BY TOM KOUROS : Reprinted Courtesy of Bowlers Journal International
MOTIVATED BY SUMMER LESSONS, new equipment and/or strong resolution, thousands start off the bowling season with much exuberance and hope. Sure enough, the first half of the season was promising, as our average climbed to new heights. But by the flagging days of March, we were hit upside the head by a harsh reality check.
That's when some of us discovered how unpredictable this challenging sport can be as we played more and seemingly enjoyed it less because of something called a late season slump.
Rest assured, many of us have experienced this. And once affected by this malady, a bowler can't help wondering if the preseason practice and commitment were worth the effort. The initial excitement and enthusiasm is gone. Instead of eagerly anticipating the bowling night, we now dread it.
Yet bowlers often make a grave mistake during one of these downturns. They overreact. They go from one coach to another, or from one written source to another. This makes things like the swing and release even more confusing, which leads to even more complication and discouragement. And when confusion sets in, they realize little enjoyment when playing the game.
The cure is not always rooted in a review of one's methodology.
That's why the first thing to do when in a slump is to ask yourself if you are still having fun. If the answer is negative, then that is where you want to begin your efforts to "break" the slump.
Simply put, if you are not having fun, then you are not playing the game. Bowling is great exercise, but not manual labor. It's a game, and like other great sports, it's an escape from the harsh realities of life. In other words, if the top professionals can't perfect it, then it's unreasonable for you to have that expectation.
Over the years, many pros have told me they played better once they accepted that precept.
Average bowlers often get too serious about the game, trying to turn it into an exact science. They have little understanding of the mental game. As the season progresses, they tend to keep adding tidbits of methodology until their minds are glutted with technique and alternatives. Early in the season, their mental faculties were clear and unencumbered. They were patient and steadfast, working on a few fundamental keys. As they began adding one thing after another, their mental game became overburdened, eventually resulting in the inability of their minds to function in a highly sequential manner.
Slumps are periods when your physical or mental skills operate at a much lower level than normal. Even the most consistent pros are not as consistent as many people believe. A slump, however, is a continuation of poor performance without any upturns. In other words, a slump is a phenomenon introduced to your game which is preventing you from realizing the upturns. Aside from the major reason described above, slumps occur because of a bad habit, too little practice, too much practice, or a personal problem in your life.
To prevent bad habits from occurring, or to correct a bad habit, avail yourself of a qualified coach. "Eyes on the bench" are critical to a consistent high level of performance. And listen to one coach, not several. Remember the adage, "Too many chefs spoil the meal." Another good idea is to have yourself videotaped when bowling up to your expectations. Then you have something to gauge when a slump occurs.
Obviously, the cure for too little or too much bowling is to adjust your practice time. As for any personal problems you might have, they can best be addressed through counseling, with a friend or professionally.
Above all else, never forget why you play this great game... the challenge, the social aspect, the exercise, or just to have fun. That's a pretty exciting parlay.