Research in the field of Sports Psychology indicates that there are 4 types of “Performance State” which refer to how we feel during a bowling performance and our level of engagement in the task (the task is to make each shot as best we can).
Types 1 and 2 are Optimal Performance States and Types 3 and 4 are Sub-optimal Performance States. I’m sure you have experienced and can relate to each one.
Performance State 1 (Optimal): The Flow State
This performance state is where everything “flows” and is the highest possible performance state. There is no inner critic or doubt, you feel good and engagement with the task is highest. Because you are immersed in the present moment and what you are doing and experiencing, you don’t realize you’re in flow until the end of the bowling competition. You’re “letting it happen” rather than “making it happen”.
Performance State 2 (Optimal): The Clutch State
This performance state is positive, but it requires more effort to stay optimal. In this state you are “making it happen” with conscious effort, rather than it flowing unconsciously as you are in PS1. You might be needing more use of controllers such as Self Talk to keep you motivated and focused on the tasks at hand.
Performance State 3 (Sub-Optimal): Overthinking State
This performance state is characterized by overthinking about things that are irrelevant to the execution of the task (each shot). You might be overly concerned about what could go wrong, how you look or others, or unhelpful thoughts that are not going to help you bowl well. It’s an unpleasant state that requires a lot of effort and mental energy. At this point, you’re feeling threatened rather than challenged. When we are in this performance state, the aim should be to guide yourself into Performance State 2.
Performance State 4 (Sub-Optimal): Giving Up State
Type 4: This is when the player has withdrawn from the task completely and is no longer putting in any effort. Due to poor performance, the goal becomes getting the task over and done with, rather than being successful at it. There is no longer any enjoyment in what they are doing.
Your best performances are going to come in Performance States 1 and 2. Since it’s still unclear about how we can consistently get into The Flow State (PS1), Performance State 2 is the one that we have the most control in reaching and hence what the goal should be for a bowling competition and practice session. Once we are in PS2, we are in a better state to move into Flow or PS1.
Today, let’s talk about a topic that doesn’t get enough attention when it comes to bowling performance: positive self-talk. The inner dialogue that’s going on all the time in our head is THE most important thing we have going on. How we talk to ourselves is a huge part of creating a powerful self-image, which leads to way more confidence.
It’s a simple truth: What we think, we become. That is why it’s crucial for athletes to take control and feed their mind positive thoughts with their self-talk.
As Shad Helmstetter says in his great book ‘What To Say When You Talk To Yourself’, “The brain simply believes what you tell it most. And what you tell it about you it will create. It has no choice.”
Having positive self-talk as a tool in your toolbox will help you manage the adversity that we all experience. Confident bowlers know this so they make sure to consistently have strong, positive thoughts and dialogue running through their head.
More often than not, when the level of competition is close, the difference between success and failure comes down to what's going on inside our heads. The best part about it is that the way we talk to ourselves is 100% in our control and something every bowler (regardless of skill level) should strive to be excellent with.
Here are a few reasons why positive self-talk is so important:
1. It helps you stay focused and motivated: When you're facing a tough challenge, it's easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. But by using positive self-talk, you can remind yourself of your strengths and capabilities. This can help you stay motivated and focused on the task at hand.
2. It boosts confidence: All bowlers know that confidence is crucial. When you believe in yourself, you're more likely to take risks, push yourself harder, and perform at your best. Positive self-talk can help boost your confidence by reminding you of who you are at your best and what you are truly capable of.
3. It improves your mindset: Bowlers who use positive self-talk are more likely to have a growth mindset. This means that they see challenges as opportunities for growth, rather than obstacles holding them back. By adopting a growth mindset, you're more likely to bounce back from setbacks and continue to improve.
4. It reduces stress and anxiety: Bowling can be stressful, especially when you're competing at a high level. But by using positive self-talk, you can reduce stress and anxiety by reminding yourself that you can respond powerfully to anything that happens to you, on or off the lanes.
So, how can you incorporate positive self-talk into your routine? Start by building awareness, especially around your negative self-talk patterns. When things aren't going good for you, how do you talk to yourself? Once you've identified those patterns, replace them with positive affirmations.
For example, instead of saying "I can't do this," say "I've done this before, I can do it again." Or instead of saying "I hope I make a good shot," say "I've got this". "I'm ready for anything. Win this shot."
Remember, positive self-talk isn't about ignoring your weaknesses or pretending that everything is perfect. It's about acknowledging your strengths and using them to overcome your challenges.
