Tueday’s Tips—May 26, 2020
I recently read a bowling article on bad sportsmanship in league and team bowling. The discussed bowlers who stomped their feet after a bad shot, kicked the ball return out of frustration and verbally whined out loud about being robbed, messed up oil patterns, et al.
So, this is the topic of this Tuesday’s highlights but with a much different spin on it. First let me talk about such actions from an opposing bowler’s viewpoint, that being mine, and then from a coaching perspective. As a league bowler, we have run across the guy (usually guys—women tend to be less overt in their physical reactions) who blames the lanes, the pins, the oil, the owners and the bar tenders for his lack of striking ability. They stomp their feet, kick the ball return, slam a ball or two around on the return rack and verbally, sometimes laced with profanity, berate anything and anyone—except themselves. Other than the side show distraction these people present, I love to bowl against them. Do not confuse the word ‘love’ with enjoy. Here the word ‘love’ takes on the meaning more in line with, ‘yes, I am going to own this guy for the next three games.’
Competitors who exhibit these poor sportsmanship habits lack anything relating to a mental game. Their minds resort to blaming everything external to themselves for what is occurring down lane rather than focusing on why it is occurring. My objective is to always put as many strikes and spares on the score sheet as possible. But when confronted with a competitor exhibiting these bad habits, I know that with each strike or spare I put up, the more frustrated they become and the less apt they are to be able to rise above the challenge that I am presenting them with.
On the other hand, when these people manage to start scoring, then their persona changes—from exhibiting negative actions to now becoming boisterous about their accomplishments—‘I’m smashing those pins—look at me.’ When they become successful, it is time for me to refocus and where my mental game is critical. It is easy for ‘Mr. Boisterous’ to get under a person’s skin and shake a person’s confidence if they happen to make a bad shot or the pins took a bad bounce and left them with a terrible spare. All the verbal garbage coming from your opponent needs to be mentally silenced and the task at hand—making the shot—must have a laser like focus. If I can do that, or if you find yourself in a similar position, you should prevail at the task.
When I was involved in professional drag racing, we termed this as putting the ‘guy on the trailer’ meaning he had been eliminated from competition because we beat him to the finish line.
Now from a coaching perspective, when I encounter the student that exhibits these types of behaviors at any point in their game, we need to have a ‘time out’ session. The time out session is necessary to find out what is going on in the student’s mind and talk about the mental game. Once the mental edge is lost, negative thought processes enter the equation. It is important to stay focused on the task at hand and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. And if you loose physical control of your emotions, it is evident that the mental control and process is gone. An attitude of this nature will drag down a whole team effort.
As a bowler, stay focused and enjoy the experience. If you find yourself being overwhelmed with what is going on, walk away—take a stroll down the lanes, clear your mind, take deep breaths as you walk and whatever negative thoughts are residing on the frontal lobe of your brain. This helps me clear my mind and typically when I walk back on the lanes for my next shot, I am ready for business at its finest.
Tuesday Bowling Tips-May 19, 2020
Unless you are bowling at the Professional Level, chances are you bowl on a league either at school, on a Saturday youth league or one of the weekly leagues hosted by the bowling center. In a competitive league, the following discussion on what bowler ought to leadoff—who should be the anchor and who fills in the rest of the team and why. If you are in a purely social league, chances are it won’t make a difference as to bowls in what position. However, this sequence can serve as a guide as well.
In what position a person bowls has no bearing on the contribution to the team—it takes all four players or maybe five players if organized in that manner—to win the game. One day the middle bowler be right on there game, and the anchor can’t pick up a single pin spare to save their life.
This is not necessarily the highest average bowler on your team, but the lead off bowler should be the most consistent. This will often be the bowler who is a good spare shooter and who can read the lanes and provide useful information to the rest of the team. On one of my teams, my lead off bowler averages 170, but it’s a consistent 170 with the potential for occasionally shooting higher.
Depending on the mental fortitude and physical game quality of the bowler, this will either be someone who could be your least consistent or your most consistent bowler. The least consistent bowler is usually one who you want to “protect” by sandwiching him or her between two solid bowlers, to avoid performance anxiety. Conversely, the middle bowler might have a better average than your lead off bowler, but is also ill-suited to a pressure-laden lineup position. High average notwithstanding, this bowler either prefers to avoid pressure situations, or lacks the mental toughness to handle the anchor or setup position and is best suited to being protected as well—albeit for different reasons than the inconsistent bowler.
This is another consistent bowler whose role is to fill strikes, especially toward the end of a match, in order to take pressure off the anchor and to keep the score close enough to allow a strong ending by the anchor to give your team the win. Make no mistake: while this is not the anchor position, it is still one with its own pressure. For example, if your team is down by 50 going into the 10th frame and you go strike, split, open as the setup bowler, that forces your anchor to go out the door in the 10th frame—and even that might not be enough! But if you go double and count, or at least strike and spare, you’ve done your job and have taken some of the heat off your anchor.
