Attitude, Destructive or Constructive by Ed Cotter

Attitude, Destructive or Constructive by Ed Cotter


As a coach, it’s my job to help others learn, understand, and perform better.  Helping other people can be a lot easier than listening to my own advice.  Those that know me will attest that I’m very competitive.  I do try to support everyone, even the person I’m bowling against.  I try to live by the karma that if you wish bad luck on others you will suffer the same fate.  What I’m going to discuss may seem out of place to those that know me.  I am going to try to heed my own advice.  Hope by writing it I can reinforce it to myself.


James’ ‘How Serious is League Bowling’ blog touches on the aggressive (show boater) personalities that arise during various league formats.  The show boater does many things to emphasize his abilities trying to psych out their opponent, especially when they have the advantage.  Along this lines in the other direction, I was reading an article, ‘Shoeing Up for High Stakes Tournament Play’, by Sports Psychologist Dr Dean Hinitz.  His article discusses working on your psychological approach to inadvertent shots and your reactions.  Synopsis of the article is to contain your emotions when you make an inadvertent shot.  You notice I wrote when.  Everyone will make an inadvertent shot.  If we were always perfect, we would have a 300 average.  His article reminds me of a scene from ‘A Few Good Men’.  Tom Cruise is briefing his team on how to handle the unexpected in the courtroom.  Basically, he tells them to act as if everything that happens was what they expected to happen, do not act surprised by anything. 


I’m going to blend these together for my discussion on attitude.  And I hope to heed my own advice.  I agree that show boaters can be insufferable.  Always rubbing your nose in it when they have the advantage.  Conversely, the emotional train wrecks that display every negative emotion to an inadvertent shots.  You’ve probably seen them all; hit/kicked equipment, thrown items, and or fowl language.  Both behaviors are destructive to others and or your team.


As a high school coach, there’s one thing readily more apparent to me as I progress in my years of doing this.  Very few bowlers are mentally prepared for bowling.  They tend to focus on the physical aspect and neglect 90% of their game, mental preparation.  Good mental/psychological preparation will negate the show boaters and train wrecks.  I emphasize to bowlers that there is only one place blame can be laid for inadvertent shots, themselves.  The bowling ball, pins and lanes are inanimate objects and can’t doing anything without bowler intervention.


Here’s my advice to bowlers.  Yes, to those who know me, I’m reading this and trying to emphasize this to myself.  As I have emphasized to my bowlers, everyone, myself included, that the mental game is always a work in progress.


1.  Stay positive – this is the most important thing you can ever do for yourself.  Yes, to those that know me, I know what I just wrote.  Inadvertent things will happen, dwelling on them won’t help as much as learning from them will.  Trust me, I know personally how hard this is to do.


2.  Good sportsmanship – positive and supportive attitudes reaps positive results.  This will help you deal with the show boater and train wrecks as they try to wreak havoc in the bowling world.  By offering congratulations on good shots to these bowlers you emphasize how little how they are acting affects you.  This can be a serious ally when you need to be at your best for an important shot.


3.  Control your emotions – a tantrum after an inadvertent shot tells your opponent that you’re not in control of your game and provides them with a psychological boost.  Act as if you know what happened and how you’re going to fix it.  Don’t give your opponent an advantage on a silver platter.


4.  Focus on the now – dwelling on the past negatively affects your game and it takes longer to change the momentum of your game in a positive manner.  This is where I emphasize to bowlers to be frame stupid.  Learn from your inadvertent shots but do not dwell on them.  Again this is no simple task.  You have to remind yourself to find the lesson learned and cranially dump the rest.


I’ll be the first to admit this is easier said than done.  But the exceptional bowlers have mastered this approach.  their mental game is sound enough to withstand an inadvertent shot and bounce back like the inadvertent frame never happened.  As long as we realize that this is a work in progress, there is hope for all of us.  Good luck and good bowling.

One response to “Attitude, Destructive or Constructive by Ed Cotter

  1. Well said Ed.

    Once you get to a certain skill level the game becomes very much a mental one. That mental approach comes first from realizing you can only control yourself, you cannot control the pin carry of opposing players, you cannot control whether or not another team is winning or losing when they are just ahead or just behind you in the standings. I see this all the time in my weekly league play, bowlers worried about what everyone else is doing rather than what they are doing, this is when I know “I HAVE THEM”. They care too much about, who else is doing what else, to focus on the task at hand. It’s the same with brackets, everyone running up to the sheets to find out who they have so they can scoreboard watch. I find it funny really. They put all this extra pressure on themselves all the while creating a recipe for disaster on the lanes, no matter how good they think they are. As you stated everyone will throw an errant shot, even the very best don’t throw it perfect every time, but understanding your game and why those bad shots happen, and being able to correct it for the next shot is paramount to the mental game. The second thing I would suggest that is paramount, is being able to bounce back from the bad break, I see so many times the pocket 7-10 followed by the washout, then by the big 4, then by the completely miss the headpin, all because someone couldn’t forget about the fact that they threw it good and in their mind got screwed. Those bad breaks will happen, but you have to have a SHORT MEMORY, that shot is the past, it’s over with, it’s done, you have to move on to the next shot and not compound the problem by dwelling on the past. Prime example, last night on my Monday night League, I start pocket 10 pin, miss it, then I chop the 3,6 spare in frame 2, now I could be mad about those two shots and before I know it, be looking 170 square in the face, instead I focus on one shot at a time throw the next 8 strikes and shoot 247.

    The bottom line once again is this, you can only control yourself, and you can only throw one shot at a time. By controlling your emotions (whether bowling good or bad), by focusing on yourself and your next shot (even when the other team is ‘carrying everything’), and finally by staying positive (even when things are not necessarily going your way), you will gain a mental edge which could be advantageous when getting ready to throw the one strike in the tenth frame that gives your team a win. And by showing that you are 100% in control of your Mental Game as well as your bowling game, you can put some extra pressure on your opponents.

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