December 9th, 2009 | Published in Clinic
By Tom Kouros
TEARING UP AND DOWN a soccer field or basketball court does not allow you much time to dwell on the ramifications of pressure. Which is why we can say that, except for “crunch time,” the impact of pressure in many sports is marginal. On the other hand, some sports allow ample time between segments to contemplate success or failure.
These sports brew an inordinate amount of pressure, substantially compounding the degree of difficulty. Bowling is one of those. In fact, learning to cope with this elevated degree of pressure is one of the key elements of the game.
Not wanting to squander the tuition for a psychology course taken years ago, I designed this quiz. It proved moderately successful in identifying a player’s reaction to pressure. There is no right or wrong here; just circle a number from 1 to 5, total your score and read on.
Before analyzing your score, bear in mind that these results are not written in stone. If you took the test a month from now, you might well record a significantly different score. In addition, variance in the potential
psychological and physiological limitations associated with the young as opposed to the older must be taken into account, although it appears that strenuous physical exercise and intense competition can be of considerable value to bowlers of all ages with proper medical clearance.
Situations sow the seeds of pressure, but pressure itself is cultivated by no one but ourselves. If you are a weak competitor and are confronted by a strong opponent, you might feel endangered and succumb to pressure. Your low competitive nature doesn’t like being in that situation. You don’t like “risking your ego.”
On the other hand, if your competitive nature is so strong that you irrationally weigh each shot as a major challenge, you may find yourself in an all-out war with the game… hooking the ball more or throwing it harder than you should, stubbornly playing against what the lane will afford you, etc.
Let’s grade your test. If you scored between 23 and 27 you’re on “cruise control,” meaning you handle competition and pressure very well. A score above 27 could indicate an over-zealous approach to the game or — unless in a tournament-like format — a lack of competitive drive. Scoring below 23 normally indicates you perform better in recreational bowling as oppossed to a highly competitive format.
If you scored low on the test you can turn your game around without becoming a highly geared competitor by concentrating on the execution of the shot and not on the result. Make bowling a matter-of-fact game. Don’t let the game intimidate you. When pressure situations arise, remember what sportswriter Grantland Rice once said: “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” Make the shot. Never mind the result. Results take care of themselves. Shots, on the other hand, are our doings, good or bad.
If you scored high on the test, you might want to rethink your view of the sport. It’s a great game, but still a game. Temper your resolve to a degree that affords you ideal motor response. And second, in situations that are not highly competitive, learn how to challenge yourself by bowling against an imaginary score, for example.