Sunday, 1 March 2015


My wife let out a funny little noise when she learned of my latest topic. Something like strangled laughter. 'You? Concentrate! Don't make me laugh!'

It's true I don't have the greatest focus. Get bored easily. Have lots of things on the go. Always reading at least two library books. So for 2015 I'm going to concentrate on... concentrating.

Towards the end of last season I began to realise the importance of concentration. Got to both key men's competition semifinals, the two bowls singles and four bowls singles. If you win either of these you represent the club in the County competitions the following year. And the chance to progress to National finals.

In both matches, up against two of the club's best bowlers, I managed to push them to the limit. Was in with a chance of winning... until short bowls undid me. CONCENTRATION!

Doesn't matter how well all the other elements are going. Might have found the perfect mark. Could be judging the length just right. Tactics working well. But if the mind isn't focused, all those things won't work together.

It's taken me my first two seasons to get some sort of consistency in delivering a bowl. And I'm surprised to read improving concentration follows the same process of repetition.

Of course you can't ignore the people you are playing with. Bowls is a social game and you don't want to appear miserable. And there is no shortage of other distractions. Weather, surroundings, nature and other matches. But you spend only a small proportion of the game delivering the bowls. So makes sense to allow ten seconds before each delivery to concentrate.

Here's what I found in reading up the advice of sports professionals...

There's no 'On' switch
Concentration isn't something you just turn on for an important match. You have to apply before every delivery. Friendlies, solo practise sessions, social roll ups, the lot.

No use playing with a relaxed attitude, rolling the bowls with only a general idea where they're going. It will then be much harder to switch the concentration on for important matches. Focus has got to become the standard.

Pre-performance routine
This isn't about wearing a lucky pair of socks. The aim is to control the environment and trigger concentration. Exactly the same as grooving delivery of the bowl.

So to get that positive focus, stand on the mat, raise the bowl, keep silent and concentrate.

Narrow focus
Take deep breaths to slow the heart down. Use trigger words for the goal while deep breathing, such as 'line & length'. Block out distractions. Relax. Focus.

Make it a physical as well as mental routine.

Guided imagery
You only achieve what you believe. So use visualisation and imagery. Think of a previous successful shot you played to recreate those emotional feelings of success. Imagining the shot you are about to play.  Picture what you want to happen.

Analyse every shot
Study every delivery all the way to a stop. Memorise that track and visualise it again before the next delivery. Notice any imperfections in the green and work with or around them.

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