Lessons From Bowling – Yes, Bowling

January 27, 2015 (original post here)

I’ve said it multiple times on this blog that I am/was a bowler. Although there are times I hate to classify myself as one because there can be some negative connotations to being a bowler I can’t deny that I love to bowl. The bowling world is in fact it’s own little world. It’s a group that can sometimes be difficult to join and feel a part of, but once you’re a part of it, it’s easy to become friends with practically everyone. Bowling has undoubtedly shaped who I am today and it was the lessons both on and off the lanes that helped form me. I’m sure we all know what bowling is, but I’m going to be focusing more on the competitive bowling aspect and not so much the recreational. If you haven’t witnessed what competitive bowling is like, click here to watch a short little clip. I love bowling competitively, whether it’s singles, doubles, trios, or teams, I love it. The tension, yet adrenaline that’s in the air fuels me and the idea that I/we have a chance to win excites me. However, it took a while for me to really learn to enjoy competing. The first time that I bowled competitively was during high school. We had games every Wednesday and Thursday during the Fall quarters. I don’t exactly remember what happened that day or the emotions I went through, but I’m 98% sure that I was ready so nervous I was ready to s#!t myself (there’s honestly no other way I could think of describing it). Getting ready is probably the worst part when it came to bowling high school matches because there was so much time for the nerves to settle in and for you to start questioning whether you’re ready or not. There was also a lot of time to think of the what-ifs. What if I bowl amazingly tonight?! What if I fall on the lane? What if I forget how to bowl? What if I rip my pants?

If you thought I was over dramatic when it came to my first high school bowling match, you should’ve been there for my first tournament. The entire time I was there, I was embarrassed that I had to be in the handicap division. This division is where a lot of people start out; you are provided a certain number of pins to add to your score to boost up your tournament score. The number of pins you’re provided stems from your average. You may be wondering why I was so embarrassed to be in that division, I mean, I was still a beginner and I hadn’t been bowling for long, but I felt like I was the only high school bowler there. I honestly don’t think I was, but my memory is telling me I was (that’s how traumatizing it was!). All I could think about was how everyone is so much better than me and that I would never be able to be as good as them.

The more I got into competitive bowling, the more I learned about lane transitions and understanding what different bowling balls did on different oil patterns and all the technical stuff. I still had a lot to work on when it came to my attitude.

