Drinking and darts: Does alcohol improve performance?

From BBC - January 6, 2018

These days, darts is a professional, sober affair, at least for the players. But some of the champions of the past were famous for their boozing. Can alcohol ever enhance people's ability to play darts?

The answer depends on how nervous you are, and whether or not you are addicted to alcohol.

Many studies have shown that even low levels of alcohol can impair motor skills and spatial reasoning.

But the effects of nervousness and alcohol withdrawal can be far worse, especially in a game like darts.

"For some people, low levels of alcohol improve performance of tasks. It does reduce anxiety and nervousness so if you are impaired by nervousness it can improve performance," Prof Robert Adron Harris, from the University of Texas at Austin, told the BBC.

A degree of stress actually enhances performance, but after a certain point, nerves get the better of people. This is known as the Yerkes-Dodson law.

In pub games, the stakes may be lower, but even amateurs find that the oche holds a strange power over them.

"Nervousness runs right through the sport, as does the belief that alcohol solves the problem," says Paul Gillings, who runs The Darts Performance Centre, a training centre and advice website. "Players totally believe that they ca not play unless they have a drink. It ranges from one drink to 10."

He discourages this sort of self-medication, advocating relaxation exercises and positive thinking. He also reminds players that in the grand scheme of things, it's only a game of darts.

John Thomas - or "Jocky" - Wilson, one of the top players of the 1980s, took it to extremes. He said he needed seven or eight vodkas to steady his nerves before playing.

He once fell off the stage at the end of a match.

Trebles all round

Before winning the 2004 BDO World Darts Championship, Andy Fordham reportedly drank 24 bottles of beer along with quite a bit of brandy.


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