The Mental Game of Bowling (Toughness and Confidence)

When people think of bowling they generally tend to associate the sport with a low impact, physical activity.

While bowing is indeed a physical game, what people often fail to realize is it’s also an extremely mental game. There is a mental game of bowling that the great players master.

While the goal of bowling is to roll an eight to sixteen-pound ball down a sixty-foot lane to knock down ten pins, this physical feat can only be accomplished with mental strategy and fortitude.

A lot of different mental elements come in to play during bowling and knowing how to keep a clear head and adjust your game is paramount to growing as a player.

By acknowledging and improving the mental component of bowling you can improve your bowling skill overall.

Knowledge is Power

When they say knowledge is power, it definitely holds true for bowling. Many bowlers are self-taught and therefore do not know different factors of the game that could be affecting their scores.

By arming yourself with knowledge of the rules, tricks, and techniques of the game you can work to be more prepared for bowling and know what you need to practice in order to elevate your game to the next level.

For example, many bowlers start off not knowing a thing about oil patterns. Oil patterns are applications of different levels of saturation that are laid down on the bowling lane to protect the wood from the constant friction of bowling balls.

These levels directly affect how your ball reacts as it rolls down the lane, so if you know how to figure out and maneuver your ball through a pattern your knowledge is directly affecting your scoring ability.

Another example would be how to throw a hook. Beginner bowlers generally have no idea that they can change up how they throw their ball to create a ‘hook’ as it is called.

This hook curves the ball (with proper aiming) towards a sweet spot called the ‘pocket,’ a space behind the head pin and in front of either pin two or three.

By aiming for this pocket and throwing a well-placed hook, bowlers can expect to see a lot more pin action generated from their throws, resulting in higher scores. By gaining knowledge of these techniques bowlers are able to apply that knowledge to practice and gain better scores once again.

The Mental Game of Bowling – Where to Begin?

With so many different ways to affect and elevate your bowling game, how do you even know what to look for?

Talking with fellow bowlers is a good place to start, just simply ask them about how they learned to bowl and what they watch out for in bowling. These conversations will help give you a general idea of what to look for as you start researching.

Online searches will also help you uncover new information and techniques, helpful websites (such as this one) have plenty of topics and articles that help you find new ways to improve your game.

Control Your Thoughts, Control Your Game

When bowling how you tackle the mental challenges in the game is key in overcoming trials and improving your skill level. In order to improve at bowling, a lot of practice is required.

Even if you know the mechanics of a skill you’re are trying, applying them to real-world use can be a long, sometimes frustrating endeavor. This is where the ability to control your thinking and modifying your attitude really shines through.

Overcoming Failure

If you fail, and heavens know you will, it is important to not be discouraged. Learning new skills in bowling takes a lot of dedication and practice, you need to hold firm and not give up when learning new techniques because the payoff, in the end, will be worth it! For example, the hook bowling we talked about earlier.

It can sometimes take people months of practice to get a handle on hook bowling, it can be a difficult skill to master!

The challenge is well worth it though, since those who switch to hook bowling boast of higher averages and better scores. Hook bowling also helps give the bowler some variety in how to handle pin formation variations. Being able to


Persistence and the ability to handle failure work closely together. When you fail, the ability to get back up and try again, or walk away and try again later, shows a persistence that will help you get far in both bowling and in life.

In bowling you need the ability to fall and get back up again, to keep trying and learning, or you will never improve past beginning bowling.

Looking at the Positives

Being able to reflect and appreciate your victories also helps keep you in the right frame of mind. Some techniques or skills in bowling can take a while to learn, so it is important to celebrate the victories you learn along away and the small goals you achieve.

“I didn’t get it quite right today but I’m a lot closer than when I started!” Simple phrases like that help boost your mental mindset and help remind you of the hard work and progress you’ve made.

It may sound a little cheesy, but positive self-talk has been proven to help athletes perform well in various sports, bowling included!

Confidence is Key

When we talk about confidence, we don’t mean swaggering your way onto the lane bragging about how you’re the best, that’s just impolite.

Instead, we mean working to gain mental confidence in yourself that will help you perform well under pressure. Being confident and comfortable in your bowling will help you get far in the bowling world!

Confidence is bowling ties into three main traits, knowledge, preparation and experience. By improving these traits, either individually or all together, you become a more competent, confident bowler who is comfortable with their skill level and the sport.

Having that confidence goes a long way when you are trying out a new technique, bowling in a league or even bowling at a tournament.


As stated earlier, knowledge is power in the sport of bowling.

