The Zone

The Zone


The Zone - a word that is used by many athletes who also wish it applied to them more often.  The Zone basically implies that you are performing at your peak in a competitive event.  One sports psychologist defines it as a mental state in which your thoughts and actions are occurring in complete synchronicity.  The bowlers I have talked to about experiencing The Zone discuss about how things are so effortless and everything seems as if it is in slow motion.  They are in complete control of all phases of the game.  These players are super focused, make proper decisions, are completely detached from the outside world and soar in their performance.  What is the cause of some bowlers experiencing The Zone more often than other players?  Let's look at two different goal seekers...


Two Scorecards


Players who struggle getting into The Zone put much of their energy and focus into the Results Scorecard.  These are the players who are focused only on the results and outcomes.   I ask my students to write out their goals for the coming season.  Many of these students goals are focused on tournament outcomes (wins, scores, results, championships, etc).  Have strictly result oriented goals are toxic to peak performance.  These are uncontrollable and lead to frustration, anxiety, burnout and inconsistent performance.  We will call this Results Scoreboard.


Elite players focus on process-oriented goals.  These goals are controllable and provide the steps that bring us closer to our desired outcomes.  This is a learned technique for most of my players.  Transitioning them from result oriented to process-driven goals.  The Zone seems to occur more frequently and consistently with players who have a process in their performance.  Confidence is elevated when working the process.  There is no pressure in trying to achieve an outcome that is basically uncontrollable.  You must have confidence and much of it is developed by focusing on the process.  There is no way of getting into The Zone without it.  We will call this the Process Scorecard.


Becoming process oriented in your goals builds confidence and provides bowlers to perform in The Zone! Now go Dominate the Day!

Building a Culture

A.P.E.S. - Building a Culture


Culture defines what a program is and where it is going in the future.  I get the fortunate opportunity to create a culture in my classroom every year as a high school teacher and also get to create the culture for the baseball program I coach at the high school level.  I believe a program is only as successful as the culture that is developed within the program.   The culture of the program is the foundation of what you will be about and what will drive the day-to-day commitment to excellence.  Let's discuss the A.P.E.S culture... 


A - Attitude:  The Attitude is in your control.  It is not up to the coach, teacher, parent, etc.  You control your attitude and only yours.  Regardless of the circumstances, having a great, positive attitude is something I want my students and players to have each day they show up in class, field and/or in the bowling center.  Legendary Coach Lou Holtz said, "Virtually nothing in this world is impossible if you just put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude."


P - Process:  "Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it." Greg Anderson.  It is so important to get students and players to believe in the process so we get the desired outcome.  By focusing on the things you can control rather than on outcomes, you allow yourself to become more successful, almost instantly.  The process involves doing the little things that get you and your team better a lot at a peak performance level.    


E - Effort/Energy:  Let's maximize our 86,400 today!  That's the mindset I tell my students/players every day as they enter the classroom, bowling center, etc.  This is the number of seconds we are all given each day.  Effort and energy is in our control.  We are given a fixed amount of time as a player whether it be practice or competition.  Our mindset must be to bring our greatest energy and put forth our greatest effort.  I love athletes who show up and compete every day with the goal to dominate the day!


S - Service:  Let's call it Servant Leadership.  This is all about finding ways to help and serve others.  Always serve others in pursuit of excellence.  We were put on this earth to help and serve others.  A true champion is selfless. He/she naturally puts himself last. This individual manifests an “unconditional willingness to put the team or group before any of his/her individual or self-needs.” In sum, the true champion serves others.

The premier programs in all of sports have strong cultures with intrinsic character foundations.  Cultures provide an environment that promotes healthy programs and an opportunity to perform at its highest level.

Good vs Great

Good vs Great


I have been asked a lot in my career on what makes the difference between Good and Great.  It is a simple response:  CONSISTENCY.  Consistency is the significant difference between the good and the great players in bowling.  Those that compete at the highest level on a consistent basis are the legendary and iconic figures in our sport like Earl Anthony, Dick Weber, Don Carter, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Pete Weber, Norm Duke, Chris Barnes, etc.  Day in and day out these players produce with the same level of effectiveness and proficiency on and off the lanes. 


Consistency is crucial to performing at the highest level.  This begins with your work ethic, as you have the burning desire to compete and win each shot so that you will do the things necessary to put yourself in a position to succeed.   I tell my students to strive for consistency, not to worry about the results.  If you focus on outcomes you get locked into short term mindsets; if you focus on consistency, the outcomes will take care of themselves.  A consistent focus on the process and executing with a one shot at a time mentality will give you the best chance to succeed.