Just like any other skill that you want to develop, it takes consistent reps. By incorporating positive self-talk into your routine, you WILL improve your mental game and you WILL put yourself in a much better position to succeed on a consistent basis.
What does it mean to be comfortable with your bowling game? You can view "comfort" in two ways.
One way to view comfort is the acceptance of the status quo. In that sense, bowlers train within a comfort zone impeding progress. To grow as a bowler, you should push past comfort and challenge yourself.
The phrase "getting comfortable with being uncomfortable" is often associated with the "push your limits" mindset.
Also, you can view "comfort" through a different lens, such as being comfortable with the variety of challenges in the sport of bowling, being comfortable implementing new skills or tools in bowling competitions, or being comfortable bowling against top players.
In this view, feeling comfortable builds CONFIDENCE and TRUST in your game.
What impedes feeling confident and trusting your game?
High Expectations - When expectations are high, you will often feel that you need to be perfect to meet or exceed those expectations. These bowlers heap an extraordinary amount of pressure on themselves and constantly battle with anxiety. I see this a lot with bowlers who have a big event coming up (league, tournament, etc.).
Comparison to Other Bowlers - When you constantly use other bowlers to gauge your abilities, you will feel you don't measure up or lack the ability to perform at a high level. Many of these bowlers develop less joy and/or stop bowling permanently.
Persistent Fear - Fear halts progress. When you give in to fear, such as fear of embarrassment, fear of making mistakes, fear of failure, or fear that you lack ability or talent, you will hold back in training, bowl cautiously, consistently underperform and fall short of your bowling goals.
Great bowling goals, whether written or typed, studies have shown will make the chances of you achieving them at least 16% greater than if you only think about them? How easy is that?!
These three super-organizing-goals are sure to help you get your bowling at a high level now and beyond.
1. Outcome Bowling Goals or OG’s
OG’s require you to at least think about what you would like to accomplish in the coming bowling year, or what is left of it. Use these goals to give yourself purpose and direction. Nothing is “etched in stone” as they say, and you can adjust them at any time. In fact, review them every month, or so, just to see if they are still appropriate. If you are exceeding them, adjust them up. If you cannot meet them, no worries, just adjust them down a bit. Failure to reach your most-lofty of goals shouldn’t deter you from future improvement. The idea is to keep them challenging and realistic throughout the year. REMEMBER: Outcomes are uncontrollable. These goals are to give you a “direction” only and are not intended to put pressure on you, or to go to the bowling center with you.
OG Examples: - The # of bowling events you hope to compete in this season - Finishes you aspire to have, top 10’s, wins, cashes (be realistic yet ambitious) - Bowling events you would like to qualify for - A bowling average you would like to achieve - Single spares conversion percentage you would like to achieve - Any stats you would like to improve, etc.
2. Physical Performance Bowling Goals or PPG’s
PPG’s require that you honestly assess your current physical skills, technique, equipment, and conditioning to see how they match up with your outcome goals. Make a list of the aspects of your physical game that need to be strengthened to reach your outcome goals.
PPG Examples: - Improved physical techniques (swing, balance, release, etc.) - More consistency with specific spares - Greater awareness of bowling balls and ball motions - Development of lane play strategies and execution
If needed, include: - Bowling goals for upgrading or changing equipment - Take lessons for specific skills - Incorporate specific types of drills into your practice - Gain strength, improve stamina, etc. Tip: Your bowling coach can usually give great insights for setting PPG’s.
3. Mental Performance Goals or MPG’s
MPG’s require that you take an insightful look at why you have not been bowling to your potential or getting the most out of your game. Make a list of the mental skills you most need to strengthen to reach your outcome goals.
MPG Examples: - Improve focus in your setup position - Learn to be more tough-minded under pressure - Develop skills for better managing emotions - Learn skills for handling tension or outcome thinking, etc. - Get rid of the bowling yips - Improve your 4-quadrant routines - Stay committed to game plan - Improve self talk
Organize Your Game With These Three Goals To Win The Day!
One of my favorite books I have read in the past couple of years is James Clear's brilliant book Atomic Habits.