Knowing what new techniques can help elevate your game, being able to gain information on how to practice to obtain new skills or simply knowing how the game is played brings you a sense of security and confidence as you move forward with your bowling.

This security helps push you into higher levels of bowling, presenting new challenges that you are able to tackle with conviction and drive.


Preparation is huge in bowling, as well as in any other activity you want to take part in. By being prepared you ready yourself for an assortment of situations in which you will have to problem solve and adjust your style of bowling for.

The best ways to get yourself ready for bowling is to practice, communicate with other bowlers and research.

By practicing you get yourself ready for different oil patterns, pin formations, and bowling ball speed requirements. This helps you be prepared for whatever may come your way in an actual game.

Communicating with other bowlers helps you immerse yourself into the world of bowling fully and you can pick up tips and tricks from what other bowlers have learned.

Finally, researching different techniques in bowling, looking for solutions to problems you are having or being able to learn how to practice and adjust a new technique for your style can help you get a better handle on the game and bowl better all around.

By being prepared, you will give yourself more confidence to think on your feet and handle whatever strategic situation this game throws at you.


Experience is perhaps one of the best ways you can boost your confidence in bowling. As you practice and learn more about bowling your knowledge and ability increases and improves.

You can refine certain skills, improve averages and gain new techniques with practice and experience.

You can also learn how to switch between these techniques, handle different lane conditions, aim in different ways and adjust your approach and throw to adapt as needed.

Having this experience and skill arsenal helps you gain confidence in your bowling skills and helps you grow as a bowler.

By being comfortable with your abilities you can concentrate better on how to adapt your game to given situations versus being worried on if you can adapt.

Through experience, you can lose the fear of not knowing what to do and be able to just make automatic adjustments.

Know What to Improve

Striving for improvement is a big mental part of bowling. There are always several areas of your mental bowling game that you can strive to improve in, each with different benefits and perks.

By sharpening these areas you can see yourself become more of a well-rounded player and improve in your game.


If you don’t try to challenge yourself and gain new skills, or work on the skills that you are weak in, then your game will come to a standstill.

If you work to improve a technique you are already good at, your game will improve a bit but you won’t see a significant change in your game.

If you take your weaknesses and strive to work on those, no matter how difficult, you will become a more well-rounded player.


By increasing your mental focus you can sharpen your ability to adjust your game, increase your skills, and keep your head in the game. Besides focus helping you learn new skills and techniques it can help you with high-pressure scenarios.

Tournaments and league games can create these high tension situations, with eager eyes watching your every move. Having the ability to retain focus in these high-pressure scenarios will help you retain your predictable throws and stay on top of your game.

Muscle Memory

A goal you want as a bowler is to obtain ‘muscle memory’. This is where your body has become so accustomed to the movements of your stance, approach and throw that it becomes second nature.

This secondary nature allows you to move through your throw without consciously thinking about how your body is moving, allowing for more predictable, consistent throws.

Your throws no longer become a conscious, step by step walkthrough, but rather a concise set of physical actions that your brain remembers to take.

One of the worst mistakes a bowler can make is overthinking the mechanics of their game.

Relying on your muscle memory is key to predictable games and high averages, when you overthink your throw, perhaps over adjusting or questioning your mechanics, you lose focus or get thrown off your game.

While it’s okay to shift and change your mechanics, be sure to retrain your muscle memory for permanent changes before big games and retain focus, don’t overthink it!

Many professional bowlers talk about how retaining focus and keeping consistent high averages come down to allowing your muscle memory to take over and not get bunkered down with worrying about adjustments, going on ‘autopilot’ so to speak.

It will help you tune out environmental factors and maintain better scores.

The physical aspects of bowling are important; strength, stamina, and flexibility all help provide powerful, well-aimed throws.

Now while the physical part of bowling is important, the mental aspects are equally as crucial. Since many bowlers fail to realize that mental skills and strategy are such a prominent component of bowling they set themselves up for frustration at their inability to improve.

Training the mental aspects of your game will help you elevate your abilities to new levels. By strengthening your knowledge of bowling you are able to find new techniques and skills you can put into practice.

By improving your muscle memory you are able to access your body’s autopilot to gain consistent games. Improving focus brings sharpened mental clarity for adjustments and pressure and confidence gains you control and comfort.

All of these things work together to help you enjoy and play the great sport of bowling, as well as elevate your skills and present new challenges.

Take the time to practice using your mental skills and you’ll see an improvement in not only the mental components of bowling but your overall game as well.

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