DELVING INSIDE THE BOWLER’S MIND

The #AthletesInsight on the Sports Psychology behind bowling
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Bowling is a sport unique for its mind aptitudes and technical parameters, today we are joined by Frederik Øhrgaard, World Championship Gold Medalist & seven times Danish National Champion, and Nina Thysk Sørensen, Sports Psychologist from Team Danmark & personal Sports Psychologist to the National Danish Bowling Team. Our two sports specialists are going to help us explore the tactical preparation behind the bowler’s game.

Nina, You work with many national athletes from all sports including swimming, shooting and para athletes, what issues would you say are unique to our bowlers?

The bowlers actually share many of the same issues that any other athlete would face. They face the pressure of performance that is associated with any major championship and they face the pressure that comes from making a living out of the successes that are earned on the lanes. They need to find their focus on the field just as any sportsman does. What is unique to the bowler is that the mental part of the game plays a much larger role.

What affect does the pressure you mentioned have on competition?

Bowlers face extreme pressures as any professional sportsman or woman does. Elite sport requires a lot of time, practice and dedication. The life sacrifices and self-discipline needed to perform a sport at the highest level are huge, if athletes don’t succeed than all these sacrifices lose meaning. This pressure translates to the nervousness a bowler feels when they are about to throw the ball, that nervous energy can interfere with their concentration and effect their game.

Frederik, you know this pressure very well and I believe this has interfered with you both on and off the lanes. Can you let us know your experience with pressure and how Sports Psychology has helped you with this?

Simply put – The use of a sports psychologist has saved my career as an athlete! After a couple of very tough seasons with only bad results and low self-esteem, I started to realize the importance of being in-balance both on and off the lanes. I learned that no matter how hard or how many times I trained, I was still not able to deliver the shots that I wanted in competition. My brain was blocking my physical game and it was the fear of failure that went all through my body whenever I bowled. Not only did it impact my results as a bowler, but it filled me with guilt and insecurity off the lanes.

The realization that I have two personas, me as a bowler and me as person, has been a critical factor to my successes lately. Once I learned to administer the balance between the two personas, then I could suddenly let go of the fear and start to play my best.

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Nina, what techniques do you to teach in order to overcome some of this pressure and nervousness in competition?

I teach the bowlers to respect and deal with their feelings. They must recognize the fear, the pressure and the anxiety and accept it. I work on teaching focus tricks such as contacting the ball and becoming present within the moment. If you don’t fight against it, you make the problem smaller.

A question for both Frederik & Nina, what is the Sports Psychology training schedule like for a bowler and why?

Frederik: I have been working with sports psychologists since I was very young. In the beginning I only utilized them when things were going really wrong but today my psychology schedule has become much more frequent and I use it as a tool to provide optimal preparation for competition. As we speak I work with a sports psychologist from Team Denmark in preparation for the upcoming European Men’s Championships and we talk approximately every three weeks or so.

Nina: The frequency often depends on the issue as Frederik stated. The bowlers have both short and long focus periods, if the problem is an ongoing issue then I will work with them perhaps every second or third week throughout the year. If the problem is short focused then we tend to work more regularly leading up to major competitions. I often travel to the event but I will not work with the athletes on the day of competition -on competition day they need to have space to do their own routines and prepare themselves.

Thank you Frederik & Nina for this short insight into your psych work within the sport. We wish you both and the National Danish Bowling Team the best successes at the European Men’s Championships.

Frederik and Nina are currently in Aalborg, Denmark for the European Men’s Championships 2015.

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For more information on the European Men’s Championships please see emc2015.eu  For more information on World Bowling or World Bowling’s events please see
the website worldbowling.org or contact:

Megan Tidbury, PR & Marketing Director – World Bowling

Telephone: +41 78 830 3651

Email: megan@worldbowling.org