Some time back I wrote a series of articles on the aspects of the mental game. I received a lot of positive feedback on the series and was asked if I would continue to write on that topic. So, after having thought about it for a while I decided to discuss the topic of what is within versus outside of our control.
In order to really do this topic justice we first need to consider what happens during a single normal shot while bowling. I’m not focused on the shot cycle as was the topic of the series on mental game. I’m speaking of breaking down one shot in an isolated manner. We spend a lot of time working on our physical game to the point where our movements are concise and repeatable and on gaining knowledge and experience on the lanes. Randy Petersen refers to the latter as “Maple Moxie”. But, often times this knowledge is at the expense of more subtle and elusive but, just as important, parts of the game.
To begin, let’s freeze time right at the bottom of our swing when the ball is off our thumb and is just hanging on our fingers slightly. OK, now that you have that picture in your head picture the ball leaving your fingertips. At that very moment what do you get to control about the ball’s path to the pins? Answer: absolutely nothing. Now, freeze the ball just as it touches the headpin. At that moment in time what do we get to control regarding the ball’s path through the pins and off the pin deck? Answer: absolutely nothing.
The problem here is that all of us look to the result at the pin deck as the measure of success or failure on every shot. We are programmed as people to be result oriented and so we transfer all of our focus on what happens at the end of the shot; in other words the outcome of the shot. When we don’t get a satisfactory outcome, we become frustrated and in some cases down right angry. Have you ever had one of those days or nights where you know you are throwing the ball well but just not scoring? Well, here is music to your Ears; you probably are throwing it really well. You probably are executing your plan.
Fact, once the ball leaves our hand we control absolutely nothing about the rest of the shot. Our sphere of control is limited to the few feet we travel on the approach and our goal is to execute the shot we planned. I suggest to you that this should be our measure of success. Did we roll the ball the way we intended?
Here is some additional evidence in case you’re still not convinced. Have you ever thrown a shot that is clearly awful and produced a strike? If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is an emphatic “yes”. That’s living proof of the principle at work here. Consider that the ball must navigate an ever changing oil pattern and find its way to the pocket. During a pocket strike the ball will come in contact with four pins out of ten. We must rely on the pins moving all over the pin deck to knock down better than half of them in what is more or less a chain reaction.
In order to start really experiencing the game at a different level we have to realize these two points. First, success is executing the shot we intend. In other words, rolling the ball as we set out to. Second, what happens on the lane and ultimately the pin deck is outcome. When we make a good shot and do not get the outcome we expected (or thought we deserve), we need to be sure to recognize that we made a great shot. Once we’re in that place we’ve slain many mental Dragons, clearing our thinking to understand what the necessary adjustments might be to better our chances of a great outcome.
Once we truly make these principles our own it is very liberating. It opens doors of possibility that before we had kept lock due to our own constrained thinking. It might take you some time to actually implement this idea. After all, old habits die hard but, once you do, I’m confident you will begin to score more consistently and find you enjoy the game more than in the past.
Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and BryantUniversity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org