He tells us: “It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable— but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”
Detailed and accurate self-reflection is essential to being a good bowler, but so many bowlers are missing out on this important learning opportunity – instead, their reflections sound like “I don’t know…” or “Good I bowled well… or I bowled awful…”
Here are 3 proven ways to improve the car ride home and the self-reflection process:
1 – IT’S NON-NEGOTIABLE
“I don’t know” is NOT an option. If you are unsure – then guess. You can not become self-aware if you are not self-reflecting. So you might struggle to reflect effectively at first, but if you don’t try you won’t improve and this will really limit both your improvement as a bowler and your mindset. If you want to be an elite bowler then I believe it is unacceptable to not engage in reflection
2 – BE ACCURATE
Don’t be too hard on yourself, but also, don’t be too easy on yourself. Instead, accurately reflect on the things you did well and the things you can work on. Parents/Coaches/Teammates – this is where your job can be tough. Probe, ask questions and be patient – your job is to help them become more accurate – if you just tell them what they did wrong then they are not learning how to accurately self-reflect.
3- BE DETAILED & SPECIFIC
Ask specific questions and encourage detailed responses with examples. Vague statements like “it was good” don’t optimize the learning experience. Instead, you want to give detailed examples of what you did well (positively reinforcing these) and what you could work on for improvement opportunities. Remember, celebrated your strengths!
Self-reflection is very important for consistent growth as a bowler. The start is what stops most bowlers developing this habit. Here is your homework: after the next bowling competition do a self-reflection on your car ride home. It’s a powerful tool!
The less you have to think about the morning of your bowling competition, the better. By getting everything ready the evening before, you’ll eliminate the possibility of stress and any decision making in the morning.
Check your equipment - make sure you have an arsenal that will create different shapes and will provide transition solutions. Make sure your tape in your thumb hole is clean and fresh. Check your interchangeable thumb sleeves for wear and tear and make sure they are glued securely into the sleeve. Check your finger grips for wear and tear and secured with glue. Check your accessory bag for tape, shoe slides/heels, abralon pads, etc. Do a pre check before you get to the event.
Decide on your clothes and have them ready - get your bowling attire ready for the event.
Make sure you have nutritional snacks and anything else you will need is ready to go. Don't load up on sugar or processed food. Fuel your body with quality food and drinks.
That feeling of being prepared will make it easier to start the day off well and provide a winning mindset for your competitive bowling event.
Gratitude is a practice that is proven to put us in a better mood. By thinking about the things that we are fortunate to have, thankful for and appreciative of in our lives, triggers the brain to release feel good chemicals which improve our mood.
Put the game of bowling in perspective. Does satisfaction only have to come from shooting a good score? Or can you find other ways to appreciate and enjoy it? If you can, you’ll be in a better mood, which will create more freedom and make the bowling setbacks easier to deal with.
Spend a little time thinking about what is great about your life and the upcoming bowling competition and choose to focus on that. Even better, write it down in your Journal.
One trap I see many bowlers falling into is judging themselves as a person, or thinking that others will see them differently (as a person) if they bowl a good or bad score. That somehow they are a better person and will be more respected by bowling good scores, and the opposite if they don’t. That puts an awful lot of pressure on each bowling event!
It’s important to remind yourself that bowling will never define who you are, and people won’t judge you as a person by the score you shoot. You need to make sure you separate you the bowler from you the person, if you are to be successful.
By working on this you will free yourself up to play some of the best bowling of your career. By doing a better job of not letting your results affect the way you think about yourself will provide incredible joy and freedom.
There’s a goal that I speak of often. It’s called a “process goal.” Success comes from patiently and persistently doing the right things over and over. Process goals are the “to-do lists” of players striving for excellence. The process is what gives you a chance to find out how good you can be. Here, for instance, is a set of process goals for a competitive bowling event.
If you follow them, you’ll give yourself your best chance to find out how well you can bowl in that bowling event:
• I will trust myself and my over physical game on every shot. I don’t have absolute control of where the ball goes. I do have absolute control of whether I trust myself.
• I will execute my pre shot routine on every shot.
• I will stay in the present. I won’t speculate in the middle of the event about what my score will be, or where I’ll stand in the tournament. I’ll stop worrying about breaking 190, 200 or 220. I will not critique or analyze the shots I’ve taken. I will focus on each shot as it comes, and that will be the only shot I’ll care about. When it’s over, I’ll see how I did and reflect.
• I will refuse to allow anything that happens in the bowling center today to bother me or upset me. I will accept bad breaks and mistakes and be tough in adversity. I am going to be in a good mood and a great state of mind for the entire bowling event today. I’ll enjoy bowling.
• I will trust my instincts and be decisive and committed.
• I will get looser freer and more confident as the league/tournament goes on, resisting the urge to get tighter, more careful and doubtful.
• I will love my opportunities at shooting spares today.
• I will let it go to my target on every shot.
• I will maintain a constant, ideal level of intensity on every shot.