Think Before You Act
Once you've learned a pre-shot routine, you'll never forget it. To be a high-level bowler you need to be able to process and adjust while keeping most things the same.
Many bowlers don't have a process in place that prepares them to repeat the same type of shots over and over, and results often show there is plenty of room for improvement. There are a few quick and simple things bowlers can do to better prepare themselves mentally and physically to repeat shots.
First, the shot cycle. A bowler's inconsistency stems from not preparing the same way each and every shot. If you don't prepare yourself the same way each time, why would you expect to get the same result?
Watch the best professional bowlers or the best basketball free-throw shooters or the top hitters in baseball. What do they have in common? They all use a shot cycle. It begins with a focused thought and before they step on the settee, get to the free-throw line or step into the batter's box, they're focused on the process.
Then there is the Pre-Shot Routine, which is a physical act. For all elite athletes, it's a consistent act ... picking up the ball the same way, wiping their brow or adjusting their batting gloves and helmet. It is, in every sense, a routine.
Next is the execution - the actual delivery of the shot, free throw or swing. We're not overly concerned with the specific pieces of executing the shot, just the overall flow.
Next is the reaction. We all have a mental and physical reaction to the results. Sometimes it's elation, sometimes despair. It should be short and manageable when competing so as to allow the bowler to reset their shot cycle.
Finally, there's evaluation, which is the gathering of information from what just happened. Use this information to prepare for the next delivery or to learn a lesson, good or bad.
So, how can you develop your own shot cycle?
Once you recognize the need for a process, recognize what your process currently entails. Take inventory of your current shot cycle. Write down what you do that makes you feel comfortable setting up a shot. This might be something as simple as what you do when you pick up the bowling ball from the return. Pick it up the same way, with the same hand every time. Do you wipe the ball off with a towel? Do you use a grip sack to take the moisture away from your hand? If you do, incorporate that into every shot.
How do you line up with the dots? Do you use the slide foot as the starting point, or the non-slide foot? There are countless areas to pay attention to in developing consistency. The task is refining them to the ones the help you perform best.
A pre-shot routine will become second nature, which will allow you to shift your focus to the decision-making process. The idea is to not overwork the details of how to execute, but to just go through the mental process of having everything is in place.
After the shot, observe and absorb what's happening. Did the ball do what you expected? Did it follow the target? Bowlers in competition need to process and evaluate how the ball reacted to the lanes. Did it break where you expected? If not, what adjustments need to be made? Watching the shot and processing what you see will allow you to make proper adjustments.
Thinking about the game has to be separate from the physical reaction you have after throwing a shot. Keep emotion out of the way of performance. There's plenty of time before and after to be emotional; adopt a business-like attitude to executing shots. Learn to get past your physical reaction quickly and start processing information immediately.
A pre-shot routine and post-shot processing are there to help keep your decisions in perspective. To become an elite player, learn what works and, more importantly, when it works so you can get to the best results much quicker.