Many bowlers have the physical prowess necessary to compete and perform at the highest level once in a while, but it is the one-shot warrior who stands out among everyone else.  This is the player who brings his/her best every time he/she steps up on the approach to make a shot.  This is the player who will have the greatest impact on his/her team, tournament and will ultimately have the greatest career.


So what is the key ingredient for being consistent?  Routines are the vital component for consistency.  The great players in our sport are the players who have developed hall of fame routines.  The routines never change day to day.  They have the same routine in wellness (eating, working out, sleep, meditation, etc.), practice, competition, tournament preparation, etc.  The purpose of these routines is to build more trust and consistency in performance.  The secrets of these hall of fame careers are hidden in their daily routines.


Do you have daily routines built into your game?  Routines = Consistency = Greatness.

Clark Kent to Superman

 Clark Kent to Superman


When do you transition from a student, employee, parent, etc. and become a bowler/athlete?  Just like Clark Kent went into the phone booth as a newspaper reporter and came out as Superman, you want a routine like Clark Kent that turns you from your daily occupation into the player/athlete that will get you ready to compete.


One of the most important mind set principles that I teach to my players is the change from your street clothes into your practice or tournament uniform.  There must be a time prior to practice and/or your competition that you transition into a bowler.  This Clark Kent-Superman routine that you develop and go through allows your mindset to shift from student/employee/parent to athlete so that you can be more present and separate the pressure of being a student/employee/parent to the pleasure of being a bowler.  It also shifts your mindset into a Green Light that says “GO” – it’s time to compete!


Find a time and place that is consistent (routine) that allows you to transition into a bowler.  Some of my players make the transition at home, hotel or bowling center.  Make sure the place is consistent and it is unique to you.  Also make sure you determine a part of your uniform that finalizes the Kent Clark to Superman transition.  Some players make the transition as soon as the bowling shirt is put on; some make the change when they put on the bowling shoes and lace them up.  I personally use the bowling center for practice or the tournament.  As soon as I lace up my shoes, my transition from Clark Kent to Superman has been executed.  It's time to compete.  This transition allows a player to leave the stress of work and school, the issues with your relationships and the drama of life in the home, hotel, etc.   As you transition from Clark Kent into a Superman bowler, it gives you permission to be present and free to compete and bowl.





Becoming a Peak Performer

Becoming a Peak Performer


Why are some athletes so incredibly good at the sport they do?  Many people consider this “The Gift.”  I believe this is a part of it but only the starting point, a very important part, but the starting point only.  Obviously a very short person in basketball isn’t likely to become a professional basketball person.  LeBron James was born with “The Gift” but again that is only the starting point. What he did with it after receiving “The Gift” is what turned him into arguably the GOAT.  Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Norm Duke, etc. were born with “The Gift” and took full advantage of “The Gift”.


Elite athletes/bowlers have a purpose every time they practice.  Simply doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get better doesn’t work.  You must have a PURPOSE and a WHY.  I use to golf a lot during my days on Tour.  I did the same thing over and over and never improved my skill as a golfer.  The reason - I never had a purposeful practice.   You need to be purposeful and deliberate about your practice.  I would refer to this as “The Peak Performer Standard.”


How do you intend to improve in each practice session? What will you do?  You need to identify goals, both long and short term.  You must have a target.


Purposeful practice sessions need to be focused with intensity.  Going through the motions and just having fun and staying relaxed will not get you better.  Are you better today than you were yesterday?


Purposeful practice sessions must provide feedback on what you are doing wrong.  Did you not repeat a ball speed when wanting to repeat a slower ball speed in today’s practice? Immediate feedback (SPECTO, CATS, Bowler’s Map, etc.) helps you identify what you’re doing wrong and how to improve is essential.


I like to tell my players to be COMFORTABLE with being UNCOMFORTABLE.  You must get out of your comfort zone to improve.  Learning how to play different parts of the lane can be very uncomfortable at first.  Learning how to change axis rotation angles or ball speeds for different ball motion tools can be very uncomfortable.  Get out of your comfort zone but do it intensely with specific goals, a process of reaching those goals and develop a method of evaluating your progress.  Also, stay motivated during your practice.  Win the Practice!


