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How to Defuse Distractions

If you encounter a situation that’s potentially distracting or if you actually become distracted, the first course of action is to maintain or regain concentration by adhering to your routines, using visual and/or verbal cues, recalling past successes, committing to steady attention, immersing yourself in the process of bowling, remaining in the “here and now,” and looking at events constructively.

We want to underscore the importance of quickly returning to your mental and physical routines – your “home base” – if you get distracted. Reentering the flow of activities which comprise your routines creates a focused corridor to shot execution. The instant you’re distracted is the time to invoke “The 15 Second Rule.” This means getting your mind back to your routine within 15 seconds. Do this and you’ll have met the challenge posed by the distraction.

Four other techniques in particular can be very effective for coping with distractions:

Thought Stopping

This technique can be used to quickly “delete” a distracting image or idea. Promptly recognize the disruptive thought and immediately apply your preferred verbal or visual thought stopping method (e.g., say “stop” or envision a stop sign). Then take at least one calming deep breath and substitute a positive image and/or affirming statement. You may briefly recall music. Finally, transition to your routine. Repeat this process if the distracting thought returns.


We’ve found three types of imagery especially valuable for deflecting
distractions. “Tunnel vision” is a method in which you imagine the lane is a tunnel, totally sealed off from any sights or sounds outside your lane. A related technique entails blurring your peripheral vision on either side of the lane, while straight ahead of your sight is totally sharp. Another method involves imagining yourself inside a transparent protective bubble. This bubble shields you from all stimuli that could potentially distract you (such as an adversary’s comments).

Slowing Down

Distractions, together with the anxiety they can trigger, may lead you to rush and feel mentally scattered. A way to counter this tendency is to slow down all your movements, even if briefly. In addition to the direct correcting of your pace, such a slowing redirects your attention from the distracting stimuli to the actions involved in the process of bowling. Resume your regular routine once you’re re focused.


Centering is an action, part physical, part mental, which can help you
manage distractions. The state of being physically centered involves
distributing your weight evenly while your feet are positioned approximately 18 inches apart. Place one foot a bit ahead of the other. Relax your muscles. Bend your knees slightly. Inhale deeper than usual, breathing steadily and somewhat slowly. Momentarily focus attention one to two inches below and behind your navel. This anatomical spot is your center of mass. Centering creates a sense of balance and readiness. Being clear thinking, grounded, and calm are the accompanying feelings.

When to Apply These Four Techniques

Thought stopping is specifically used here as a countermeasure in order to refocus once you’re distracted. Visualizing, slowing down, and centering can be used to prevent the disruption of concentration or for refocusing if you’ve become distracted.

(This information is an excerpt from the book, “The Handbook of Bowling Psychology” by Dr. Eric Lasser, Fred Borden, and Jeri Edwards.)