by Ken Gryschuk
For bowlers, mindtraps tend to fall into two connected categories, your thoughts and emotions. The thoughts that you have, what
you say to yourself, the images that you produce largely make up the mental game of bowling. How you feel makes up the
emotional game. Emotions and thoughts complement each other. Disabling thoughts
bring about disabling emotions while enabling thoughts bring about enabling emotions. It is also true that this system works in reverse with emotions producing thoughts. Some
of the deepest mindtraps are the disabling emotions.
The ever-changing tide of a bowler’s emotions through a competition have been the bane of many a coach's life. The emotional
state of a bowler is critical to performance and many coaches have few tools with which to work in order to change the bowler’s
emotional state. The coach will intervene based on what that coach knows about the situation and the bowler. How much better
will the coach do by knowing something about emotions and how to set up a chain to get from one to another.
It is appropriate to feel acceptance when the situation is one where you cannot change the outcome. Acceptance requires
determining which things are controllable and which things are outside of your control. Anything that is outside of your control (or
influence) needs to be accepted. The danger is with the bowler or coach accepting things which they believe to be outside of their
control that in reality are subject to change. It can be a way for a bowler to give up on a goal. A bowler may accept that they are
destined to lose because they have always lost. While you cannot control the future, your actions can influence the future.
Accepting a future bad result while the bowler can take action to change that result is disabling. It can be advantageous for the
bowler to accept that improvement is needed and to make up a plan of action to address that improvement.
You must accept things that happened in the past. There is no way to change them. You do not have to accept any particular
interpretation of that past event. A heartbreaking loss must be accepted. The idea that the bowler is a loser or a choke for having
lost does not have to be accepted. The loss is in the past and is now uncontrollable, the perception of that event can be changed or
controlled. The outcome of a future event is outside of the bowler’s control. The preparation toward that event is within the
control of the bowler. Acceptance requires the ability to know which category any situation belongs in.
Anger is usually expressed when the bowler has breached some deeply held standard. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the
standard is well thought out and the anger is justified and appropriate in the situation. Anger most often happens as a response to
the bowler not living up to a standard of performance. The bowler has a very good idea of how good they ‘should’ be playing and
not bowling to that level (even on one ball) can lead to anger.
Anxiety occurs when the bowler is focusing on an uncertain future. The future is always uncertain but what builds the anxiety in
the bowler is facing a future in which the bowler feels unprepared. The role of the coach is to identify what will make the bowler
feel prepared and then set about designing a pre-competition program that will satisfy that criteria.
Boredom is the result of being in the present without anything of interest going on. A bowler may be bored during a practise or a
team meeting. The coach should help the bowler move to the future to experience the success that the practise is leading to. Have
the bowler make a connection between the present boring event and that compelling future.
Disappointment happens when you do not imagine the possibility of getting what you want. This is a disabling state if the bowler is
still in a position to achieve the goal (no matter how slim the chance). It is enabling if the bowler is disappointed with a past
performance and uses that disappointment as a way to leave behind that event. If the bowler fixates on the past failure then that
bowler runs the risk of falling into a depressed state.
Depression has a time component. The past, present and future all look bad. Depression generalizes past or present events and
transports the effect of those events into the future. The coach should begin in the past by pointing out instances when the bowler
was successful. Then move to the present and suggest steps that the bowler can take to make the future more compelling. Building
a compelling future based on present actions is critical to overcoming this disabling state.
Determination has a very narrow focus. A determined bowler is motivated to achieve a goal and has the ability to keep that goal
clearly in sight while working to achieve it. This is usually a enabling state but the disabling state of determination is called
stubbornness. If a bowler holds onto an idea that a coach has instilled through adversity and despite all evidence that the idea is not
working, we call that bowler tenacious or determined. If the bowler does something that the coach would like to get rid of, and that
bowler holds onto it through adversity and despite all evidence that the idea is not working, we call that bowler stubborn. If the item
that the bowler is determined about is disabling to performance then the coach needs to help that bowler expand their focus and look
for alternatives. The up side is that once the bowler becomes convinced of the worthiness of the coach’s suggestion, the bowler
will grab onto that like a vise.
A bowler feels encouraged when there is perception of progress toward a goal. This is an enabling emotion which acts as a great
bridge from many disabling states to enabling states. Ideally the intervention by a coach is enough to encourage the bowler that
progress toward a goal has been made. The vital component of being encouraged is the perception of progress. If the coach has
communicated effectively then that feeling of encouragement can lead to other enabling emotions.
