Article Contents

  • 1. The moment of truth
  • 2. Reasons for choking
  • 3. The source of the problem
  • 4. Antidotes
  • 5. Change of pace is fear driven

Imagine being in this situation. You are at a tournament, engaged in match play, and it becomes clear that you need to strike to win. Or perhaps you have to make a challenging spare to advance. You get up on the approach. There is a moment when it all comes clear to you. One of two things happens. Either you confidently push away the ball and fluidly execute your shot; or you start over-thinking, grip the holes too tight, your arms lock up, and fear runs you, sending you back to the bench knowing that you grabbed one.

In virtually every sport or activity that has a measurable outcome there is a moment of truth. Basketball players have critical game-breaking free throws. Field goal kickers send the ball into the air with time expiring. Baseball pitchers have to throw a strike with bases loaded and the count full. And, of course, bowlers are called upon to have to strike in key frames, make spares to win games, and otherwise to deliver critical shots under all kinds of circumstances.

The moment of truth

In each of these situations, there is a make or break moment …the moment of truth. The athlete knows that this is it. It would be pretty difficult to find a bowler that has never had this experience. When you are called upon to face the lanes, your opponent, and yourself, it is sort of a two-pronged process. It is yes or no. You either elegantly throw your best shot, or you squeeze it down to leave something in the back row … or worse.

Almost every player that I have ever met can tell you about a time where he/she choked. Worse yet, once it happens, it seems ever more likely that an individual will become increasingly worried that it will occur again. If you choke more than once, then you are off to the races—the bad kind. At that point you lose trust in your ability to perform under pressure.

This month we are going to review the phenomenon of choking. Of course, most of our attention is usually spent on the opposite quality, that of excelling in all aspects of the game. Yet, at virtually every clinic, school, or lesson, bowlers raise the question of what to do if you ever have choking on the brain.

Reasons for choking

First off, choking should be defined. A lot of times, an athlete will throw a bad ...

Dean Hinitz

About Dean Hinitz

Dr. Dean Hinitz is a clinical sports psychologist in Reno, Nevada, a bowler, former competitive gymnast, and black belt in Japanese-style Karate.