League Play: March 24, 2021
March 25, 2021
So... this happened. In front of other people.
As nice as this is, I'm mostly impressed with and annoyed by how I got there.
The first game was a completely different story. The score was 157. That's rough, but worse was this difficult-to-describe and inexplicable physical feeling like I couldn't control my body. I thought I was doing everything correctly, but my body vehemently disagreed. I certainly didn't feel loose. I had this vague sense of leaning back and to the side when I released the ball; I definitely wasn't trying to do this. Maybe it was some misguided subconscious attempt to imitate Peter Brown in a match I'd just watched earlier in the day.
Everything felt just wrong and I didn't understand why I was doing it. (And as we know from what I've written recently, I feel really uncomfortable when I rely on something and don't understand it.) I only knew that I felt completely out of control of my body. (That's called foreshadowing.) I mentioned this feeling to one of the young bowlers I coach and they could immediately relate. OK, that's nice. But I still didn't know what to do about it.
Wait... he's talking non-stop about mechanics, so what the hell does this have to do with the mental game?!
And then something wonderful happened: I remembered what I'd literally just written about the day before. I chuckled. I noticed the pattern:
- "This feels weird."
- "I don't know what's happening."
- "Why the hell do I keep yanking the ball left when I try to put rotation on the ball?"
- "Why the hell do I keep leaning back and pulling my arm across my shoulder?!"
- "Holy shit... 157. What am I even doing here?"
Yeah. My mind likes to run away with this kind of stuff. That's how it always is.
I chuckled again.
Well... if doing my usual thing doesn't help, then doing almost anything else might help. Then I heard Jeff Young's voice in my head talking about robot mind. And since this is league play and league play is really just practice in front of other people with the scoring system on, I can use this as an opportunity to practice shutting everything else out and just practising something I'm not good at: letting my body do whatever it knows how to do. Instead of trying hard to throw the ball correctly, I'll just let myself feel good, throw the ball, and whatever happens happens.
Now, it would make for a great story to say that I immediately threw 8 strikes in a row, but that didn't happen. Instead, it went more like this: I walked onto the approach, I looked down at where to stand, I connected with the feeling of a secure grip on the ball, I squeezed my fingers as a little reminder to snap them back to put rotation on the ball, then I just threw the ball. I leaned back and to the right and yanked the ball left. I hit the left 3 pin. On the outside.
I smiled a little.
I did it again: pick the spot on the approach, feel a good grip on the ball, squeeze the fingers, throw the ball. I leaned back and to the right and yanked the ball left again. Closer, but not much. I smiled a little.
I did it again: pick the spot on the approach, feel a good grip on the ball, squeeze the fingers, throw the ball. This time I felt unexpectedly comfortable, followed through well, stayed upright and balanced at the line, hit the left pocket area, picked up 15, then raised my eyebrows a little. Where had that feeling been all night?!
I did it again... you get the picture. I shot strikes in 2-3-4, had a few stumbles, made a couple of spares, then doubled in the 10th for 250. Nothing spectacular, but...
- I felt comfortable. My mechanics improved.
- I felt mentally relaxed, but not vacant. I was in the game, but not trying particularly hard.
- I didn't feel invincible, but I felt plenty good enough.
I joked with my team that I'd shot 150 and 250, so this game would have to be 350. This didn't seem to add any pressure. I felt good.
Pick the spot, feel a good grip, throw the ball.
Pick the spot, feel a good grip, throw the ball.
By this point, I stopped even thinking about squeezing the fingers to try to put good rotation on the ball. I'd probably been overdoing that. My body knew what to do. If I felt good, then good things tended to happen more often.
After the 6th strike to start the third game, I couldn't help but think about it a little.
Yeah. That's how it always is.
I yanked the 7th shot left. Yeah. That's how it always is. I'd shot a 373 in practice where I'd done the same thing in the 8th and then come back to shoot another triple. Nothing new.
After strikes in 8, 9, and the first one in 10, I had my first vivid, serious thought about shooting 400. In front of other people. Finally! I chuckled. Yeah. That's how it always is. I let the thought in and gave it a chance to go away on its own.
This time, I took about 20 extra seconds at the back of the approach to clear my mind. And that's where I'm almost sure that I fell back into an old pattern: trying to relax instead of relaxing. I tried to go back to habit that had seemed to be helping: pick the spot, feel a good grip, throw the ball. I felt some nerves. I told myself that it was excitement. I wanted to shoot 400. Nothing wrong with that.
It felt good right up until the part where I missed my spot right by about 4 boards. I popped the right 3 pin. I didn't even see it come back and kick out the corner for a lucky 5. No 400 for me.
I gave myself about 20 seconds to feel the disappointment and let it go. It's just a round number. It would have been nice. I'll have another chance. That's how it always is.
I made the spare and looked up at 385. Sure, it didn't start with "4", but at least Veronica's house record of 408 was safe for another day. And then I chuckled. I'd almost beat my double of 407. Fun!
What did I learn from all this?
- I continue to cling stubbornly to understanding my mechanical failures. This kind of analysis might help me away from the lanes, but in the moment, it seems to lead me through a downward spiral. I could practise letting go sooner and trusting that the body knows what to do.
- I'm suddenly stringing strikes together in a way that I didn't used to do very often. That's my third game of at least 340 in the past month.
- I seem to respond well to "Yeah. That's how it always is." I can't explain why yet, but I presume it has something to do with taking pressure off by acknowledging that this is just a pattern I fall into and that it's nothing to worry about.
This last point hits me hard: it feels like in meditation when a thought intrudes, then I look directly at the thought, and it melts away pretty quickly. These thoughts mean nothing. That's just my mind doing what it does. That's how it always is.
For now, this might mean more variation in my scores, but perhaps with higher highs. I don't mind that. I can think of these 157s as a sign of the chaos period that usually comes right before a big breakthrough. That's just how learning works for most people, so I guess that's how it works for me.
When my precision improves, watch out.
- Have you experienced a feeling of chaos just before a jump in your performance?