How much purposeful practice is needed to become an elite player?  Study after study shows that nobody develops extraordinary abilities without putting in tremendous amounts of practice.  The top players in our sport devote tremendous amounts of time in developing their abilities.  Some studies apply the 10,000 rule as the number of hours of practice it takes to become a peak performer in a skill.  To truly become the best in your sport, you need to put in decades of purposeful practice.  As I tell my students, maximize your 86,400!


It takes a tremendous amount of time to become Elite in the sport of bowling.  Be purposeful in your practice with specific goals, get out of your comfort zone and measure your opportunities for growth.  


Process Over Outcome

Process Over Outcome


Many players are so focused on the outcomes such as winning that they forget about the primary objective which is the PROCESS.  Scoring, earnings, results, winning, etc. are a function of great execution.  Thinking about the outcomes can pull your focus off of proper execution in competition.  Thinking about PROCESS is the answer.


I have witnessed players so focused in on the PROCESS of executing a shot, that they had no idea what frame it was and even after winning the match not realizing they won because they were “locked in” on the PROCESS.  This is proof that a bowler can cause his mind to think about PROCESS instead of outcome even with the possibility of winning pulling at him.


Imagine for a moment that you are entering the 10th frame and need the first strike to win the tournament for $100,000.  You are so focused in on simply executing the next shot that you don’t even know you will win if you strike.  That’s being present and “locked in” on the PROCESS.  So many players set goals that are only focused on outcomes.  Outcomes are uncontrollables.  I tell all my students/players not to waste one second of energy on uncontrollables.  The PROCESS is controllable.  Get “locked in” on executing the steps to succeed, which is the PROCESS.


I think Alabama’s Coach Saban and Connecticut’s Coach Geno Auriemma  teach the PROCESS in sports outside of bowling as good as anyone ever has.  Both of these legendary coaches are so “locked in” on the PROCESS that they at times don’t even know what the score of the game is.  In our sport, the University of Nebraska’s Coach Bill Straub is very similar as he is all about the PROCESS with his Lady Cornhuskers.  Whether you watch a practice of the Nebraska program or follow them in competition, Coach Straub never changes his coaching principle:  execute the PROCESS and the results take care of themselves.  Maybe this is why his teams year after year are bowling for the National Championship. 


When you’re committed to the process, you always win because you’re improving daily. You’re constantly moving towards what you want because of the tiny actions you’re taking.  Whether you are a player and/or coach start executing the PROCESS.  Your outcomes will take care of themselves.  Remember, it’s the journey that’s important.


Sleep - The Secret to Success?


Sleep - the “secret” ingredient for Peak Performance


I can sleep when I am dead is what I hear a lot from a young person who isn’t getting enough sleep.  Is sleep the most important factor in performing at an elite level consistently?  Coaches at many top universities are digging into the science of sleep, and what it reveals about sleep’s power to boost athletic performance.  Many top level programs in college are taking steps and mandates to ensure their players are getting sleep both in terms of quantity and quality.  Some programs are actually hiring sleep coaches to help players establish and maintain healthy sleep routines throughout the season. 


I have read two outstanding books in the past year on sleep.  Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson discusses the importance of sleep and its’ benefits.  He also discusses strategies on how to increase the quality and quantity of your sleep and lists benefits of the investment of sleep.  Shawn discusses technology devices as one of the hazards to health and to sleep deprivation for athletes and non-athletes.  I have actually started wearing blue light blocking glasses prior to bedtime and while working on a computer and/or my iPhone and have noticed a huge difference in my deep sleep cycle.  Athletes using technology today are developing more daytime fatigue and are having less elite performance on and off the field.  (All because of technology:  television, computer usage, cell phones, tablets, etc.)


Another book I suggest is Power Sleep by Dr. James B. Maas, who is the grandfather of sleep.  This book will give you the lowdown on how to optimize your sleep for peak performance.  It will discuss why sleep is so powerful, signs you’re not getting enough of it, and some best practices on how to optimize your sleep.


Sleep quantity and quality impact a bowler’s consistent performance and at what level.  Take a look at some of the most ways sleep influences athletic performance on the lanes:


Energy:  Bowlers need lots of energy in practice and in competition.  Poor sleep decreases energy for bowlers both physically and mentally.


  1. Reaction Time:  Bowlers need to react to changing environments constantly.  Lane conditions are changing constantly and bowlers must make the right move at the right time.  Moments become bigger throughout a bowler’s career.  Being able to react in a productive manner in these moments are crucial.  Sleep loss affects reaction time in both of these areas of performance.


