If you’ve spent any time around me, I’m sure you’ve heard me utter a specific phrase; “one shot, one frame, one game”. Those I coach understand the meaning of this phrase and I encourage them to keep it at the forefront of their minds when competing. I use this phrase myself so, I take a dose of my own medicine so to speak. You see, I’ve experienced firsthand and witnessed athletes come completely unglued in high pressure competitive situations. Through much research and reading I found there is a common thread running through all those athletes who are successful at composure and focus. This, of course, leads to being able to control one’s emotional state and stay focused even under the most trying circumstances. With that said, human beings are wired in such a way where we are governed by emotion. So, it is truly not possible to become like the Vulcan, Mr. Spock of Star Trek lore and be completely devoid of emotion. The key is to keep the emotion positive and to learn to channel it so it works in your favor. One point to mention here before we go any further is that it’s important to acknowledge whatever emotion you’re feeling. If you try to suppress the emotion, it will well up inside you and likely manifest itself at some point during the competition. There are always triggers that fire an emotional response. The key is to acknowledge the response and learn to channel it. Here are some examples of common triggers I’ve noticed:
Winning By Reputation
This trigger is very subtle and I’m willing to bet it has affected almost every person on the planet in one way or another. This trigger is brought about because of the perception that your opponent is somehow more deserving of a victory or is more entitled because of their athletic resume. So, there is a natural subconscious tendency to try and find your place on the natural hierarchy of relationships as it related to this individual. This translates to fear of facing someone you feel is far more accomplished than you. Well, let me let you in on a little secret… the mere fact that you are now their opponent is evidence enough that you worked hard enough to be there. Fear at this point is not a logical response. I love the quote “Respect all, fear no one”. I picked that one up years ago in my tenure as a Softball coach and it applies regardless of the sport. These are great words to live by!
Self Fulfilling Prophecy
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, everyone no matter how successful, has their own personal demons and more times than not they surface as negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. Put simply, we tend to live up to our own expectations. There are times when we become a self fulfilling prophecy when we use bad performance, making bad shots or you name it to justify that we are just not very good. Thoughts go through our mind like, “see I’m just terrible at this game”. Does this sound familiar? Let’s face it, you have some things that you can do very well and yes you have limitations. And furthermore, those limitations may be a strong point in someone else’s game. How about the next time negative thinking invades our thoughts we try something new. How about, we focus on what we do really well and just acknowledge those areas that are weaker as points to be worked on in practice. I can’t think of a better way to slay a dragon.
Fear of Failure
Ever give away a sure win to an opponent? That’s this trigger in a nutshell. It usually manifests as thoughts of outright panic when you are way ahead and you want the game to end right now. Why, because you’re afraid that you’ll do something unthinkable and lose. Or you need to make a clutch shot in the 10th to win or shut out your opponent only to fail to execute and make a shot that is way out of character for you. Visualizing success on each shot is the best way to calm yourself and promote focus.
I’ll stop there but, I’m sure you get the picture and probably can relate to one or more of the above scenarios. They are all the triggers that creep into our thoughts and can do damage to our psyche. What do they all have in common you ask? Well, they are all examples of an under developed mental game. As I’ve discussed in other articles, Bowling is largely a mental game. And it is what separates the good players from the great ones in many cases.
So, what does “one shot, one frame, one game” have to do with all of this? Hey, I’m glad you asked! In short it is a formula that can set you on a path of success. Note, I can’t guarantee success but, I can give you some insight and point you in a direction. If you work the problem backwards you logically need to knock down more pins than your opponent at the end of the game; simple right? Well how do you get there? If you focus on that as your goal you could fall into any one of the traps above. No, games are won by only being concerned with the one shot which is in front of you right now. You need only be focused on that one small task and bring everything you have right now, on this one shot. Your thought process should be that right now, I’m the best this game has ever seen and I’m about to throw the best shot I’ve ever made… “one shot”. If all goes well you will not need another shot but, if you do you repeat that thought process on your spare shot… “one frame”. Producing multiple stellar frames together reinforcing the thought each time… “one game”. You cannot affect what your opponent does so maximize what you can do right now. Then look up after all 10 frames and see who is standing tall! Even if you did not knock as many pins over as your opponent, you still know you brought everything you had on every shot…and that my friend is a win not matter what the outcome.