Temperament also deserves consideration: the setup bowler needs to balance the need to take pressure off the anchor bowler with the equally important need to avoid mentally distracting their anchor by imploding after a poor 10th frame. Someone who does their best and accepts whatever that “best” is, has the desired mindset for this role.
Most bowlers would choose the highest average bowler on their team to be their anchor and, usually, for good reason. If this bowler has a high average, chances are they will come through in the clutch, which is precisely the characteristic of a good anchor. However, this raises an important point: being a good anchor is not necessarily about owning a high average. A good anchor possesses confidence, is fearless or confronts his or her fears head on, and brings a unique mix of guts and grit to every shot. Your anchor might therefore be the gutsiest bowler on your team—even though he or she doesn’t have the highest average. Your anchor is the bowler who you can count on to “show up in the 10th,” the bowler who can acknowledge the pressure of having the ability to either win the game for the team, or at least keep the wood close, without letting that pressure mess with his or her head and affect the quality of the shot.
Consider this acronym for TEAM:
· T is for togetherness: “United we stand, divided we fall.”
· E is for energy: with it, a team can conquer all.
· A is for awareness: checking in with each other to take the team dynamic temperature.
· M is for motivated: whatever the team goal—just fun and socializing, or all of that plus a good money envelope—remaining motivated over a long season will make that goal attainable.
Something I have always focused on as a coach, is “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM.” Everyone on a team brings something valuable to the lanes; but—and this is key—no one team member is more important than another—not even the anchor!
Always strive to keep your team on an even keel. There will be great, decent, and awful nights on the lanes. You’re all still a team—win, lose, or draw—and you come back to fight your best fight the following week. Over the course of a long season, there will be more great and decent nights than awful ones. Maintaining team equanimity is therefore key.
Enjoy the Experience!
Tuesday May 12th
Types of Focus
Last week I discussed ball motion and how important it is for you as the bowler to be able to see the motion and look for changes in that motion and then to determine why a change occurred That brings us to the mental thought process. .In practically everything we do involving mental thought encompasses focus. We have internal and external focus and within the internal and external focus, we have narrow and broad..
Many people mistake focus for persistence and think that it is entirely in the realm of narrow-external focus. When little Jimmy is daydreaming in math class, his teacher might yell, “Focus!” but what he really means is, “Focus on me!” Daydreaming is actually a form of broad-internal focus, whereas paying attention to the teacher in math class is narrow-external focus. (Incidentally, solving a math problem is also broad-internal focus.)
In everyday life, we all switch back and forth constantly among these four areas of focus, and we all have natural preferences for where we’d like to be. Driving your car? You’re using broad-external focus to pay attention to everything going on around you. Looking at your dash to change the radio station? That’s narrow-external, and you are momentarily blind to all the other cues in the environment. Playing an argument over in your head (that you’ve won six times in a row!)? That’s broad-internal focus. You might not be blind to the road, but you certainly aren’t focused on your driving.
While the majority of us remain in lock down (staying home whether from school or work), we are not bowling. We are not actively engaged in watching ball motion unless per chance you are studying bowling videos. So I am gong to focus on two skill sets dealing with focus and how we can improve our processes even though we are not bowling—at the moment.
Lane play requires broad-external focus to collect information, and broad-internal focus to decide what to do about it.
Broad-external focus is the ability to take in lots of environmental information, picking out the relevant bits that you need in order to perform well. In my driving example, it’s paying attention to the cars in front, beside you, and behind you, the weather, your speed, your location relative to the upcoming exit that you need to take, etc. People who aren’t good at this type of focus probably aren’t great drivers.
Lane play is much the same. Once the ball leaves your hand, there are plenty of environmental cues that you can and should collect to figure out what to do next. Watching ball motion and pin reaction are paramount, but so is collecting information from watching others’ ball reactions and lane play choices. Making effective decisions depends on knowing what to look for, but that depends entirely on your ability to see it. If you aren’t strong in broad-external focus, you simply won’t see it.
With that in mind, improving your observational skills is central to your broad-external focus. Picking out a single relevant item out of many stimuli is exactly like solving a puzzle. Literally. When you are doing a jigsaw puzzle, you’re looking for a specific piece of information (a piece’s shape and/or color pattern) out of hundreds (maybe thousands) of other similar but irrelevant pieces of information. I am not one, nor have I ever been one, to sit around and put together a puzzle—those 500 to 1000 piece puzzles. In COVID-19 lockdown, my wife and I have been doing a lot of puzzles. For the reasons I just mentioned, the solution of the puzzle relies heavily on your skills in broad external focus.
Improving your lane play observation can be as simple as playing certain types of games that demand that type of focus:
· Jigsaw puzzles
· Word searches
· “Spot the difference” games
· Building with Lego blocks
· On Facebook, you see the difference “You’re a genius if you can find the M in a page full of N’s”
· Same thing on FB, can you see the hidden object in the constant shade of blue or another color (usually and animal of number)
If we assume that you know what you’re looking for in terms of ball reaction cues, then your ability to see them comes down to your ability to focus in this way. These games and toys are perfect for training this area. Pick one or more to enhance your skills in focusing.
