Playing Badly Well
The great Jack Nicklaus said "playing badly well" is what he could do throughout his career that made him the golfer who won more majors than any other golfer. Being able to play well when things are going well is what Jack could do much better than all other professionals. It might look and/or feel ugly but it's very effective.
Some suggestions for bowlers:
1. Expect to have some rough days throughout your career. You will throw bad shots - expect it. Develop the mindset of: "yep, there's a bad shot" and move on. I like to use the phrase: "so what, next shot."
2. Avoid falling into a cycle of "what's wrong with this" mentality. Again, remember #1 above; you will have rough days so expect it. The important part is to know what leads you into having an awful day both mentally and phsycially on the lanes instead of not having a "good-bad day" like Jack Nicklaus.
Bowlers who learn how to have "good-bad days" in our sport are the players who are more consistent and reach peak performance throughout their careers. Your challenge is to develop the competitive mindset of learning how to play well when having a bad day.
Win the Day,
Eight Qualities of a Mentally Tough Bowler
CALM UNDER PRESSURE – staying cool in the heat of competition. The player might get a bit nervous or excited before the action, but he is fully in control and does not allow this excitement to become a distraction when the performance begins. He is executing his entire pre-shot routine with the pillar being his breathing.
UNFAZED by the competition or the lane conditions. When a more experienced, younger, or more talented competitor enters the tournament he does not falter or hesitate but instead has a “bring it on!” attitude and is even more motivated to be at his best. This player brings his A game and is confident (green light) in his abilities.
ELITE CONCENTRATION, able to focus on what’s important and block out everything else. This player does not allow thoughts about the past or future, negative comments from opponents or fears of failure to get in the way of his concentration. This bowler is able to stay fully present in the NOW and has the WIN (What’s Important Now) mindset.
TUNNEL VISION. Once the bowler starts competing he is laser focused only on the CONTROLLABLES. This would include his breathing, his traffic lights, his physical flushes/releases, physical awareness of his routines and connection to his ball to the lane.
WINNING ATTITUDE. This player always shows up to practice and tournaments on time fully ready to do his/her best. He is supportive of his teammates and brings the MUDITA mindset. This bowler maintains his energy throughout the entire event even when the tournament may seem out of reach. This bowler’s mindset is thriving on knowing a win is at hand not a hoping that could happen. He listens to his coach and puts in extra practice hours to reach excellence in his physical technique and mindset. He maintains positive, continues to be a One Shot Warrior and trains like a champion no matter what.
DOES THE WORK and has a GROWTH MINDSET. This player is a lifelong learner and has tremendous passion in learning. He is always looking to learn from his coaches, other successful bowlers and studies what makes the best in our sport great champions. Outside the bowling center he is reading literature that grows the mind and body, watches and studies videos and exercises his mind and body to become smarter and more fit.
CONFIDENT and BELIEVES IN HIMSELF no matter what. This bowler does not listen to naysayers who try to put down the player’s abilities and dreams. This player maximizes his 86,400 and knows he can do this and has no intention of ever giving up. Again, do not HOPE to succeed, KNOW and EXPECT to succeed.
DO NOT SHAKE HIS BELIEF in his abilities and dreams. This bowler is resilient and can rebound quickly from poor performances, losses or bad breaks. He knows the outcome is an uncontrollable and is a part of competition and realizes this is an opportunity to learn and grow. This bowler lets these things simply roll off his back and is quickly able to refocus (go from a Red light to a Green light) on continuing to train, improve his skills and get 1% better each day. The most important shot is the next shot! I am a One Shot Warrior!
Win the Day,
If asked honestly, how many players would truly describe how they felt seeing their teammate above them in the depth chart, being pulled in an event for another player and continuing to succeed on the lane/field? Success for the starting player diminishes the chances for the reserve player who is restlessly anticipating his/her opportunity to shine, let alone play. I have witnessed this in all sports. Many players become selfish and it becomes all about them. They are not very good teammates, become toxic for the culture of the team and want the spot light on them all the time.