  1. Visual tracking:  Lack of sleep impairs visual tracking skills.  Tracking ball motion is critical in gaining a competitive edge on your opponents.


  1. Accuracy:  Accuracy in physical and mental tasks are compromised with sleep deprivation.  Be able to repeat consistently in these two areas are game changers.


  1. Decision making:  Making quick, on the lane moves and correct decisions are very challenging and are key in succeeding as a bowler.  These vital keys are negatively affected with lack of quality sleep.


  1. Memory: Bowlers need to use newly acquired learned techniques and strategies and apply them during competition.  Poor sleep undermines these important processes and interferes with the application in shot making.


  1. Recovery:  Mental and physical recovery is vital for bowler’s performance - through daily training on the lanes, over a bowling season and throughout the life of a player.  Sleep deprivation and poor sleep decreases recovery drastically for a bowler.


As I reflect back on my career in bowling, especially my days on tour, I wonder how much better my performance would have been in terms of consistency and tournament outcomes. 

I think my career earnings and number of titles would be much higher if the research was out 25 years ago on the importance of sleep and techniques on how to optimize sleep for peak performance.  Competitive bowlers need to research the field of sleep and apply it to their daily regimens.  Some coaches are starting to put sleep as the #1 Pillar in athletic performance.  Look for a future article on 11th Frame blog for more detail on Sleep for bowler performance.



Peak Performance Mindset


One of the better books I have read in the past couple of years is called Mindset written by Carol S. Dweck, PH.D.  Dr. Dweck is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.  Her research has focused on why people (athletes, coaches, business professionals, etc) succeed.  She believes people take one of two perspectives when it comes to their belief on where ability comes from:  fixed or growth. 


People with a "fixed mindset" believe that abilities are handed out at birth and largely out of control.  I also believe athletes and coaches can get to a point in their career where they feel they have what it takes to be successful and stop growing.  I would also consider this a “fixed mindset”.  I see it all the time in coaches and players in our sport.


On the other hand, people with a “growth mindset” believe they can learn and develop any given ability if they’re willing to invest effort or study.  This would apply to coaches, players, manufacturers, high school and college programs, etc.  With a “growth mindset”, no matter where you are at right now, you can develop the skills, knowledge, etc to succeed.  These individuals are trying to learn, evolve, improve skill sets, strategies, etc.  The question they ask themselves everyday is:  “Am I better today than I was yesterday?”  This could be the mindset, physical technique, coaching, leadership, etc.


People who trend more toward “average” mindset tend to see the world through a fixed lens, viewing ability as the primary influence of success, and as something you either have or you don’t. 


People who trend more toward a “peak performance” mindset see the world through a growth lens, viewing ability as something that, along with mindset, can be developed with practice and coaching.


The goal is to have the attitudes, behaviors and traits associated with a peak performance mindset.


People With Average Mindset

People with Peak Performance Mindset

Make an excuse

Make it happen

Say it’s impossible

Say it’s going to be very difficult

Focus on how they feel

Focus on how they act and what they need to do

Use the phrase “have to”

Use the phrase “get to” or “want to”

See failure as final

See failure as positive feedback

Focus on what they can’t control

Focus on what they can control

Minimize their 86,400

Maximize their 86,400



It’s time for all of us to think of something that allows us to become better today than we were yesterday.  As I like to say: “Win the Day” or a +1 for the day.  +1, +1, +1, +1, +1 = Peak Performance/Success!!!!!

Awareness - Mindset

Awareness - Mindset


Knowing yourself is essential for preparing yourself to compete.  Present moment awareness enables you to adjust shot to shot, and allows you take ownership of your performance.  You can’t control something you aren’t aware of.    A lack of awareness also results in a lack of learning - and a lack of learning shortens your bowling career.


The most challenging aspect of the mental game is learning to recognize when your performance is taking a turn for the worse and then developing a system to make the necessary corrections to return to a place of peak performance.


The recognition that you are having a performance breakdown is the primary and most crucial step in the process of bowling one shot at a time.  Recognizing where you are - mentally, emotionally, and physically is called Awareness.  All bowlers lose control of themselves on occasion, but it is the bowler who can correct him/herself the quickest who tends to perform consistently and in the end has more success.


In the coming week(s) we will simplify the idea of awareness by imaging a traffic signal light inside you.  We will discuss the Green Light (positive, present, confident) and Yellow/Redu.1.traffic light.jpg Light (losing confidence, not in the present moment, negative self-talk, focusing on uncontrollables, etc) system.  We will discuss the Traffic Light system at length and developing a routine and mindset that gives the bowler present awareness and how to stay Green Light. Check the 11th Frame Blog for an extensive coaching article on Awareness in the near future.


