Mental pre-shot routine in lawn bowl to deal with performance anxiety
In sports that require precision like lawn ball, bowling, archery, golf… it is important to stay consistent mentally to avoid performance anxiety. One of the most popular methods that sport psychologists use to train lawn ball athletes is pre-shot routine.
Part of a good pre-shot routine is to have a series of brief mind/body connection to bring athletes in the zone for optimum performance. I propose below a method with 4 steps focusing on: concentration, relaxation, visualization and affirmation in that order.
1. Concentration: using a verbal, visual or physical cue to switch on your routine. You might say in your mind “focus” or imagine your coach says to you. You can also imagine a big banner hanging right at the end of your rink with a bold, huge letter “focus”. Other athletes may use a gesture, like clean your ball or blow in your fingers as a signal to stay focus.
2. Relaxation: Take 2 to 3 slow deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Diaphragmatic breathing is highly suggested here, but it requires some practice. Otherwise, you can imagine a relaxing image or recall a piece of calm music. By using deep breathing, athletes will be able to slow down the heart rate, and reduce their anxiety level.
3. Visualization: Imagine yourself perform a perfect shot, with your stance, stride, swing and release all synchronized and smoothly operated. As the ball leaves your hand, it travels in your pre-determined trajectory and ends right next to the jack ball. It is crucial to visualize a dynamic, coordinated body movement that leads to a clean delivery and great shot.
4. Affirmation: Say to yourself either a performance cue to remind you of the technique: “my swing is smooth and easy”, “great timing, great release”; or a confidence building statement: “I will do this”, “I am a great bowler” …
While this mental pre-shot routine is listed in 4 separated steps, it is possible to merge some steps together. For example, the banner is viewed while you take in one deep breath, you visualize a perfect form with another deep breath. You can also insert some music with your affirmation statement. If the routine is interrupted at any point, take a step back and restart from the beginning of the sequence.
It is vital that you use this pre-shot routine in practice and familiarize yourself with all the steps. Ideally, it will become a second nature to you and guide your mind to go on autopilot during competition. This pre-shot routine can be a useful tool to deal with competition pressure and fear of failure once you master it.