The bowler is fixated on an outcome and it is only when a bowler perceives that no progress is being made toward that goal, that
frustration sets in. This is the essence of frustration, there is the attempt to attain a goal however the goal remains unrealized
in spite of the bowler’s best effort. There is an action quality to frustration. A frustrated bowler is a motivated bowler that has hit an
obstacle and can’t find a way over, around or through it.
When a bowler is frustrated, a coach can recognize the goal orientation of the bowler. The challenge for the coach is to get the
bowler to try a new approach to the problem. The difficulty in doing this is that bowler’s can get very easily frustrated any setback
brings back all the memories of earlier obstacles that were unscaled. A companion to frustration is impatience. Many bowlers who
are frustrated are also impatient for results. The coach will most likely have to deal with impatience while attempting to develop a
plan of action which will address overcoming the obstacle that is in the bowler’s way.
Inadequacy usually consists of an unfavourable comparison. The bowler may be
making a comparison with other bowlers or may feel that the bowler's capabilities are not up to the challenge of the situation. In order to deal with inadequacy the coach may attempt to get the
bowler to quit making these comparisons. That may be easier said than done, so the next strategy can be to get the bowler to make
comparisons in such a way as to highlight that bowler’s competency. The coach can make suggestions that raises the bowler’s
belief in that bowler’s competency by pointing to the training that has been done to prepare that bowler for this situation or by
bringing up instances where the bowler was successful in past events. The alternative is to make suggestions that lowers the
challenge to a more manageable level. Having the bowler recognize that the opponent is not some kind of invincible ‘bowling god’ is
a good way to do this. In most instances the bowler perceives the opposition as greatly superior.
When playing a superior opponent it may be helpful to remind the bowler of the rule of upsets which is, if your best performance is
better than your opponent’s worst performance then you have a chance of an upset. The more often this is true the better the
chance of an upset.
The emotion of patience includes a time component and an outcome. The ability to be patient requires the bowler to recognize that
the desired outcome is not one that is immediately accessible, it will take time. Impatient people tend to want things to happen
quickly. They are not willing to let things unfold over time. Many tasks have their own schedule and there is no use imposing one
from without. i.e. The best example may be one of an injury. The body has its own timetable for healing. While it is possible to
follow a regimen to have the body heal at its best, doing more than the doctor ordered or trying to come back from an injury too
quickly can cause a greater delay. The only solution is to be patient. This also pertains to acquiring skills, while it is possible to
practise diligently to learn the skill a soon as possible, in most cases competency with the skill does not come as quickly as the
bowler wishes. It takes time to develop competency and while that time may be shortened it cannot be rushed.
Developing Patience Since the time component is not immediate, patience involves slowing down. The changing of expectations
as to when the desired outcome will be achievable is vital. The pace is never rushed, patience requires the ability to accept (see
acceptance) things as they are in the short term.
USING EMOTIONAL CLUES
Each emotion is a resource that carries with it a clue on how to deal with the situation. The coach not only needs to be able to use
these clues but also must be able to help the bowler generate a series of emotions that will take the bowler from the disabling state to
an enabling state. As an example, the coach may take a frustrated bowler and pique that bowler’s curiosity as to what the bowler
can do differently to prepare for the next event. The coach may be proficient enough to lead the bowler into anticipating the next
event where the new preparation will be tested.
This set of emotions, frustration to curiosity to anticipation is called a generative chain. In this case the chain links a disabling
emotional state with an enabling emotional state. Bowlers go through generative chains all the time. A bowler may be doing a
pin picking drill and may be performing poorly. The bowler begins to get frustrated (wants to succeed but is not making progress)
and then begins to get angry (violation of a standard, in this case performance) eventually the bowler who is still being unsuccessful
ends up apathetic (not caring, no emotional attachment) about succeeding at the drill and gives up. Apathy is often used by bowlers
to shield themselves from failure (If they don’t care then failing doesn’t really count.)
Any coach may have the experience of having bowlers who begin in one emotional state and inevitably end up in
another. The coach can see it happening, this (enter situation) is usually met by the bowler expressing
(enter emotion) and that tends to lead the bowler to ending up feeling and acting like
(enter disabling state). A coach may also have stories of tough competitors who are able to generate confidence no matter how bad the situation may be.
This doesn't mean that the bowler is aware of the steps that the bowler is
taking to go from disabled to enabled. Some people seem to be gifted
emotionally. However, being able to break disabling chains, create chains to enabling states and also prevent disabling states are skills that any coach would find useful in competition.
To be really proficient at dealing with emotions requires training. While the definitions will give a clue, the best way to become
familiar with emotions and how to use them as a resource is to read THE EMOTIONAL HOSTAGE by Leslie
Cameron-Bandler and Michael Lebeau. This book provides steps for moving from one emotion to another and should be part of every coaches’ library.
copyright 1998 Ken Gryschuk