Mental Game: Inside your head

by Gianmarc Manzione 2

By Thomas Madrecki

IF A COLLEGE STUDENT NEEDS TO WRITE an important term paper but, distracted by friends, spends the night carousing amidst a sea of inebriated partygoers — and subsequently fails the paper — it would appear obvious that he is responsible for his failure. Why is it so different in bowling? How much would bowlers benefit from taking responsibility for what happens on the lanes?

Briefly examine the case of Randy Pedersen, who, while attempting to win the PBA Tournament of Champions several years ago, apparently was distracted by a spectator during a key shot. Failing to carry a 7-pin needed to send the match to a rolloff, Pedersen promptly yelled and pointed at the onlooker, blaming someone else for his lack of success.

Or, take the many league bowlers who, after failing to carry a corner pin or suffering through a low-scoring set, offer up the suggestion, “The lanes weren’t scoreable.” Or, how many times have you or a fellow competitor said, “I didn’t bring the right ball”?

Taking the above examples together, it seems that in bowling, lack of success is continuingly and routinely blamed on external factors. Personal accountability and responsibility for decisions is diminished, whereas in the college student example, the opposite is emphasized.

The reason for this is that outside of our industry, the directness of one’s responsibility is more obvious. Modern lane conditions, a bevy of equipment choices and a different cultural attitude all are to blame for this pervasive and ignorant viewpoint within bowling. Simply put, it’s harder to perceive one’s responsibility for an action if the circumstances surrounding that action are mired in coverstock options and the fact that bowling pins often appear to stand or fall by pure chance.

The reality, of course, is that every action in sport and life can be directly attributed to the individual, and that “luck” or “fate” play no factor whatsoever in either, because there is no such thing as “luck” or “fate.” At a physical level, bowling is incredibly complicated, involving rotating spheres and oddly shaped objects crashing into each other, but that doesn’t mean supernatural forces have a hand in anything. It is difficult to predict how pins fall — but they certainly don’t fall by chance.

From a mental game perspective, taking responsibility in the above manner might at first seem a tremendous burden. No longer can you hide behind the actions of someone else or “not matching up.” Instead, you are required to say, “Something I did left that 10-pin.” Or, “Something I didn’t do made it difficult to score well.”

Really, though, why would any bowler look at the sport — even life — from this standpoint, aside from being completely honest? Because in taking responsibility — in accepting that burden — he is freed from illusion and falsehood, and in so doing is forced to confront his own independent need to change.

At the risk of sounding like an existential philosopher, if a bowler accepts responsibility for his disappointments, rather than blaming them on external factors, he is yoked to his freedom either to succeed or fail. This freedom is an incredible weight, but it also is an incredible gift, offering you the unique ability to react and adjust to situations on your own terms, so that although you may lose a match or leave a solid 9-pin now, you will have another shot on the lanes — unlike some of your fellow bowlers.

Taking responsibility for everything that happens in bowling and in life, no doubt, is not within the power of every person. But it is something to which you should aspire. For in accepting that your failures are the product of your being and doing, you will come to see that your successes are, too. And when that conclusion is reached, confidence — the true aim of all mental game instruction — will spring forth, because anything and everything becomes within your power should you put your mind to it.

Want to become a PBA champion? Take responsibility. Want to raise your average? Take responsibility. Want to become a better person? The onus is on you, and you only, to succeed or fail, win or lose, rise or fall.

Choose wisely.

Thomas Madrecki, recipient of multiple national bowling scholarships, is an intern at Luby Publishing. Among other projects, he interviews the nation’s top coaches for the “Tenpin Tutor” feature, which will return next month.