IF YOU want to sharpen your mental toughness and be calmer under fire then look to the city’s top lawn bowlers.
New Deakin University research shows players who embrace the challenge of competition perform far greater than those who do not and tend to have higher levels of self-confidence on and off the greens.
But the study also shows developing a sound pre-bowl routine can help improve all players’ confidence and lower anxiety.
Ballarat District Bowls Division chairman Marilyn Blake said lawn bowls may not look fiercely competitive to the uninitiated, but was clearly a game of complex tactics once you stepped on the mat.
Ms Blake said this fact had concerned her as she prepares to retire from BDBD midweek pennant, due to physical niggles – because she would also be losing the mental fitness that goes with the game.
“Concentration required at the level is immense...A lot of thought goes into the ends from each bowler but more particularly from the skippers,” Ms Blake said.
“Finals are intense but a lot of games are very competitive and that can be surprising, particularly for those who haven’t played much sport before.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough but pressure depends on the individual . Every time most people go out to play, they’re going out to win.”
Ms Blake said what might seem like a social bowl – and bowls was a social game – required lots of calculated efforts to build heads depending on long ends or short ends, green speed and wind conditions. She said ultimately, individual bowlers must work out the best way to put the bowl down how best to suit their style.
Deakin’s sports researcher Fraser Carson, from the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, said ability to peak under pressure was significantly better in elite bowlers who enjoyed continually changing environments.
“Mentally tough individuals remain calm and relaxed, are competitive in many different situations and have lower levels of anxiety,” Dr Carson said.
“Higher scorers have a strong sense of self-belief and an unshakable faith that they control their own destiny, these individuals can remain relatively unaffected by competition or adversity.”
Dr Carson said all bowlers could sharpen their focus by preparing mind and body for each shot.
He recommended a routine including deep breath or internal self-encouragement, visualising the outcome you were after and repeating a key word like “smooth” as you release the bowl.
Other tips to improve focus:
• Keep note of all other issues/tasks going on in your life on your phone or a notepad.
• Pick up a bowl and mindfully examine it for five minutes, trying not to get distracted.
• Use non-sport ideas like concentration grids or download an app to practice everyday.
Dr Carson will present findings at the Bowls Australia Coaching Conference in Queensland on Wednesday and Thursday this week.