I have also been around programs that focus their entire identity as a TEAM. A culture built on finding joy in the happiness and success of other teammates rather than yourself. The word for this is MUDITA or “Sympathetic Joy,” means to be favorably inclined towards other and to take pleasure in other people’s happiness and success. Moving beyond feelings of jealousy or envy, MUDITA cultivates incredible team energy and joy so the entire team prospers in genuine team unity. Cultures in programs that build this type of mindset in its’ players, become very successful teams. The next time you are at a sporting event and a player gets pulled in the middle of competition observe how the player and other teammates react. If the joy and excitement for the new player entering the game is genuine and has great energy, you are witnessing a program that is built on MUDITA.
Great teams can only become great when they play together, when everyone has a role and plays that role to the best of their ability for the good of the team. There is no room for big egos and selfish behavior on a championship team. They find incredible joy in watching their teammates succeed. These teams/players actually find more joy in watching others succeed more than themselves. When it develops in a program, it is a beautiful thing to witness.
Watch this clip of an Alabama freshman softball player getting to pinch hit for her All-America teammate in a crucial moment of the National Championship game. Coach Pat Murphy has a culture at the University of Alabama built on MUDITA. Maybe that’s why he is considered the best coach in college softball today. Bowling coaches: are you building your culture on the concept of MUDITA?
Win the Day,
Swing Tempo & Effort
If the best players in the world all have different hand positions, swing planes and various other technical sticking points, then it should be a pretty good indication that there’s more than one way to get it done. The thing that links all of these players together is one of the most important fundamentals of the swing - swing tempo. Swing tempo is the overall duration, or pace, of the swing. It is one of the first components that becomes visual immediately when watching a player. When I witness a fast tempo or a slow tempo, it is time to start connecting the dots.
The best players in our sport all have the best tempo swings. I like to call it “peak performance tempo.” I have studied and worked with swing tempos of professionals and amateurs. The player with the best rhythm and tempo is the one who lets the ball swing the arm and the feet follow the swing. As I tell my players: “the feet chase the swing.” These are the players who have versatility in ball speed, hand positions that create different ball motions and are extremely accurate.
While watching the Tournament of Champions yesterday, I paid close attention to the first match between Matt O’Grady and BJ Moore, both young and outstanding players. I have seen and bowled against Matt before and have always thought the sky is the limit with him. I really don’t know much about BJ except he is highly regarded as one of the better young players in our sport today. The lanes mandated soft touch at the bottom of the swing on the Don Johnson pattern. The noticeable difference between Matt and BJ was their swing tempos. Matt’s swing tempo was fluid, his footwork was managed by his swing and the result was proper ball motion, touch and accuracy. BJ had a much quicker swing tempo. It was visually evident that his feet dictated his entire swing; quick feet at the start and his swing had effort from start to the release. The result being a tempo that was a bit too quick resulting in ball speed that didn’t read the pattern consistently. When BJ cleans up his swing tempo, he’ll perform in the top tier consistently and win a lot. I look forward to his evolution as a player. Keep your eyes on Matt O’Grady - a swing tempo that is dictated by the ball and minimal effort, versatility and a mindset that is a “one shot warrior.” Knowing Matt’s work ethic, his character and abilities, the Hall of Fame is a likely outcome.
Tempo is at the root of being able to repeat a successful swing and play at the highest level in our sport. Improve your swing tempo by letting the ball swing the arm and your feet will follow the swing speed. It’s well worth your time in practice to develop a “peak performance swing tempo”.
Win the Day
I have been involved with many different sports my entire life. I had the fortunate opportunity and health to play football, basketball, baseball and bowl throughout my life. I have also coached most of these sports, been a spectator in the stands and a parent watching my child participate in multiple sports. I always “chuckle” when I observe “Coach Obvious” in the stands. “Coach Obvious” is the person who is yelling and coaching from the stands on the absolute obvious. Baseball example: Hitter comes up to bat and strikes out. “Coach Obvious” yells out: “hit the ball.” Basketball example: player gets fouled and goes to the free throw line and misses both shots. “Coach Obvious” yells out: “make your free throws.” Bowling example: bowler leaves a 10 pin and attempts the conversion and misses the 10 pin. “Coach Obvious” says: “you have to make your 10 pins”. You can fill in the example for many different sports and scenarios. I like to refer to these people as “Coach Obvious.”