Win The Day,





10 Mindset Strategies for Success

Just like any sport, bowling can become complex when you start evolving in the physical side of the game. Whether you are developing physical technique (everything before the foul line) or becoming experienced and skilled in lane play, lane transition adjustments, ball motion tools, etc (everything over the foul line), bowling can become a very complex and challenging game.  Let's start using the motto:  "Do simple better."


These 10 Peak Performance Strategies will help you deal simply with the simplexity of playing the game.  You need to give 100% without trying too hard, focus on the process and bowl to win.   Remember, keep the process greater than your outcome.  Here are the 10 Peak Performance Strategies for Success:



10 Peak Performance Strategies for Success

 1.    Keep Your Controllables Greater Than Your Uncontrollables

One of the most powerful choices a bowler can make to improve his/her performance is to focus his/her energy on things he/she can control.  Things like self talk, breathing, attitude, pre and post shot routines, etc.  Avoid uncontrollables at all times (winning, scores, lane conditions, teammates, competitors, etc.)


2.    Keep Your Learning Greater Thank Your Experience

A growth mindset player sees bowling as more than success or failure experience. He approaches each competition as an opportunity to grow and learn.  There are only two outcomes in bowling:  Win and Learn.


3.    Keep Your Process Greater Than Your Outcomes

The core component or centerpiece to our sport is to “work the process”.  Keeping the process greater than your outcome simplifies the game, slows it down, and puts you in control.  


4.    Keep This Shot Greater Than Any Other

Bowling is played one shot at a time physically but few players at any level play the game that way.  Going all in with your focus on each shot - treating each shot as a separate event in the game reduces the challenge you face. Most of the negative emotions in bowling are caused by energy directed at shots other than the current shot.  Your mindset should be: “I am a one shot warrior.”


5.    Keep Your Mission Greater Than Your Feelings

Keeping your Mission greater than your feelings is a game-changer in our sport because the default setting for us athletes is to perform the way we feel.  You are not going to feel 100% all the time.  If you feel a bit lost, or you feel you only have 70% of your physical game in a tournament, you must give 100% of what you do have toward winning the battle on every shot (give 100% of the 70% you currently have).  Compete with whatever skill set you have on that day.


6.    Keep Competing Greater Than Complying

Compete - compete - compete!  Playing all in to win the shot is our ultimate mission.  Focus on process but do it with passion and commitment bursting from your desire to win.  Don’t think that winning isn’t important just because it’s an uncontrollable.  Win the shot!  Win the game! Win the tournament!  Go out and give 100% of what you’ve got on each shot in an effort to win.  Keep Competing Greater Than Complying.  That’s where the fun is!


7.    Keep Your Connection Greater Than Your Perfection

One of the top cripplers of peak performance in bowling is trying to be perfect.  Your efforts to play perfectly usually cut your chances of playing well.  When you are bowling well, everything seems to just fit together (your mechanics feel smooth, effortless).  Your mindset is present and you’re confident in all your moves.  But when you are struggling you start thinking about 100 things wrong with your mechanics and you’re trying to do all them just right.  Take a moment to stop, take a deep breath and remind yourself:  “Connection, not perfection.”


8.    Keep Your Quality Greater Than Your Quantity

Success doesn’t come from “putting in your time” practicing.  It comes from quality practicing.  What is your Mission for today’s practice?  Ask yourself: “what would I like to get out of today’s practice?”  Develop a practice plan for every practice with a Mission.  You must also compete in practice.  Choose a time in practice to compete against something or someone.  Remember, you are responsible for the quality of your training.


9.    Keep Your Pleasure Greater Than Your Pressure

Why do you bowl?  You love it?  It’s fun?  You will play near your potential when you play with joy, passion and freedom.  You play poorly when you play with tension, doubt, pressure and fear.  Keep your pleasure greater than your pressure.  Remind yourself that you are unique and a valuable person no matter how you perform. Love it!


10.  Keep You Greater Than Your Performance

Some bowlers are driven by an intense fear of failure and they achieve great things as a result.  How much fun is this?  With this mindset you are only one shot, game or tournament away from losing confidence, self-image, positive self talk and growth as a player.  You will have a lot less stress to deal with if you keep YOU greater than your performance. Focus on your controllables and not your outcomes!



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