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Don't Deny Pressure - Handle It

Written by Chuck Pezzano

Many leagues and tournaments wind up with races as close as a bunch of college students attempting to find out how many of them can fit into a telephone booth.

When competition is keen, and can go any way, it can be tension time.

Tempers are short. There are flare-ups of all sorts, often between bowlers on the same team.  The most docile bowler can become aggressive when a battle is on, whether the reward is a tiny trophy or a world championship title.  And the fiery can become quiet and thoughtful.

Adapting to change is always a source of tension. Yet, tension is natural. It shows up when there is a conflict of any kind, a spat with your mate, kids, friends, enemies, and yes, in fighting off an opposing bowler or bowling team, or even a lane condition. You become good or great at something the same way you learn something new, by making mistakes, and sometime seeming foolish until you master the challenge. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience usually comes from previous poor judgment. Money can't buy natural ability; it's a gift.  Experience comes from countless hours of training, practice, competition and patience.

The finest athletes in every sport, and talent in all other fields, generally agree that you can never fully get used to pressure. Don't' let outward appearances fool you. Tension grips the most seasoned performers. It does not reduce ability. Some rise to their greatest heights when under the most pressure4 Nobody completely shakes tension because it's a fact of life, and must be lived with, like it or not.

Winston Churchill said, "It is very much better sometimes to have a panic feeling beforehand, and then be quite calm when things happen, than to be extremely calm beforehand and to get into a panic when things happen."

Famed airman Eddie Rickenbacker once noted, "Courage is doing what you're afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you're scared."

Think about that when you are making a clutch shot or style switch in the midst of a game or tournament. Being tense or scared is not the major problem.  Being scared of being scared causes most of the trouble. The first step in the battle against pressure and tension is to admit it is there. Each individual battles pressure in his or her own way. Veteran performers, having been through it, have more weapons to combat the common malady.  Some chew gum, tobacco, candy, or their lips. Most take deep breaths, some try to slow breathing. Some fidget. Some talk more, others less.  For every action or idea that works, there's another that won't.

Look in the mirror.  You should figure out the best way to calm the person looking back at you. Don't think you are different because a string of strikes gets you excited or flustered, or you shake nervously even when you face a so-called simple spare at a crucial moment.

On the surface most established pros seem as calm as the proverbial contented cat. Inside they are often more like raging tigers. Calm or raging, control is the crisis key. The hidden element, the victory over pressure, almost always decides the winner.

Some bowlers, when thinking about up- coming key matches, expend much energy, tire, and sleep well.  Some have trouble sleeping prior to the trying times.  One, when he is having a bad night, shakes his roommate until the latter is awake, then asks, "What's the matter, can't you sleep either?"

Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine.

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