Article Contents

  • 1. Hey! Concentrate!
    • 1.1. The brain’s operating system
    • 1.2. Let’s talk about control
  • 2. The three-step process
  • 3. Raise the stakes in your practice
  • 4. Initiating cruise control
  • 5. References and acknowledgements

The eternal dilemma of athletes who are great in practice and then change under the lights is to understand what happened to the confident, free executor of strike and spare shots. The conventional wisdom is that if you just practice single pins enough, they will be effortless under pressure. Or if you dial-in the mechanics of how to bowl properly, you will have the lock-down confidence to deliver under the gun.

“Pressure comes from within and so must be mastered from within.”
-Ed Jacoby

If that was true, we could simply get one of the fine coaches available in all four corners of the world, work out how to bowl properly, and then just push “play.” But life often doesn’t work that way. On Tour a little while back, one of the top players chuckled with me after they shot a 294 in qualifying. This individual’s game did not suddenly evaporate from their body on the last shot. But something clearly changed on shot number twelve.

Similarly, single pins don’t move off their spots. Spare lines are easily calculated. Your simple, sure alignment should work every time. But it doesn’t. What could possibly be at cause for turning us from flawless performance machines during practice, into analytic marionettes when the lights intensify?

Hey! Concentrate!

“If you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice.”
-Laurence J. Peter

First of all, the most common advice given to players may be the worst if it is taken wrongly. Coaches and teammates will often yell, “Hey, focus…concentrate!” or “Think about this, take your time!” This could very well be the derailing moment for a player who has to deliver one in the clutch.

Often, if you have the front nine strikes, other players will back off out of your way, giving you time and space to focus on your shot. If barking out, “Focus,” “We need this one,” or “One more, dude,” worked, these simple verbal keys might contribute to even greater freedom of execution, but usually it doesn’t. If it did, more players would have 300 games on conditions where they clearly have a serviceable ball and the right ...

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Dean Hinitz

About Dean Hinitz

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