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Mental Hurdles Q and A

Mental Hurdles Q and A with Dr. Eric Lasser and Fred Borden

Q - What’s the best way to get mentally prepared for more
challenging lane conditions?

A - Remember that competence is the cornerstone of confidence. So, first and foremost, become skilled in handling all types of conditions. The truth is you can learn to play on any pattern. No matter what your style of bowling, there is a way to solve whatever you encounter. To reach that level of adaptability you need a plan and a strong commitment to follow it. Here are our suggestions:

Find a center that can put down the different lane conditions needed to prepare for competitions, such as the USBC Open Championships, Team USA qualifying tournament, and other sport bowling events. Your aim is to know what to do on oily, medium, and dry conditions and the more challenging sport conditions – to develop a feel for the right angle, equipment, speed, rotation, and loft. Then you need to know what adjustment to make when these conditions change during play. The only way to master this is by putting in time on all types of conditions. Receive input from your coach or teammates to help evaluate your game on each condition the lane technician puts down.

Practice with other bowlers to compare ball roll and hooking power. Play some matches to simulate tournament play. Develop an eye for the changes you’ll make during competition.

To cope with lane conditions, call upon whatever methods exist in your mental game repertoire. We call your attention to a few in particular.

For overall learning, mentally practice bowling on all conditions.
Visualize yourself quickly and effectively adjusting as you compete on the various patterns. Use as much detail and as many senses as possible in the imagery. If the pattern in an approaching event is known, mentally rehearse competing on that pattern in the preceding days.

In conjunction with the confidence gained from increasing competence, we recommend this mindset message during training: “I
can do this. I will do this. I’ll learn what to do and when to do it on each and every type of lane condition I’ll be playing on.” Before competing, change the message to “I can do this. I will do this. I’ll make every necessary adjustment. I will handle the condition. I will
solve it.”

Be thoroughly positive in your self-talk before and during competition. Use thought stopping to eliminate any negative ideas or beliefs related to lane conditions.

Adhere to routines. Use relaxation and refocusing methods as needed.

Also keep in mind that other bowlers face the same conditions you do. To the extent that you stay focused, loose, and positive in outlook, you’ll hold an edge over competitors who are upset by the pattern. If you master these methods, you can be confident of your ability to maintain these optimal states.

Finally, recall the concept of the lane as a friend who gives you feedback about where to play. In facing any given pattern, you can think of the lane in this way. Let the ball reaction guide you in
making the proper adjustments.

Q - I’m thrown if something unexpected happens. What can I do to handle things that happen out of the blue?

A - Unexpected situations affect a lot of bowlers. These include equipment problems, injury to yourself or teammates, mechanical or electronic malfunctions on the lane, loud or provocative comments,
and a much stronger performance from a competitor than you expected. This can happen if you underestimate opponents or they give an exceptional – perhaps breakthrough – effort. Always focus totally on your game, on bowling your best, regardless of the competitor. Predictions about opponents, one way or the other, are
distracting and not relevant to your performance. In order to be the
master of these situations rather than their victim, we recommend the following:

Let go of any illusion that life events will always unfold in orderly and predictable ways. This will enable you to be briefly surprised rather than stunned by the unexpected.

• When encountering the unexpected, maintain your routines and use your repertoire of mental game skills to stay focused, positive, and loose.

Before an event, tell yourself that you will handle whatever comes your way. Trusting your ability to cope with the unexpected will add to your confidence.

Mentally rehearse managing unexpected situations successfully, especially the ones which give you the most trouble. Simulate these situations in practice and cope using the methods which best keep you on track.

Recognize that novel, completely unanticipated circumstances can occur. Simply apply your mastered methods to readily adjust.

View those unexpected situations also experienced by competitors (e.g., interrupted play) as opportunities. Some, perhaps most, opponents will not ideally adjust, giving you a
potential advantage.

“Anticipate and forget.” Assured you can handle whatever comes your way, there’s no need to think about possibilities you can’t stop anyway. Be fully into what you can control – your own bowling process in the “here and now.”

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