1 – Practice
Obviously, you have to practice. Your first throw may have been a bullseye, or you might have some natural talent, but you’re not going to win a championship without practice. The purpose of practice is to try different things. You should see if your dominant foot should be directly in front of the bullseye, or if it should be off-center. You should test different grips until one feels right and leads to repeatability. Try stepping with your other foot to see if that makes you more comfortable. Try different releases, axes, handle lengths, strides. Maybe bringing the axe over your head is better than over your shoulder. Try everything until it hits the center and comes naturally.
2 – Develop a consistent throw
When new throwers step into the arena, our coaches position them in a specific spot and tweak where they stand throughout the visit. Without reminders, some throwers get careless about where they’re standing. Distance to the target is something important to keep in mind. Imagine throwing a baseball. A pitcher throwing a strike is a different form than a third baseman trying to beat the runner at first.
Developing a consistent throw is standing in the same place and executing every mechanic the same way every time. Your foot placement, your grip, your step and your release all need to be the same. Every time. Start by placing your lead foot in the same spot each time. Then place your back foot in a comfortable position. Grip your axe in the same spot – even consider sanding or marking where your hand should be until you can do it blindfolded. Take a step forward, bringing the axe back, then plant your foot before bringing your arm forward and releasing the axe.
3 – Get Feedback
Have someone watch your throw for deficiencies. Sometimes we don’t realize that we’re dropping our shoulder, taking a smaller step, or not following through. Having an experienced axe thrower watch you for 5 minutes can save you hours – or even days – worth of experimenting. Best-case scenario is to make friends with Philippe Lachance. He watched two of my playoffs just because no one else was streaming that night and gave me two tips that improved my average by several points, as well as helped my big axe game instantly.
4 – Compete
In a minute, I’m going to tell you that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, and that’s true. Competition serves two purposes. The first is to add a new layer of difficulty to your throw: performing in front of other people. It’s a lot easier to hit bullseye after bullseye when no one is looking and you can tell a fish tale about how many you hit in a row, or ignore that occasional drop. It’s completely different when you say “Game starts now, these 5 throws count.” The second purpose of competition is to finally measure your progress. Ty Webb may be the greatest golfer at Grande Oaks Country Club, but there’s no way to know until you actually measure yourself against other golfers. Join an axe throwing league and see where you stand.
5 – Focus on the right milestones
Many people have come up to me at the end of their first axe throwing league and said “I’m going to have a perfect match this season!” While that’s an admirable goal, when asked what they plan to do between now and then, they either respond with a blank stare or Vin Crescenzo’s signature #throwbetter.
There is nothing wrong with having your first perfect match be a stretch goal for a season. The problem is that too many new throwers compare themselves to IATC Champion Rander, some guy named Mike Kump, or the world’s top-ranked Adam Buckley, and fail to see the many hours of throwing that went into their success. They believe that once you hit your first perfect match, the rest of them will just happen with little practice or refinement. Each of those throwers has put in countless hours and continues to refine and adapt as they get better and as the competition gets better.
The key to setting milestones is to slowly increase the difficulty of each. This helps to demonstrate your progress and show key areas for growth. Our throwers with the fastest progressions have used some variation of the following:
- 1 Natural Perfect Game – 5 bullseyes
- 2 Consecutive Natural Perfect Games
- Natural Perfect Match – All 15 bullseyes in a match
- 80% bullseye rate for a night – 48/60 bullseyes
- 1 Supernatural Perfect Game – 4 bullseyes followed by a clutch (or corner bull)
- Three Clutches/Corners in a match
- First Perfect Match
It’s possible to hit these out of order, or to hit several in one night. If you manage to hit more than two consecutive goals for the first time in a night, you’re making rapid progress. Most people also try going for their first Supernatural Game right after their first Natural Perfect game, and it’s hard not to. If you’re looking to improve as quickly as possible, worrying about hitting the clutch when you can’t consistently hit the bullseye is putting the cart before the horse. We know you’re still going to go for that clutch, and you’re still going to go for your first 27 before your first 75. Sometimes you need a small victory in the middle of a slump.
Notice that none of these milestones mention game wins, match wins, or even anything to do with other players. If your goal is only to do better than the person next to you, you’re limited by your competition. If your goal is to do better than yourself, no one can beat you.