By Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, USBC Hall of Famer
As we become better bowlers and start bowling more tournaments, especially at the advanced or elite level, we continue to focus more attention to the physical game, completely forgetting about how important the mental aspect of the game.
Being prepared mentally is an on-going process as situations and your body are always changing. In the heat of the battle, nothing is simple but there are a few tricks of the trade to help you get past the point of nerves and put everything into perspective:
- Continue your pre-shot routine throughout your event. This keeps you focused on what your task is and allows you to stay in the moment.
- On the way to the ball return, take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a second and breathe out through your mouth, slowly. This will help keep your heart rate from beating uncontrollably. (I’ve been there before and breathing is the key)
- Commit to what you have decided to do.
- While at the ball return, close your eyes for one minute and see the perfect shot. Visualize your ball going down the lane over your intended target. See the shot in your mind, open your eyes and execute. (This is key to seeing your thought clearly)
- No thoughts once you get on approach. The only thing left is to execute – oh and breath.
- Imagine yourself in a pressure situation; needing a strike for a 300 or 800 series, needing a mark to win the U.S. Open. Putting these thoughts into your mind and then seeing how you perform can help you adjust quicker when the time actually arises.
- Bowl against your friends. Having matches while you are practicing is a great way to motivate not only yourself but your teammates. Friendly competition adds a different kind of pressure and helps you to once again, understand what you are trying to accomplish.
- Mental imagery is a very powerful tool and as we all know the mind is very willing to take over your thoughts at any moment. Stay positive in practice. Though what you may be working on is not going exactly the way you would like, keep reassuring yourself about the progress you are making and remind yourself about the desired outcome.
- Always have a goal. No matter what, with the mental game you should always have a goal. This will help you process the execution, the outcome and the analysis.
- I want to be aggressive on every shot
- By being aggressive I will give myself the best chance to win
- With this chance, I will be closer to my goal; to win the U.S. Open
Some of the greatest in the game use breathing techniques and a focus routine before a shot especially in a pressure situation. Incorporate this tool into your bag of tricks.
For more information on the mental game, check out the Coaching section of USBCBowlingStore.com.