Contextual information versus relevant information
Aside from improving this area of focus, these kinds of games are also good at helping you start to recognize the difference between contextual information and relevant information. Contextual information is a distraction that you think helps you make a decision, but really doesn’t. What’s worse, something that is relevant at one point often becomes contextual.
For example, anyone who has done a puzzle has probably started with the edge pieces. When sorting the pieces, the straight edge is relevant information, so you separate those. But once you’ve found the edge pieces and are starting to assemble them, this becomes contextual because they’re all edge pieces. You need more relevant information, such as color. This seems obvious, but bowlers make this mistake constantly.
Let’s equate this to lane pattern information. One of the main sources of mistaken information is the relevance of the oil pattern. Everyone will tell you that the oil pattern length and volume are important. I agree. They indicate your starting strategy relative to what you might be doing on another pattern. But, once you’ve started bowling, the pattern becomes contextual information and your ball reaction is the only relevant information. It doesn’t matter if a pattern is “supposed” to play a certain way. Bowlers get into all kinds of trouble trying to play the context of the environment, instead of what the relevant information is telling them about what to do.
Lane play and broad-internal focus
Once you’ve collected lane play information using broad-external focus, you need to decide what to do with it. Broad-internal focus is where you process that information. This is where you compare the information you’ve collected with your experience and existing knowledge to decide what to do next. Again, you can learn by reading, through experience, or with coaching in order to increase your knowledge, but you need to be able to stay in this area of focus to actually process things.
It’s not unlike trying to solve a problem in your head. If you can focus on the problem while there is music on in the background, the music is essentially tuned out while you remain in broad-internal focus mode. If the song changes and one of your favorites starts playing, you lose track of your thoughts and start singing along. You’ve switched into narrow-external, and you need to start over when the song ends.
For the sake of improving this area of focus and the working memory you need for problem solving, we’ll assume once again that you’ve got all you need to know in order to make the adjustment. You just need to process that information correctly. That focus skill is a lot like several other types of games and puzzles, where they provide you with the clue (information) and you just need to compare it with what else you already know to find the solution(s). Some examples include:
· Logic problems
A note on working memory
Some of the best bowlers I know have incredible memories of their blocks of bowling. I’ve had conversations where bowlers have recalled entire blocks of competition, almost frame by frame, with little outside prompting. Not everyone has developed this level of “bowling memory.” In fact, many people forget where to stand from frame to frame.
While developing this kind of memory, there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing down your adjustments and referring to them prior to your next shot. Many pros have these kinds of high-level notes on centers where they’ve bowled before, and there’s nothing wrong with more detailed notes within a given block if it helps you perform better.
This can become an important part of your post-shot and pre-shot routines. However, you should spend some time in practice, both on-lane and off-lane, to improve this skill. Most of the games mentioned will help in this area, as well as help your broad-internal focus abilities.
There are plenty of games and activities that develop these areas of focus.
Lane play and card games
Some of you might have already been thinking about playing cards while reading this article. Most card games are useful for improving the skills needed in bowling. Let’s break it down:
· You start with a strategy based on your current hand.
· You need to observe what other players are doing.
· With each play/round, the odds change, so your strategy must be adjusted.
· Focusing on your initial strategy while ignoring others’ is a good way to lose.
This describes plenty of card games, from some of the most basic like Memory and Crazy Eights to more complex games like poker and bridge. You start with a given hand of cards, which sets you on an initial path. By watching the cards being played, and what has been played (or collected) by other players, your strategy needs to change. The ability to pay attention to the cards being played and other potential cues like “tells” (broad-external) needs to be matched with your ability to adjust your strategy based on calculating odds (broad-internal).
It also sounds very much like bowling:
· You start with a strategy based on your preferred line and available information.
· You need to observe your ball motion and what other players are doing.
· With each shot, the oil changes so you need to adjust.
· Focusing on your initial strategy and ignoring everything else is a good way to lose.
With that in mind, card games from solitaire to bridge and puzzles and games that challenge you to be observant and pick out and process relevant information will all help to improve your broad-level focus, whether internal or external. In the youth league I used to run, we’d give our younger bowlers a deck of cards to play with and encourage them to play Memory as a way of improving this highly relevant skill from a young age.
You might have noticed that during my coaching sessions, I use my cell phone or I-Pad to video a shot. Even though the bowling delivery is relatively simple in concept, it is actually very complex requiring many movements to come into harmony with one another. Chris Barns is probably a good example of the classic bowling delivery. Jacob Butturff—probably not that classic. But each bowler’s style is their own, it is precise and must be performed each time with the many movements performed together in harmony. The video tape allows me to watch each one of those movements frame by frame looking for something that is out of the ordinary—a subtle change in your balance arm movement, where and how you release the ball, etc This is an example of using a broad external focus.
Enjoy the time in lock down—put it to good use—develop you focus skills—they are important to everyday life outside of bowling.