It’s time to bowl. Time to knock down pins and reap the benefits of your systematic preparation. Dedicated training has brought you to the point of maximum readiness. Pre-game routines have you set to perform. You now take the key final steps priming you to successfully execute.
These final steps to excellence comprise your routine leading to each shot during competition. Alternately referred to as “within-game routine,” “between-shot routine,” or “pre-shot routine,” this sequence of actions is necessary for performing well. Bowling your best requires a consistent routine before shots. This point deserves highlighting. No matter how hard you train or how talented you are, what you do immediately before each shot will affect the quality of your game, and if your routine fluctuates, so will your pin count.
What to Do and Where to Do It
Pre-shot activities occur in three areas: the settee, by the ball return, and the approach. There are several assignments to undertake in each of these locations. These actions prior to executing are equivalent to loading a computer before hitting “print.”
In the Settee Area
Think of the settee as your office. This is where you analyze and plan strategy prior to each frame. Your immediate game plan includes five essential decisions:
1. What angle?
2. What ball?
3. What speed?
4. What release?
5. What loft?
Make your decisions and adjustments before walking to the ball return. Determine what your target is and where to stand. Select the equipment best matching the condition and situation. Decide whether to be aggressive or throw the ball softer. Choose your wrist and hand action. Calculate how far to loft the ball.
At the Ball Return
Armed with your strategy, you now walk to the ball return. The area by the ball return is equivalent to the on-deck circle in baseball. We refer to this area as the “think circle.” By thinking, we don’t mean analyzing. That’s been accomplished. Instead, what you do here is engage in a series of brief mind/body methods designed to create an optimum psychological state for bowling performance.
We commonly recommend a sequence consisting of a concentration
technique (A), relaxation method (B), visualization (C), and affirmation (D). Ten to twenty seconds should be sufficient to complete this sequence.
A. With respect to concentration, a verbal or visual cue can lock you into high focus. You might say the word “focus” to yourself or think of your coach saying this to you. Or imagine a big banner hanging from the ceiling over the lane (anywhere from the pins to the foul line or even the scoring console.) “FOCUS” is inscribed on the banner in bold letters. Choose any colors for the banner so long as the letters stand out. A white background with dark blue letters is one popular choice. Coach Borden, speaking as a competitor, observed, “I see that sign in every bowling center and I get the eye of the tiger.”
B. To relax, take one or two slow, deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. We suggest diaphragmatic breathing. As an alternative, you can quickly calm yourself through another method you’ve practiced, such as recalling music or envisioning relaxing images. Some bowlers like to imagine tension dripping from their fingertips onto the floor.
C. Visualize bowling with ideal form. Your stance, stride, swing, and release are perfectly balanced, synchronized, and smooth. Then picture the ball following “the line in your mind,” traveling over the target, down the lane, into the pocket. If you choose to see the pins go down, that’s fine. However, what’s crucial here is the dynamic, coordinated movement of your body leading to a crisp, clean delivery and great bowling shot.
D. Recite an affirming statement which may include a performance cue to remind you of technique. “I’m a great shot-maker” represents a general affirmation, while “My swing is smooth and easy” is technique-related.
An optional fifth step is playing a few seconds of music in your head. We recommend something that inspires (e.g. Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” or the Wallflower’s “Heroes”). If your routine is interrupted at any point, simply “rewind” – i.e., start the sequence again. This is important for regaining focus as well as for deriving the full benefit of the psychological skills you’re using. (While most bowlers do this routine in the distinct steps provided, some prefer to merge steps. For example, the banner is pictured during one deep breath, perfect form is visualized on another deep breath, and then affirmation is repeated and music is recalled. Even if you ultimately go this route, we recommend initially learning and applying the steps in sequence.)
Before stepping onto the approach, you go through a number of accustomed physical activities. Using a towel or rosin bag, turn and wipe your ball. Some bowlers will then blow on their fingers or the finger holes (others may do this promptly on the approach.) This short series of actions constitutes a routine of its own and serves both a practical and comforting purpose.
On the Approach
You’ve planned and psychologically primed yourself to make a great shot. What you do next on the approach should be simple, efficient, workmanlike. Step up, put your feet in position, flex your knees, and assume your stance. Make sure your focus stays external. This means concentrating on where you’re throwing the ball. Then, just go. Keep your eyes forward and feel the overall flow of your entire body moving to the foul line and executing the shot toward the target.
This article is an excert from the book,"The Handbook of Bowling Psychology" by Dr. Eric Lasser, Fred Borden, and Jeri Edwards