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The Winning Ingredients

By Dr. Dean Hinitz – The Mind Game - Bowling This Month Magazine (used by permission)

Some of you are practicing.  This, of course, is an essential part of the improvement package.  The eternal question for the athlete seeking greatness is whether or not you have a practice plan that will elevate you to be a winner.


Everything, of course, starts with passion.  When the heart of human spirit starts to beat with excitement about any endeavor, you have the possibility of joy, energy, connection, and forward movement.   If you want to be great, if you wish to win, if you are willing to pay the price, then we will give a set of mental game and training guidelines for success attainment.


Some of what follows seems so simple that you would think that it scarcely needs to be reviewed, re-mentioned, and re-written into your brain and ball bag.  There are principles that champions follow consciously and unconsciously that always work.  Sometimes they get you the gold.  Sometimes it is not your day.  Yet, you will never play worse, and will consistently feel better about your game if you observe the following.

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1.  In any competition, at any level, you have to be committed to bowl great.


Do not play the game to avoid bowling badly.  All too often, bowlers work on the exquisite nuances of their timing, releases, and other aspects of the obviously important physical game.


The way you can get fooled in competition is to think that if you are simply technically safe, i.e. careful to protect your hard earned physical competence, that you are playing championship ball.  Playing to avoid playing badly is one of the chief sources of tightening arm muscles and swings, aiming and pointing at spares, and tentative delayed moves on the lanes.  From this point of view, play to play greatly, or pack your stuff and come back another day.

2.  Whether it is practice or competition, you have to love the challenge that the day presents to you.


It is common for bowlers to complain about all kinds of problems.  We hear things about the lane conditions, approach surfaces, equipment problems, and physical game aspects being out of tune.


Bowlers almost universally treat challenges as if they are problems that are not supposed to be there.  This is absurd of course.  Something will always appear - that will seem like an impediment (obstacle) to flawless execution.


The difference in this approach is that anything that appears as a challenge becomes one of the factors that make the game interesting for you.  You have to really appreciate the fun and opportunity of encountering, facing, and ultimately overcoming, challenges.   The alternative is live in constant bowling misery as you find the million and one things that can get in the way of your next 900 series.

3.  Stop sweating your results, and get completely involved in the process of playing magnificently.


This gets referenced frequently in virtually every coach’s mental game repertoire.  Despite this commonly held principle, it is remarkable how much and how often bowlers sweat their results right out of the starting gate.

4.  You have to know up front that virtually nothing that happens during the course of play can make you lose your cool.


You have to maintain a centered sense of yourself, no matter how the pins fall, no matter what kind of behavior other bowlers exhibit, or good or bad breaks that occur for anyone.


If people, pins, and performance have to turn out a certain way in order for you to be okay, then you have made yourself a hostage of the universe.  Nothing in a performance arena should own you.  You must be very clear long before the competition that this is true for you.  If you do not handle this early in the game, life will knock you over with a stick.  Fast.