"Pressure" is one of the topics I never heard people talking about at the lanes. Maybe it's a sign of weakness to some, but I feel it's an important topic that needs some discussion. There will be times when you feel the pressure of having to get a needed strike or spare to win the game for your team in the league or in a big tournament. Knowing all eyes are on you for the needed mark or that 12th consecutive strike for a 300 game, can make you feel quite nervous, especially if you're not used to it. I know it used to make me feel that way when I first began to bowl. I was in several women's leagues over the years and was put in the anchor position. It took a long time to get used to this pressure but once I improved a lot, then it didn't bother me as much.
I think male bowlers are somewhat better at handling the pressure than women just because males are more aggressive in nature, which is probably why I see more men in anchor positions in the leagues. Sometimes in league play the anchor person just needs a simple spare or even just a few pins to win a game but not being able to handle the pressure well, this person ends up tossing the ball right into the gutter! Ugh!
Several years ago, I had joined a league where they divided the league into two halves. My team finished in 1st place for the second half and we had to have a three game roll off against the team that finished in first place for the first half of the league to see which of our teams would win the big prize money (for the first place position). I was so nervous and just bowled terrible!! The lanes were very dry and my ball was hooking too much and coming right into the headpin causing me to to deal with several splits. Not being an experienced bowler, I just got totally disgusted. Only one person on my team bowled well that night and needless to say, we did NOT end up in the first place position. I felt awful knowing I had contributed to my teams' loss because I didn't hit my average. I thought to myself, "why didn't I just use my cheap plastic ball that goes fairly straight" instead of trying to use the pretty hook shot that was totally out of control tonight? The key here is that I was NOT experienced enough to know to stay CALM. If I had stayed more calm, I would have been able to focus better and would have thought about using my straight ball.
Being experienced, comes with lots of practice and facing several different scenarios in pressure positions.. The key is to be able to make a DECISION immediately if you're not bowling well. After that horrible night, I decided to just use my regular ball for the first few frames to observe, and then I would make some type of change IMMEDIATELY instead of wasting precious frames.
It's very helpful to do some easy STRETCHING just before a crucial shot which will help release unwanted tension in the muscles. BREATHING in slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth a few times can also help you relax and slow your heart rate down when setting up on the approach. If your muscles are tense, your delivery will not be smooth and consistent as it usually is, so a good breathing and stretching routine really helps!!
Developing a good PRE-GAME ROUTINE will help you develop good habits. Before getting onto the approach, dry your bowling hand by holding it over the air flow near the ball rack. Wipe any debris off your bowling ball with a towel, and think before you get onto the approach and know exactly what you want to accomplish. Remember to COUNT your steps as you walk along the approach to keep your timing good.
It's also a good idea to BLOCK OUT your surroundings as best as you can to avoid distractions. Try not to worry about how the the other team is doing. You can only control your own bowling, and if you are focusing on how the other team is doing, you will NOT be focussing on your own game. Deep CONCENTRATION is necessary for bowling well. If your routine and timing are good, then your score will be good! Just trust your own instincts and the muscle memory you have developed over the years (or are developing if you are new to the sport) to carry you through the motions, so you will be able to focus more on how your ball is reacting on the lanes and what adjustments you might need to make.
When you feel pressure while bowling, just try to focus on the PROCESS of bowling rather than on your score. Take each frame separately and If you should have a bad frame, don't dwell on it. You need to let it go so you can focus on executing a good shot in the next frame. Just try to figure out what you did wrong if you can, and make the change right away for the next shot. You can also ask the advice of the better bowlers on your league if you're not sure on what adjustment/s to make until you get more experienced and can figure out things on your own.
In your PRACTICE SESSIONS you can pretend you are in a pressure situation in your league or in an upcoming tournament for example and then try executing a good shot. By creating these mental situations during practice, you will better prepare yourself for when then are really happening when it counts.
I know sometimes it's easier to say these things than to do them, but if you want to get up to that next level, you need to STAY FOCUSED! I have been bowling a long time and sometimes I will still feel pressure on a crucial shot. But I say to myself, "I've made this mark before and I can do it again". Just keep practicing and bowling in leagues, and some tournaments. Over time, you will get much better at handling these pressure situations.
Join me here again next week to discuss "What Do I Need To Know In Bowling"?-Part 6 (Continued from my Blog post on 11/1/21). I hope to see you then.
Good Luck and High Scoring!
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Hello!! My name is Joanie. Although I'm not a professional bowler, I have loved the sport for more than 45 years, averaged over 200 for several seasons, and learned quite a bit with research and experience.