Competitive Pressure

Honestly I think this is one of the most important items all competitive players have to deal with — Pressure.

Pressure takes many forms, affects us in many ways and is often very hard to deal with.

It’s easy to make decisions and choices when the outcome doesn’t matter or there are little to no consequences of making that decision.  If you miss the drive and give up a shot, big deal.  If you over draw and miss getting three shots and end with two, not a huge mistake.  On the flip side it’s extremely hard to make choices and follow through on those decisions when there is tension and big consequences on the line.  If you miss this draw and lose the game by one it is a heart-breaker and if you miss your drive and give up two and lose by a shot then it’s a big miss.

The thing all athletes including bowlers must do to be great is handle pressure.  Pressure is something you place on yourself due to the circumstances you are in.  You can control it and you can overcome it, but it’s not easy to do.  You often hear of missed shots and opportunities in sports where someone missed a key point and is labelled as having “succumbed to the pressure”.  Often we make bad decisions as a result of pressure.  How many times have you thought back to a called shot and though:  “I probably should have tried the backhand” or “Why on earth did I choose that shot?”.

Here’s a simple diagram from Lachlan Tighe that shows a path through pressure that should be taken by an elite player.  Take a look at the statements beneath each heading and think of situations where you have thought the same thing (or something similar) and how you overcame it or possibly failed as a result.

How do you handle the pressure?

What it produces:
Pressure can really get you down.  I’ve often struggled with pressure on the greens in tight situations, especially when it’s a semi-final or a final and everyone’s eyes are on you.  At one time or another I can honestly say that I have thought those exact same things and ultimately blown the shot or the game as a result.

What reduces pressure?  The tools to have:
The whole point of my training and articles on this site is to get to a point where you can manage pressure and overcome pressure.  By training yourself, practicing and doing drills you should get to a point where you know you can make the shot, you know you have played the situation before and there is no reason, other than your mental state, which would stop you from succeeding.  You train to have the tools to play well and make shots.  You also train to turn the bad situation or the pressure situation into a positive one where you rise to meet the challenge rather than crumble.

Positivism – Love it, love the thrill , love overcoming adversity:
You always have to take the game for what it is worth and don’t beat yourself up during competition.  Take the positives and make them your fuel for getting through the game.  Some of the points above are in relation to states you may be in and why you may not be playing 100%, but you need to reinforce that you are out there like everyone else and you are playing the best you can.  Love the game, feed from the pressure and relish in the opportunity to overcome it.

Pressure can be mental strain you put on yourself, but it can also stem from the game itself.  It can come from being stuck in rough situations each end and having to play near perfect shots just to get a result.  Here’s a picture to illustrate some heads where you will be likely to feel a great deal of pressure:

I love these positions when i'm YELLOW, but YIKES when i'm BLACK!

Often I find myself shaking my head or cursing under my breath at a short bowl or a shot that is so far off the target you’d think I was playing on the green beside me.  These tend to come during a tight game where the stakes are high for every shot and the outcome could hinge on making one more shot than my opponent.  That is why I’ve done a lot of work on my mental game, particularly relating my presence on the green and keeping myself positive and in control of my emotions.  I know that as soon as I let my negative feelings take over my game will suffer.

Just remember that pressure is always lurking around the corner and you need to be able to recognize it, control it and use it to your advantage.  Don’t let it bring you down and crush your spirit.

To be a champion you have to play your best in the worst situations.

Portions of this article taken from Lachlan Tighes article on Henselite’s website

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