In this insightful series of psychology content, Tim Wyatt provides you with everything you need to get the mental edge over your opponent in bowls. Tim is working closely with Team England ahead of the Lawn Bowls at Birmingham 2022.
Today’s content is all about how you can control yourself during key moments:
Four Performance Skills To Deal With Pressure
There’s no getting around it. When you play any sport, there is going to be pressure to perform. Every athlete from Serena Williams to Ben Stokes has their own toolkit of mental skills to assist them to perform at the highest level. So, we’re straight into it. Here are 4 skills for you to consider to deal with the pressure of performing:
Let’s start with something you do throughout the day, that is readily available to everyone and completely free! Yes, focusing and regulating your breathing is a skill to help you manage performance pressure. Ever noticed someone’s breathing when they are stressed and panicking? It’s short, sharp and from the mouth. Practice regulating your breath by breathing through your nose, slowing it down and exhaling for longer than the inhale. Try box breathing e.g., breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4, breath out for 4, and hold for 4. Repeat as many times as you need.
Defusion means to create space from thoughts. When we’re fused with thoughts, they tend to control our attention and we buy into them, allowing our thoughts to override our ability for clarity. Some common thoughts that everyone is fused with are “I’m not good enough,” “I always lose to this team,” “I’m playing so bad, I knew this would happen.” When we see thoughts just as thoughts and not truths, we have the ability to unhook from them and respond to the situation appropriately. A simple tip – before each thought say, “I’m noticing I’m having that thought that…” then decide if that thought is helpful to follow.
Communication is a key skill in bowls. When the heat is on, it is the last end, communication needs to be clear and concise, so information is delivered in an effective manner. Delivering key messages at important times can influence momentum. The skill to positive communication is to ask for feedback and clarity if need be, acknowledge messages you receive, and find out how your teammates want to be spoken too. When you know that, you can put it into practice when the game is on the line, giving you the best chance to bowl your best.
This skill is about knowing what is important to you as a bowler and how you show that in the tough moments. What qualities do you want to show while you play bowls? How would you like others to describe you as a bowler? Hard working, fair, focused, competitive, team-oriented are some examples. It important to remain in contact with your values when there is pressure in a match. Acting in line with your values will help you guide your decision making and give you the opportunity to absorb pressure and commit to value-driven behaviour. Answer the two questions above as a start and see if you can show your values next time you are on the rink.
The pressure of competition will always show up for you, but with the four skills above, you will have a better chance to manage your performance. So, breathe slow, create space from your thoughts, talk clearly and act in line with your values – easy as that, right?! Give it a go and get practicing.
Tim is a sport and exercise psychologist. Originally from New Zealand, Tim is now based in the East Midlands and currently works in other environments such as women’s professional cricket, premier league academy football, motorsport and athletics. His interest in sport psychology are helping individuals and teams manage performance and group dynamics under pressure. Tim’s new area of interest is applying sport psychology principles in the business and performance worlds.