Importance of the Mental Game
Written by Joe Slowinski   
Friday, 22 September 2006

All elite bowlers share a complete physical game.  They are able to physically repeat shot after shot after shot.  Yet, what makes a champion?  In simple terms, the quality of the mental game is that what separates champion bowlers from good bowlers. 

All elite bowlers share a complete physical game.  They are able to physically repeat shot after shot after shot.  Yet, what makes a champion?  In simple terms, the quality of the mental game is that what separates champion bowlers from good bowlers.  Hinitz (2003) describes the  characteristics of the mentally strong bowler: 

1.      Has the ability to channel and redirect nervous energy;

2.      Knows how to focus;

3.      Recovers their mental focus immediately after a poor shot;

4.      Delivers in the clutch;

5.      Accepts feedback and is coachable;

6.      Maintains composure and doesn’t get angry;

7.      Move on to the next shot no matter what happened in the previous frame;

8.      Stays motivated and never gives up;

9.      Stays in the moment and focuses on the present shot; 

The Importance of Visualization 

Visualization is comprised of goal-oriented imagery and process-oriented imagery.  Both are critical to the success of the elite bowler.   How many times have you heard an athlete discuss how they have been preparing for the moment their entire life?  “I have made a winning shot to win the NBA championship 3000 times,” they say.  Goal imagery focuses on achieving outcomes in the game.  I utilize goal-oriented imagery at the completion of every practice.  Individuals and team members close their eyes and see a championship.  What does it look and feel like.  Elite bowlers utilize this at home as well.  It helps you prepare for the moment. Process imagery is a strong compliment to actual practice efforts.  Elite bowlers envision the physical movements or changes that they are working on in their games.  In 2001, Golf Magazine hosted a golf in science competition.  In the award winning entry, Dr. Debbie Crews (2001), a professor at Arizona State University, identified a key component of performing under pressure by studying EEG scans of top amateur golfers putting under pressure.  These golfers initially putted ten times on a flat green.  In the second phase of the research, golfers were told that they would receive $300 for matching or improving their performance in the initial round of putting and would lose $100 in the event of performing worse. In the second rounds of putts, golfers who were successful had an equal amount of brain activity and anxiety as compared with those who were not.  So, the level of anxiety didn’t have an impact on performance.  Rather, it was another fundamental entity of the mind.  Specifically, those who choked had more activity in the left side of the brain while those who were successful had an equal distribution across both hemispheres. This research illustrates the importance of visualization.  Those golfers who drew more on their creative brain were able to perform through the stress.  When the left brain becomes dominant, the athlete focuses more on mechanics (e.g., Am I lined-up?; How is my swing?; etc.).   Just as a great free-throw shooter prepares for his/her shot with the exact same procedure prior to a shot, elite bowlers prepare themselves for success with a consistent pre-shot routine.   Use this simple process to improve your scores: 

1)      Do the same actions exactly the same each time as you prepare for your shot (e.g., wipe off the ball with a clean towel, dry your hand, etc.).  This sets your subconscious mind into execution mode.  Imagine a favorite song.  In Chews (2001) research, in addition to visualization, she found the act of thinking about  a favorite song as effective in engaging both hemispheres of the brain.  

2)      Recall the hand position and initial starting points before you step on the approach; 

3)      After you set-up on the lane, lock unto the target and hold this gaze; 

4)      Visualize a successful shot.  Literally, watch the ball, in your mind, proceed through the entire path of a successful shot; 

5)      Breath-in, exhale fully, go.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 October 2006 )