I recently prepared 6 Malaysian youth bowlers for the first annual Singapore Sports School U18 International tournament. Bowlers from 9 countries were represented and bowled three days of qualifying on four different lane surfaces. This is not four different centers but 12 lanes with four different lane surfaces. The conditions are challenging. You go from one pair of water-based wood to synthetics in one game. So, a lane play plan and a strong mental game are essential to success. In the 8-day preparation, we worked on the development and revision of an advanced lane play plan, mastering different releases relevant for the lane condition, developing important self-talk statements, fitness training, a hydration plan as well as practicing an extensive pre-shot routine.
One bowler's story illustrates how important the pre-shot routine is to success. He went from 39th to 17th in one round when he finally decided to move from a 70% committment to 100%. Read-on to learn more.
In late May and early June, 2007, I trained 6 of our developmental athletes for an international tournament in Singapore. These bowlers ranged from age 14 to 17 years-old. Each had just missed earning a spot on the National Junior Squad.
Specifically, the Singapore Sports School hosted the first annual U18 International tournament. Teams from 9 countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, ), participated sending some of their best players, including national team members and a recent Asian Bowling Federation Tour winner. Moreover, the lane conditions at the Singapore Sports School consist of 12 lanes of 4 different surfaces (2 pairs of AMF synthetic, 2 pairs of Brunswick synthetic, 1 pair of urethane coated wood, 1 pair of water-based wood).
Singapore Sports School Various Lane Surfaces
Bowlers bowled three different squad sessions: morning (fresh); afternoon (transition), evening (burn). The top 24 would earn a place in the Masters finals, bowling 12 more games.
During the 8-days of training, we focused on a number of factors: releases, exit point and lane play, self-talk, pre-shot routine and fitness. The training was intended to be a holistic preparation for the tournament. In addition, we worked on controlling emotions and thinking as well.
Daily Pre-Squad Pre-Shot Visualization Practice
Each player developed an advanced plan to attack each of the different lane surfaces, based on an idea of beginning, middle and end phases. This way the bowlers were prepared with a plan of attack on each surface at different periods of tournament play. This pre-plan was used during the practice session and revised accordingly. So, all bowlers were prepared and practiced. But, the pre-shot routine is what made the difference. All bowlers who executed the pre-shot routine 100% of each shot made the finals. Those who didn’t, missed the cut, and were forced to watch.
One story illustrates how important the pre-shot routine is to overall competition performance.
Ozir Zuri was sitting in 39th position after Round 2, 12 total games. He had prepared for this challenging tournament but his performance was up and down. In one squad, he had three 200s and three 150s. Overall, he had averaged only 181 so far for two rounds.
When asked, he admitted only committing to his pre-shot routine 70% of his shots. In the previous week, we had spent hours and hours practicing and preparing to use the pre-shot routine. But, it is always up to the bowler to execute. You have to be disciplined in order to be successful and consistent. His game plan was working. But, since he was inconsistent with the pre-shot routine, his performance was also inconsistent. And, the quality of the competition didn’t allow him to be inconsistent and still perform near the top.
After a lengthy discussion with the coaching team, prior to Round 3, he dedicated to 100% pre-shot execution. Our coaching staff continued to emphasize what we had worked on all week(i.e., stick to your plan, observe, adjust and dedicate yourself to the pre-shot routine, 100%).
Ozir had a plan but he was not executing consistently. But, now, he was ready to give 100%. He knew he wouldn't have a chance otherwise. So, beginning in Round 3, he started with 100% and continued throughout, 100%. The results..... 1246 for 6 games on the challenging conditions, moving from 39th to 17th in one round.
He was rewarded for his mental discipline. And, he carried this forward into the Masters finals earning 8th position overall (198 average for 12 straight games on the four lane conditions). How well would he have bowled if he had begun with the pre-shot routine 100% in Rounds 1 & 2?
That is 100% focus, every shot, proceeding through each of the 7-steps.... The others who missed the cut admitted only a 90% dedication as well as getting caught-up into their emotions, just for a short period of time.
A lack of focus for 10% and losing one's cool was all it took to miss the cut with such a strong field. We had players miss by only 30 and 60 pins. That is over 18 games. Not much....As you progress in your career, the mental game becomes increasingly important. Work hard now. Be sure to practice each night, just before going to bed. Close your eyes and go through the 7-steps. This will help you when you actually employ it on the lanes.
The other three bowlers bowled well finishing 28th, 33rd and 40th. There plan was successful but they were more inconsistent. As the competition increases, you can't afford a 90% focus. 100% or miss the cut....
Each shot every time....That is a championship focus! In addition, the three qualifiers focused on not getting emotional. Just one shot at a time.... Are you ready to be a champion?
We had prepared 6 players. All had a plan. All had competent releases, lane play understanding and a plan that was successful. Yet, those who only committed to 90% did not make the cut. Those who did 100% were bowling for a title.
Now, you tell me, is it worth investing in the 7-steps of the pre-shot routine? Knowledge + practice = competence. Competence leads to confidence. Mental game will lead to repeatability.
Ozir is continuing to impress. He recently qualified 3rd in an important tournament, earning a spot on the Asian Schools squad for the prestigious Asian regional tournament. He competed against some of the best youth bowlers in Malaysia and has elevated his game. So, he will now represent his country in the 10TH Asian Schools Championships, July 9 - 15, in Hong Kong. Now, that is success! 100% DISCIPLINED DEDICATION TO THE PRE-SHOT ROUTINE.