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The right frame of mind ?               from Howard Jarrold

Many years ago I was at Crystal Palace watching Steve Cram and Steve Ovett running in the 1500 metres. On the final bend the race was between the two of them, shoulder to shoulder they both were on reserves and with their lungs bursting and every muscle in their bodies screaming in agony they were oblivious to everything except the line. The stadium erupted and we witnessed one of the best man v man races ever. Nothing between them ability wise and the man who wanted it most, won. Both of them were mentally very strong but Steve Ovett ( along with Peter Elliott ) was regarded as second to Cram and Coe and as such he had a point to prove.
And so it is with any sport. The person who wants it most - is mentally stronger - who can focus better - can concentrate better - can make the right call at the right time - and who can be calm under pressure, will prevail, for that person has but one belief . ' Second is the first loser'
Many of you know George Wilson at the club, a good friend and a coach, who offered the opinion that the game at competition level was 80% in the mind. I disagreed and said that where ability was equal, 90% was in the mind and 10% was shot selection. He thought about it for a moment and then said that I could be right because some of the shots surprised him also. More on that later.
Earlier on I listed ( in no particular order ) a few things that I felt constituted in the mind. They are :-
At club level this is huge problem. How many times do you hear ' Your turn Tom Dick or Harry ' I accept that it is not easy to concentrate for the duration of a game, but there is no excuse for not concentrating when it is your turn to play. Tip. When your opposite number or player before you picks up their bowl then you do the same and prepare your self from that moment.
2. Shot selection
It is very easy for me or anyone else for that matter to criticise someone else's actions done under extreme pressure and so I will limit my remarks to my personal experience. Due to my circumstances I have learnt to bowl left handed which has taken 2 to 3 years. During this time I have tried to avoid playing anything other than draw shots and it has helped by playing Lead or 2 . I have played 3 and 4 and have had to play shots that need a degree of practise before attempting them. It is only now that I play them and success rate is such that I question the wisdom of playing some of them, notably the drive. Think about what you want to achieve and play the shot that you know will achieve that end, and one that you can execute , having perfected it in roll ups or practise beforehand.
4. Realistic assessment of your own ability
This is something that most of us have a problem with. It seems to affect No. 3 and 4 most of all. You are 4 down and your no. 3 says' go on have a go at it' . You can see your skip swell up with importance because the 'go at it' is confirmation, if such was needed, that he is the man. Yes he misses ! Amid a cacophony of hard lucks flying around, you hear the voice of reason ' Why does he do that. He only ever gets 50% of them and even then it's down to luck . He should have drawn in and taken 3 out'. Also there are two utterances that every one has heard. ' I've been playing for 30 years and I play skip ' and ' how can he play skip ? he hasn't been playing 5 minutes'. So, is time served the yardstick by which we measure ability ? Of course not. It is not where you play or how long you've played, it's whether you can do the job or play the shot that matters. Please be honest with yourself when you are deciding your ability to play a shot.
5. Tenacity
6. Hunger ( to win )
These two attributes are stronger in some than others. Often found more in those from backgrounds where you had to be better and stronger to progress, than those from a background of privilege. Try and play better players and try to beat them. When you do, and you will, it strengthens your resolve to do it again.
6. Pressure
The ability to cope with pressure is essential if you hope to play good consistent bowls. It is capable of reducing your game to novice standard. It affects both your mental and physical capabilities. It creates tension in your arms which impairs the smooth delivery of the bowl. How do you deal with it ? I am no expert on matters cerebral but I find that you can do certain things which helps negate the worst effects of the problem.
Make sure that you have a set routine for your set up and stick to it.
Think clearly about your shot and visualise it. Do not entertain thoughts of can I or can't I. Do not spend time on the mat thinking. Step on with confidence and execute the shot.
Play as many competitions as you can and that way you will get more used to it.
There is an expression which is You have to learn how to win . Part of that learning is losing !
In conclusion I think it fair to say that the more you practise the better you'll become with the proviso that what you are repeating time after time is correct. If in doubt check it out. That's what coaches are for
Enjoy the game. It is enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure.
Submitted date - Thursday, 08 Feb 2018
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