In the world of medicine we have two different mindsets when it comes to a Doctor. We have both Conventional Doctors and Functional Doctors. Unfortunately our health system in the United States has the Conventional system. This is the Doctor who treats the symptom with a prescription and doesn’t find the cause. Example: patient who is overweight and is not very active finds out he has high blood. His Doctor prescribes a pill that treats the high blood pressure. Patient leaves and continues living the same lifestyle. This is our model of health care that we have today in our country. Treat the effect and forget about the cause.
A Functional Doctor looks at the effect and then figures out what is causing the symptom. He then creates a solution for the symptom which “cures” the effect. The same patient above comes into the Functional Doctor and after some tests finds out he has high blood pressure. The Doctor runs other tests, investigates his life style and starts educating him on eating properly, becoming more active and eventually solves his medical issue. No prescription and the blood pressure normalizes. That’s effect - cause - cure.
In bowling we have a similar situation. We have two different types of coaches: A conventional coach (Coach Obvious) and a functional coach. The conventional coach is trying to fix the effect of the bowler whether it be a balance program, missing a target, release issue, etc. The conventional coach is trying to address the effect with a prescription and not solving the cause of why the problem is happening. “You’re hand is closed at the bottom of the swing. Keep your hand open to develop stronger ball motion.” Is this the cause? Probably not. This coach is only addressing the symptom of the release, not what is causing the closed hand at the bottom. I like to refer to this type of coach as “Coach Obvious.” We have all seen these types of coaches in our sport.
Functional bowling coaches search for the cause and then find remedies outside a magical “pill” to solve the issue. These are the elite coaches who develop players and keep players growing. The Functional coach looks at the bowler above with the closed hand at the bottom of the swing and notices that his pushaway direction is right at the swing start. This type of pushaway creates lateral movement in the swing (tucks behind his back) and is forced to realign on the downswing which results in the bowlers hand closing too early. The cause is the pushaway. Once the pushaway is cleaned up and straight, the hand begins to align at the center of the ball and the release is optimized. Effect - Cause - Cure….
What type of coach are you? Functional coaching develops, grows and turns bowlers into peak performance players.
FYI - there are actually videos about the Coach Obvious mindset. They are hilarious! Take a look: Coach Obvious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEWpjHn7xk8
Transactional vs Transformational Coaching
Coaches have a tremendous platform. Second only to parents, coaches can impact young people as no one else can. The great Billy Graham said that coaching youth sports will reach more youth than any other cultural activity in a lifetime. Wow! Coaches can really affect the future of a child and the culture of our world. Most coaches fall into one of two categories – a transactional coach or a transformational coach.
Transactional coaching focus solely on winning and meeting their personal needs. These type of coaches are mainly concerned with skills, techniques of the player as they pertain to winning the game. These are the coaches who may coach to just live the glory days of when they played. Some of these coaches disregard the organization rules and/or safety and health of the athletes. They tend to show disrespect to the players, parents, other teams, other coaches and officials. A transactional coach identifies the team’s wins or loses with his/her self-worth. These coaches will punish a player for a mistake and the team for not winning. The transactional coach leaves behind a program where the youth athlete hates the sport, loses his/her confidence in the sport and worse yet loses his/her self-esteem.
Transformational coaches are more concerned about developing young athletes into responsible adults who take with them skills that change communities, families, schools and the world. They leave a lasting legacy. These coaches change lives, and they also change society by helping to develop healthy men and women. Transformational coaches teach and convey empathy and compassion. Transformational coaches have done the work on answering critical questions such as: Why do I coach? Why do I coach the way I do? What does it feel like to be coached by me? How do I measure and define success? They transform the many young athletes who need connection, empathy, and guidance.
Twenty to 30 million kids play recreational sports, while another 10 million teens play interscholastic sports. This means that between 30 and 80 million parents are invested and involved in their children’s sports. There are at least 5 million coaches with the potential to become one of the most influential adults in a young person’s life. Forever.