  • You can’t count yourself out too early: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you are your own worst enemy. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, then you won’t be able to do it. You instead of being your own enemy, you need to be your own cheerleader. You need to tell yourself that you’re just as good as anyone out there and it’s all about luck and what opportunities come your way.
  • Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves: When it comes to match play, you and your opponent are playing a game of who can mark (spare/strike) the most. The second one of you leaves an open frame (doesn’t mark) then that opens up the opportunity for the other to go in for the kill. If you were to watch a lot of the televised PBA shows, the announcers refer to the way a professional is able to take advantage of their opponents open frame, which often leads to their ability to win. In life you need to take advantage of any opportunity that may present itself to you. Maybe someone you know is going for the same job as you, but you end up finding another job that’s similar but with a better company that offers more benefits, take it and run. Life will present you with opportunities, but you need to go out there and find them. I wouldn’t be able to make it to match play if I didn’t sign up for the tournament, and you won’t be able to gain any opportunities if you stay where you are and settle.
  • Patience, patience, patience: I’m an extremely impatient person, and when it came to bowling and learning how different balls reacted on the lane or learning how to pick up a ten pin or seven pin, I wanted to be able to pick it up in a snap. When I didn’t I got frustrated and gave up. I figured if I strike enough, I won’t have to pick it up and I won’t have to learn about angles and lane breakdowns and all the other stuff. I learned that it’s not that easy. As a female bowler, I tend to rely more on my spare game than my striking game. I need to understand the way a lane breaks down when women bowl on it compared to when men bowl on it. There’s always something that I need to learn and it takes time to learn and understand it. Even after not bowling for months on end, I need to learn how to get back into the motion of bowling and regain all my muscle memory. We’re so focused, culturally, on getting things instantly; instant streaming, messaging, same day delivery, 30 minute pick up, etc., that when we actually have to wait for something, we want to rip our hair out! Patience allows for things to be done properly and sometimes if there’s a problem that you want solved now, but it can’t, patience could allow it to be resolved itself without you having to actually do anything,
  • Breathe, relax, and if you must, swear (cuss): During long tournaments, you go through a lot of different emotions. It’s basically an emotional roller coaster. You never know what you’re going to face as you switch to a new pair of lanes. You may love how the lanes break down, or you may be thrown a complete curveball and need to make major adjustments. When I would get frustrated during tournaments, I would punch tables, walls, kick my bag, throw my rosin bag, etc. I was very destructive and sometimes, well most of the times, I ended up hurting myself. Over the years, I learned that when I react that way, I end up actually clouding my judgement and my ability to really think about what I’m experiencing. I also end up spending a lot of time being “destructive” and not enough time figuring out what adjustments to make. Instead of being little ol’ destructive me, I learned that when I take a step back from everyone and everything and just breathe and talk it out with myself, I end up making things easier for me. I breakdown everything and make it simple. Sometimes swearing makes things a lot better because I get all my frustrations out in a simple word, and I’m able to regroup and go through the process of breaking things down. The same thing happens through life. There are times when I’m going to be thrown curveballs in life, and it can be difficult to manage them, but I do the same thing I do in bowling. I step back and relax, and very often swear. Then I collect myself and move on. 
  • You can’t control what happens: no matter how much you prepare, there will be times when you just can’t catch a break. In bowling there’s a saying that a lot of my coaches told me; they say, “bowling is 98% luck, 1% skill, and 1% knowledge.” I find this to be true. No matter how accurately you hit the pocket (the area between the 1 and 3 pin or 1 and 2 pin) there’s always a chance you’ll leave something. Sometimes the worst shot you throw will give you a strike and sometimes no matter how good you throw the ball, you might just leave splits. In life you can’t control every single thing that happens to you. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. When you can’t control the negatives, grind it out, and you’ll end up doing a lot better than you would if gave up. 
  • Take Chances and Give 110%: During tournaments it’s all about being able to adjust to the conditions of the lanes. You’re constantly thinking about how many boards to move your feet, whether to change your mark, whether to change to a different ball, etc. When you’re making those adjustments, you’re making educated guesses, taking that chance, and hoping that it pays off. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t; when they don’t, then you adjust again. However, when it’s successful, the game becomes so much more easier! Imagine if you didn’t take that chance, instead of having a high game, you might’ve shot your lowest game and you’ll leave wondering what if you had taken that chance and moved or switched balls. My dad also told me that when I leave a tournament, I need to feel like I gave 110%. I need to feel like I did everything in my power and knowledge to take the right chances and to make the right adjustments. If I don’t feel like that, then I’m the only one to blame, but if I leave feeling like I gave it my all, then it just wasn’t my day. I apply both rules to everyday life. I try to step out of my comfort zone everyday and when I go to work I give as much as I can to make sure I’m representing my company the best that I can. By giving 110% I can walk away knowing that I gave all that I could and if things don’t work out my way, then it’s not my day. 
  • Self Confidence Will Take You Far: Naturally I’m not self confident and it took me years to gain confidence in my bowling ability. I always thought that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t throw the ball fast enough, or I couldn’t get a lot of revs on my ball, I had to rely on a glove to help me bowl and I couldn’t do it without one, etc. I just never thought I was good enough. Once I learned to be confident in my skills, I held my head up a little higher, I was able to pull myself out of a rut a lot faster, and I was comfortable telling my coaches (mainly my dad) that I don’t understand what’s going on with the lanes or what I’m doing wrong. It helped me to become humble and be okay with asking for help. Learning to be confident with my bowling abilities helped me to become confident in everything that I do. It’s helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses; the old me would’ve tried to hide my weaknesses and not acknowledge them, but now, I acknowledge that I have them and I work on them. I have an easier time asking for help or asking for clarification when I don’t understand something; before I would pretend that I knew what was going on and I didn’t want to look dumb for asking questions if I didn’t understand something. 

These are some of the main things that I learned through bowling. I haven’t been bowling for long, but I love the competition part of it. I love the feeling of being a part of team where you have others relying on you to make a good shot, and I enjoy the pressure that comes with needing to make a good shot. I just enjoy the competition, but it took years to learn to enjoy it. Although it’s made up of a lot of muscle memory, you still need to put in the physical and psychological work. My sister is currently going through the same phase that I did when I first started bowling. When she starts bowling bad, it’s like she immediately shuts down and doesn’t hear anything my dad and I are telling her and she ends up tanking the game. It’s frustrating to talk to her when she’s going through it and it’s nearly impossible to not get mad at her, however, it’s a learning process. Slowly she’s starting to see how her frustrations cloud her judgement and prevents her from adjusting and trusting herself. 

It’s interesting for me to reflect on how much bowling has affected my life and the way I think. I must give my dad all the credit because he’s the one that taught me all of these lessons, and it’s helped me both on and off the lanes. I look at life with a more optimistic point of view, but I’m still a realist. I’m constantly making sure that I’m heading in the direction I want to go and making those adjustments when needed. 

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