THE difference between the good players, the very good players, and the great players, is the mental game. But what exactly is this mysterious thing called the "mental game”?
Many of the good players and very good players possess similar physical talents to the great players, but they often fall short with their accomplishments. Simply put, the physical game - in any sport - is how the athlete performs based on their overall talent, ability, potential, skills, and preparation. The mental game however is a totally different animal. This element of the "package" is HOW the athlete thinks.
We have all heard about how the great players are the ones who work the hardest. They are the first ones to practice, and the last ones to leave. But, there is a lot more to it than that. Desire, dedication, determination, self-control, focus, concentration, confidence, self-esteem, positive thinking, goals, visualization, knowledge, and a host of other things, must be mastered. The following is how the late great Earl Anthony “mastered” the game of bowling.
One time Earl Anthony was being interviewed after one of his early victories by a reporter. It was in the early 1970's, and the reporter wanted to be controversial about the lefty-righty situation that had run rampant in the late 1960's. He said to Earl, "This victory establishes you as one of the best lefties on Tour. Are you happy with that assessment?" Earl looked him right in the eye and said, "I don't know anything about that, my goal is to be the best bowler."
There was another time I remember that showed exactly how the man thought. It was 1974 and he had just been named the Bowler of the Year. A press party was arranged and the award was being presented to him in his office. The wall was cleared and the photographer was going to take a picture of Earl putting up the plaque. Earl was standing toward the corner of the wall with the plaque, and someone in the crowd told him to “put the plaque in the center of the wall.” Earl replied, “No, this one is going here, and the rest of them will go across the wall.” Earl was right, the other Five Bowler of the Year Awards eventually filled up the entire wall.
Previously, I had written a series of books called the “Final Phase”. They were instructional books to help bowlers learn about the great sport of bowling. For one of these books I interviewed Earl and posed this question this question to him; "Earl, in my opinion, you were the greatest bowler in the world. You totally dominated the PBA Tour for more than ten years. What do you feel was the formula-for-success that you enjoyed?”
Earl’s answer was, "In my opinion, success is the result of hard work, dedication, intelligence, selfishness, and some luck. How hard you work, and how much you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals, will determine to a great degree your level of success. Natural talent is a wonderful gift, and to be the very best you must have a lot of God-given talent. However, you must work hard to develop that talent.”
Earl continued on to say, “To be a winner also takes a strong mind. You must be able to focus your concentration level to a fine point, and achieve a level of confidence in your ability that is unshakable under the most extreme pressure. Most winners develop an air of arrogance, which is a by-product of the confidence that they have in their ability. The reason I was successful, was my ability to understand and develop my mental game, as well as the endless hours of practice on my physical game. There was also a certain amount of fear-of-failure that was tempered by a small degree of courage that I used as a motivator to let me continue to fight for my goals, despite many setbacks, and a willingness to put bowling, and my desire to be the very best, above all other things in my life."
Those three interviews alone, tells you volumes about why I thought Earl was the very best. To this day I still get chills and goose bumps when I read them.