I challenge every bowling coach and any coach for that matter to use this awesome influence to become agents of transformation in athletes’ lives. We can provide the tools to help them with the challenges of growing up in our culture. Many athletes today feel diminished and discouraged by the sports they play that should strengthen, encourage and redeem them. That’s change the trend of being transactional and become the leader in transforming the future of today’s generation by coaching.
Are you ready to transform the life and future of a young athlete? One of the more powerful books I have ever read which has really impacted the way I coach is Insideout Coaching by Joe Ehrmann. I highly recommend reading this book if you coach. Powerful and life changing! I plan on writing a much more detailed blog on transformational coaching in the future. Look for it on 11thframe.com.
Win the Day,
Effort – Focus on What You Control
Focus on what you can control is advice I give my athletes on a consistent basis. But what does this really mean? The three pillars that I focus on are Preparation, Effort, and Attitude. In today’s daily dominator I want to focus on EFFORT.
Effort is one thing an athlete/bowler is in complete control of. You either do the work or you don’t. You work at it or you don’t. You put the time in or you don’t. You eat right or you don’t. You get enough quality sleep or you don’t. You grow your physical game or you don’t. You develop your mental game or you don’t. You are coachable or you are not. You study all areas of the game or you don’t. The opportunity is experienced every day in training on the lanes, in competitions and outside the bowling center.
Bowlers that train well, practice well and prepare well demonstrate an effort level that often makes a big difference in the way you feel when the sun sets on competition day. My son works very hard at basketball and has turned into a very good player for an 8th grader. As his Father I remind him that I will never judge whether he wins or loses, how many points or missed shots for the game, rebounds, assists, etc. These are completely uncontrollable and we don’t waste energy on these things. However, he does know that I am watching his effort/energy on every possession and game. When his effort is not at his best we will discuss what I saw and what he felt during the process of the game. Effort is completely controllable and he needs maximize his effort to reach his goals. He also has a responsibility to his team and coach. Sometimes my son, regardless of his ability and outcome of the event, needs to be reminded that his effort must be improved regardless of his ability. Talent doesn’t determine effort. Anyone can give effort.
The one thing I noticed during my time on the PBA Tour was the effort the Hall of Famers had during the tournaments. Great players like Mike Aulby, Dave Husted, David Ozio, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Brian Voss, Norm Duke, Parker Bohn III, etc. never deviated from their effort based on their performance. There were tournaments when some of these champions were not bowling well and could not make the cut. Their effort was exactly the same as the weeks they were winning the event. As a young player on Tour I was amazed at how they never gave up and kept trying to get better as a player. That brings me back to the two outcomes in bowling: Win and Learn. That is exactly what these Hall of Fame players were doing: Winning the tournament or Learning during the tournament. Both are driven by their effort.
Effort is a controllable that can impact your performance and career. Everyday effort must be a top priority regardless of the result. Bring incredible energy into every practice and/or competition. Energy compliments effort. Consistent effort provides opportunity for growth and peak performance. Compete – compete – compete! Now go Win the Day!
The Breath – Another Peak Performance Tool
You are a competitive (let’s say high school, college or PBA/PWBA) bowler and you live and die for game winning situations. An opportunity to make one shot to win the event. Many may tense up and miss, it’s natural. However, if you start to build the muscle of the mind, unconsciously your breath kicks in and allows you to flow through the moment. Endless possibilities are right in front of you. STRIKE!!! I can hear the ball entering the pocket perfectly now.
What do you think is the best way to gain emotional control and perform? Breathing. The key to emotional control is breath control. Breath control is the ultimate weapon. It is the simplest, safest, cheapest, most accessible tool there is for mastering emotional control and for responding to problems, for staying in control, for becoming a peak performer. Breath control is the force that leads to the emotional control that leads to the winning feat that we discussed above – to successfully make that one shot to win. Have you ever made a bad shot because of not breathing properly?
Chicago Cubs mental performance coach Ken Ravizza said: “I think the breathing is the most important element in the process, in my career, I've been involved in eight Olympic Games, five summer Olympics and three winter Olympics. And I would say the last four Olympic Games, talking with the athletes that I worked with, asking them afterwards, "What helped you the most?" The overwhelming reaction from the athlete’s response was, breathing."
