Everyone feels pressure. We just don’t feel it about the same things. I can remember television commentator Denny Schreiner saying that everyone loves to need to strike out in the 10th to win a match. I also remember thinking, “Nuh-uh!! I want it over (in my favor, of course) by the 7th frame!”
You can’t just guess what causes you to feel pressure. You can’t pretend (or wish) that nothing does. That’s like the advice that tells you to relax after nine-in-a-row. Relaxing in that environment is pretty tough and, indeed, trying to do so can really cause even more anxiety. The truth is, what else do you bowl for if not this moment, this challenge? Isn’t that moment why you’re here? Where else would you rather be?
Don’t deny how you’re feeling and don’t suppress it. Bring it into the light. Examine it. Honor it. Move on. I can’t think of anything that will empower you more. There’s an axiom that says whatever you resist, persists. So if you trye (yes, trye is a four letter word!) to relax or pretend you’re not feeling what you’re feeling, your response becomes even more intense. Denying reality is a really goofy idea and wastes a lot of energy.
Sid Allen, the very successful coach of the very successful Malaysian bowling teams of the 1990s, once said to me that his most significant job was keeping his athletes sober in an intoxicating environment. What a concept!
Tournaments and even league, if you have the right learning attitude about it, can be very intoxicating. Pro golfer Hale Irwin was asked if he got more nervous during majors. He responded, “No, but I do get more interested.” Perfect! Qualifying games, match play, position round, needing to mark for the win, whatever the event, how you perform in those moments can get you super juiced or absolutely mortified. So, you need a road map for ...