn' unhelpful concepts before new learning will replace it.
Coaches should avoid an unvarying teaching method that makes no allowances for the preferred learning method of their pupils.
Learning preferences may include:
Coaches should particularly avoid making excessive use of the spoken word based on the assumption that pupils prefer to learn by listening.
Coaches should foster good communication with pupils. They should use words easily understood by their pupils. They should consider avoiding the wordy explanations wherever a good diagram or demonstration conveys the meaning better. They should avoid trying to extend teaching by overloading pupils with more information than they can assimilate at a time. Coaches with slight speech defects or a foreign accent should compensate by speaking slowly and stationing near, and facing pupils.
Hearing or visual impairment of pupils or noise in the teaching environment may adversely affect good communication. Coaches should compensate for such problems as best they can.
Coaches should recognise that many pupils will have concerns, to varying degrees, about their adequacy for daunting tasks.
Coaches can help overcome any reluctance of pupils to ask questions by themselves introducing question and answer technique in a motivation way. When teaching groups, coaches may overcome any reluctance to participate by breaking the main group into smaller groups each of two or three pupils. Coaches can help overcome any fear of peer ridicule by engineering the teaching environment to make it emotionally 'safe'. They can help pupils cope by setting challenging but achievable practice tasks.
A warm, positive verbal and non-verbal style of behaviour is best in most circumstances. A formal style, if positive, can promote learning. A permissive style can reduce learning if it allows pupils to drift off set tasks. Coaches should establish any essential rules for intended coaching at the outset.
Particularly within groups, coaches should ask pupils to wear nametags initially, and should address them by their given names.
Coaches should periodically assess their own teaching style by self analysis, extrinsic feedback, audio taping or, better still, videotaping segments of their presentations.
Coaches should begin instruction by getting the attention of pupils. They should begin teaching of each subject by establishing its importance. They should then proceed by speaking
Demonstrators should be competent performers, and the demonstrations must be technically sound. Coaches who are able to demonstrate skills or part skills competently acquire enhanced status. Those unable to demonstrate because of physical disability or other reasons should arrange for another demonstrator or a video of a criterion performance.
Coaches should begin demonstrations by ensuring that everyone is paying attention and is in good position to see them. They should identify key aspects and repeat them as appropriate. Pupils might benefit by viewing demonstrations from different vantage points, or by executing movements in synchronism with the demonstrator. Coaches should repeat demonstrations as often as necessary. When a demonstration involves the delivery of a dart, pupils sometimes switch their attention to fight of the dart and its result. In so doing, they fail to observe the follow through phase of the delivery movement. In these circumstances, coaches should adopt measures to ensure that the attention of pupils remains focused on salient features of the demonstration.
Observing & Evaluating Practice
Active observation, particularly for groups of junior players, keeps pupils on task. It helps in ensuring that coaches will give positive feedback equitably.
Coaches should expect a lack of fluency by pupils in the early stages of practicing a new skill. Coaches should allow them a few practice movements before beginning the observation process.
Coaches should work within 3 paces of a pupil. At that distance they can communicate in a normal speaking voice, and are well placed to move in to help with a correction. Coaches should observe body alignments from a point near the oche. They should observe forward limb and body movements from a position on the delivery arm side. (Side on or slightly in front).
Coaches should have the competence to differentiate between causes and mere symptoms of faults. For example, players who take 180 degree stance with the throwing hand in front of the body usually take a wide backswing to clear their face and they follow through with the arm angled across the body. In such instances the initial positioning of the feet is the cause of a fault, and the wide backswing and angled follow through are mere symptoms.
Coaches should also have the competence to differentiate between unorthodox movements that need correction and those that do not. Errors may be of three types, each of which requires a very different approach:
Coaches should involve pupils in selecting errors for attention. Only one error should receive attention at a time. Where several errors are present, the one occurring earliest in the movement should receive attention first. When a coach diagnoses interrelated errors, often one of them will be the critical error that, when corrected, will result in the disappearance of the others.
The general procedure for correction of faults is:
Remind the pupil that corrected technique requires practice before measurable improvement will be apparent.
Feedback is the process by which players receive information about their performance, and is indispensable in the learning process.
There are two type of feedback the player might receive:
Sometimes feedback occurs intrinsically. Examples might include the thud of a dart released too high hitting off the board, loss of balance during the delivery, or the sight of a dart landing in a segment other than what they aimed for. When players are learning skills, coaches should give much of their feedback as demonstrations. Pupils learn more from visual feedback than from other forms of extrinsic feedback.
Coaches use extrinsic feedback to either inform or motivate pupils. At least half of all feedback should be informative.
Information may be general or specific. "If you extend your arm in the follow through, your dart will track along your aiming line" is general information. "You kept your arm nicely extended in your follow through, that time", is specific information.
Feedback should relate to the session focus. For example, if the coach calls for a throw to the single 20 segment on the board there is no reason to congratulate the pupil for a delivery that finishes up in the treble 20.
Coaches should use motivational feedback freely. Continual feedback is a necessity in the early stages of skill learning.
Coaches may reduce the frequency of feedback as skill of pupils improves. An average of four feedback comments per minute is not excessive, provided coaches do not give it undeservedly. Coaches should give positive feedback whenever a pupil masters a difficult task. Coaches should praise pupils not only for achievement, but also for improvement.
Motivational feedback, which may be verbal or given as body language, is normally positive feedback. Verbal feedback should be brief. Videocams are an excellent aid in providing non verbal feedback to dart players about their performances. A ratio of 4 positive comments to every negative comment creates a favorable learning atmosphere. Negative feedback can create an error-centered coaching environment. However reprimands may occasionally be necessary, particularly in dealing with behavioral problems within groups of young players.
The ability to use feedback effectively is a major coaching skill. The reinforcing effect of positive feedback on desirable attributes of good technique plays a major role in the shaping of good dart players.
By reading this guide it is hoped that coaches, and perspective coaches will have gained a better understanding of the requirements and teaching methods that dart coaches need.
They will know that in order to be successful it requires work and commitment, not only towards their pupils but from themselves as well. They will need to develop good communication skills (they may know a lot about darts but if they can’t keep their students attention then the message will be lost).
They will also be aware that they can not coach those who do not want to be coached.
They should not expect instant accolades or respect from their peers, but may eventually achieve this by following practiced coaching techniques and their own belief in what they are doing will be of benefit.
For further information contact;
The Director of Coaching or The Chief Executive
NZ Darts Council Inc. NZ Darts Council Inc.
Ph (06) 353 8180
Fax (06) 353 8182
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