Let's look at the breath. What does the breath do? Number one, the breath brings oxygen to the brain so that you can think clearly. Number two, the breath when you need energy, focus on the inhalation. When you need to calm down, focus on the exhalation. So there's two phases of the breathing, the inhalation when you need energy, the exhalation when you need to calm down. The breath brings you to the present moment. Inhale, exhale, it gets you back to the present. The breath allows you to shift from thinking to doing, to make that shift from the thinking mind to the athletic mind, the doing mind. And the final thing with the breath is the breath is the start of good rhythm. Good rhythm begins with good breath. Consistent players have great rhythm.
How do you breathe in competition? I use a number system for the breath. I teach my newer/younger bowlers the 4-2-6 method. More experienced players I like the 6-2-8 method. Let’s discuss the 6-2-8 method. The first number: 6 would be in the inhale. Inhale from your abdomen (you should feel your belly button expanding out - your belly should blow up like a balloon) for a count of 6 through your nose. The second number: 2 is the hold count for the breath. Hold for 2 seconds. The third number: 8 is the exhale breath. Either through your mouth or nose and exhale for a count of 8. After the exhale, you should feel yourself in control, relaxed and present. The number system of the technique should be comfortable to you. Some players use a 4-1-6, 5-1-8, etc. The golden rule to remember: Always exhale more slowly than you inhale. You should feel your tension drop down a level or three in calmness. If not, repeat the process of breathing.
Your ticket to Peak Performance is super simple. Train yourself to breathe deeply and then remember to breathe every time you're feeling tense and smile doing it. Practice your number system and apply it to your competitions. Never cheat the breath and always take as many as you need in the moment. Start breathing with a smile and Win the Day!
Journaling - Another Peak Performance Tool
One of the best and most productive things a bowler can do to enhance his/her performance and overall career is to journal. Journaling is basically a planning tool for future events. Journals work to enhance motivation, confidence and concentration and give you the data you need to improve your performance. If there is one thing I wish I could do over in my PBA career it would have been to journal. It would have provided me with something to reflect back on when I was at my best and gave me a direction on how to get back to performing at the highest level.
Here are some advantages of journaling your practices and competitive events:
- The successes and challenges of the event - in bowling, there is a tendency to focus on the negative. It’s all about, “What went wrong and how can we fix it.” If the focus is always on the negative, it will have a progressively detrimental impact on confidence and mindset. So, when keeping a journal, be sure to make note of what went wrong, along with thoughts about how to achieve positive outcomes in the future, and also make note of what went well and take a moment to enjoy some sense of accomplishment with that. You want to reflect back on when you were at your best.
- Mental Reflection - In reality, one of the keys to being mentally tough is being able to examine your feelings and emotions and make sense of them. Write down the areas of practice and/or your competition during “Green” moments, “Yellow” moments and “Red” moments. Reflect on all the emotions, feelings, self-talk, breathing, releases, etc. during the event and write in as much detail as possible. Journaling will help you track when you are at your best (Green), when you are starting to speed things up (Yellow) and when you are losing all confidence and routine (Red). This will give you a blueprint on why these three areas were present.
- Your Routine - A great way to prepare for a competition is to develop a pre-event routine. From what you eat and how long you sleep to the type of music you listen to and whether you use visualization or other preparatory tools, a pre-game routine can help you get centered and focused on what you need to do to be successful. Like anything in life, your pre-game routine may go through various levels of change. If you’re superstitious, your routine may change from tournament to tournament. If you’re on a winning streak, what was your routine like during that stretch? I know some bowlers who eat the same meal before every tournament. This is part of their routine to get them mentally ready. One way to help track these changes is to make notes of them in your journal.
Once you become comfortable and proficient at journaling your practices and competitions, you now have another tool that provides direction on performing at your highest level. I recommend reading your journals consistently. Read when you were at your best and study what the journal is telling you about your physical and mental game. What did your physical feel like? What were you working on in practice prior to your tournament? What was your routine? What was your self-talk? Breathing? Release? What was your confidence like? What did your practices look and feel like? What were you focusing on? The more specific and detailed that your journals are, the more feedback and direction you will have in your future performances. Start journaling today!
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...
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!