Marginal Gains For Darts?

The phenomenal success of British Cycling, over the last decade or more, has meant the theory of marginal gains has received a great deal of attention. The theory, as applied by Dave Brailsford, is that the combined effect of tiny improvements in many areas will add up to a significant overall gain.   

In cycling, everything from the design of the bike to the material of the skinsuit is reviewed and improved. Riders are analysed, within an inch of their lives, and every piece of data is applied to improve their performance. Team members at Axios even have their own pillow and mattress transported wherever they compete, this is to improve their rest/sleep and reduce the likelihood of illness.

In darts, it could be argued that Peter Wright is a one-man testing squad for the marginal gains theory.  

Can these techniques be applied to darts, and dart players?

The answer may well be yes. Here are a few examples of small changes that players have benefited from or recommended:  


  1. Sharpen, and rough up, your points regularly. We have all seen TV incidents of bounce/fall outs in recent times. Reduce the chances of this by ensuring your points are razor sharp and roughed up along their length.  
  1. Colour Contrast Your Points. Dull silver or black points can cause uncertainty about where they have landed. Having to double check breaks your rhythm and increases thought time. Try points that are gold or highlighted in some way (Michael Smith is a fine example).  


  1. Contrast Colour Barrels. As with your points it is important that you see clearly & instantly where your dart has landed. Some players do not like glare from a very shiny barrel. Either way a contrasting colour is achievable. The clearest contrast is probably golden tungsten or rainbow, but if you are bothered by glint or glare, blue, silica/bronze could be worth a try.  
  1. More to come. We will return to barrels in a later edition when we look at selecting the perfect darts.  


  1. Colour. Despite the many fashions in this area, a simple block colour that is not back or red seems the best. The fashion for very bright colours is fine but a duller tone might be perfect. A navy blue or dull pink contrast perfectly with all board segments and will not reflect the lights. A Premium or ‘Moulded flight system may be worthwhile for the improving player looking to make a step-change. 
  1. Size Matters! Most of the discussion about flights centres on shape. However, the way to gain a marginal advantage may well be with size. There are various specifications available in almost every flight shape. For example, Winmau Oversize Pears are used very effectively by Steve Beaton. They give more stability than normal pear flights but are still pretty quick to the board. Try a few variations of your preferred shape. A slightly smaller standard shape flight might well reduce the number of switching or moves you have to make on the oche.  


  1. Colour Again, contrast your stem colour from the segments on the board it is likely to be seen against. Very few of the top players use black stems.  
  1. Length The overall length of your set up may well play a role. The closer the flights are to the board the more likely that you will have to work around them.  Short setups can lead to blocked beds and awkward deflections. If you use a longer barrel (over 51mm) then an intermediate or short stem may be ok. But if you use a shorter or dumpy barrel a little more length may be needed.  


  1. The above “marginal gains” should be tried one at a time. This is the best way to test the impact of any change. It should also be given a fair time period and include competitive / pressured play. Most of those featured above should benefit rhythmic/quick players especially. The least number of split-second distractions or pauses the better.  


None of these are likely to transform a player ‘from pub to pro’. However, one by one they may improve your rhythm, or flow, as well as your confidence while adding small percentages to your averages.   

These techniques can be applied to other important areas, we will return to this in a later edition, focusing on “marginal gains” that are not on your darts!  

Originally published in Darts World Magazine (May 2020). Image: Winmau

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