Coaching concepts: leaving the Old School behind?

I saw a comment on the recent 5 Pin Universe podcast episode from Cathy Davidson musing about mentoring for new coaches or even for experienced coaches whose ideas are, shall we say… stuck in the past. I love this idea. Maybe we can start here with some fundamentals.

What are some modern ideas or resources that you’d like to recommend to newly-minted or coaches looking for something new to learn about? They don’t have to be recent, but rather something that challenges or supplants the Old School thinking that has pervaded our sport.

What are some parts of Old School thinking that you believe remain relevant in today’s game, in athlete development, and in achieving high performance?

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I’ll start with two items:

  • I want coaches that communicate their intentions and account for their choices. We don’t have to agree, but I need to understand, and I don’t believe in “My way or the highway”.
  • The Inner Game, which is not new, but is still widely overlooked and misunderstood. Find any YouTube interview with Timothy Gallwey to get a feeling for how this approach works. It has helped me and it helps some of the kids I coach–at least the ones who haven’t been overly-influenced by Old School parental figures.

Long one, I broke it up into 3 sections, I’m very passionate about coaching & psychology :sweat_smile:


I want coaches that dont just have athletes bowl games to practice.

Imagine if Hockey or Football teams just played full matches at practices and thats it.

A practice should be about breaking elements of the game down and figuring out what individual element you should improve. Setting SMART goals to improve them & reach new heights.

My coaching is all about taking the weakest aspect of your game, working on it until its your strength & repeat. (Im not perfect nor will I ever be, I am consistently using this even on my own self as a coach)

Weaknesses / elements to work on can vary from aspects on the lane like precision, accuracy, ball speed, angle of entry; on the approach like timing, step speed, on paper like spare conversion, middle hits, pinning; to mental pressure handling, pregame, self-talk, etc


I want coaches that coach the sport & not just their way of approaching the sport. Everyone is different, different minds, different bodys, no 2 styles should be the same, and when coaching you shouldnt be forcing your style on to someone else.

Learn the basics & how to coach them. Dont just learn your style & only know how to coach it.

Learn to understand your athletes, and how they interpret language & process things. Everyones brains think different dont assume what works for one will work for all.


Finally I want coaches that take the mental side of bowling just as if not more seriously than the physical side.

Learn about how the brain & mind affects your body, your movement & your sucess.

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I take so many of these things for granted, I’d forget to mention them. :wink:

I’d like to spend more time on the mental game with the kids I coach. I have given them bits and pieces of it as I’ve gone along, but I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down with them and guide them through a meditation session or a mental rehearsal session or to really dig into helpful self-talk. Even so, I’ve been feeding them a little bit of the Inner Game and they’ve responded quite well.

My coaching is all about taking the weakest aspect of your game, working on it until its your strength & repeat.

I have taken an Appreciative Inquiry approach to my game–take what’s going well and amplify it. I have also at times framed my work as shoring up weaknesses, but trying to turn a glaring weakness into a strength intrigues me. I need to think about how to use that.

Learn the basics & how to coach them. Dont just learn your style & only know how to coach it.

What does that look like in your mind? Could you share an example?

What, specifically, are some of the parts of Old School thinking? All I know is the way I think is the way I think, I’m not sure what things I do are old school and what’s more contemporary. Is there anything that’s more universally discarded? I personally hate “just throw the ball”.

Agreed. I feel throwing games is an easy and lazy way to make practice pass by. I’ve been guilty of doing it for myself.

I’ve intentionally skipped over coaches in a selection for people who have a very one track mind to approach to coaching. I think seeing each individual on a team is critical.

My mental game went unworked on for so long, the catch up I’m playing is challenging and frankly, defeating at times. I’ve made leaps and bounds physically, and with my mental game already lagging behind, oof…there’s a lot of unique challenges.
And I love psych! I love the mind, I love learning how we work through things, how each unique approach impacts things. My undergrad is in psych, I took sports psych, I’ve attended a number of online workshops on the mind and the game. I was once told I had to focus on the physical first. I will never preach that belief. They definitely go hand in hand.

Some ideas that come to mind. You’ll notice they’re all ones I’d like to discard:

  • just throw the ball/don’t think
  • leave your personal problems at home; there’s no room for that here
  • I make the decisions; I don’t owe you an explanation
  • we’re not here to resolve conflict; you just need to shut up and bowl
  • the only way to build team cohesion is for everyone to be extroverts and conspicuously sociable
  • being a team player means keeping your mouth shut and doing what’s expected of you

I’m sure there are more, but that’s enough for now. :slight_smile:

Excellent! This is precisely the kind of thing I’d like to promote discussing here. Please feel invited to start a topic on anything related to your attention to your mental game!

I actually focused on my mental game so intensely for such a long time that I needed at least one coach to tell me to ease up and switch to some physical issues for a while. :slight_smile:

Oh gosh, haha, if I knew how to start the discussion and have probing bits to start a conversation, I absolutely would (this is the perfectionist brain coming out in full force, haha).

Finding the balance IS hard and figuring out whether the problem is mental or physical can be an absolute head game in and of itself. For example: I tend to use the Approach app and I was using it this weekend during a two day tournament. Day 1, bowling well? Awesome. Day 2, it was like a reminder of how I wasn’t doing what I wanted and was causing me to focus way too much on results. It resulted in trying to find all the physical things I possibly wasn’t doing right. It took until game 5 for me to say “I’m not going to track for a bit” and when I stopped, the results clearly showed it was mental.

I think I want it to be a physical issue for me because those are often a quicker fix :wink: but I have to be consious to hit pause and explore if that’s really the issue.

I can relate. Here’s a question to start: what did you learn that led you to conclude that “I must focus on the physical before the mental” is bad advice?

This me.

I spent years assuming that all my problems were physical and I tied myself in knots trying to fix them all. Now I feel like I have a significantly more balanced view, so that when I explore physical issues, such as I am now, I don’t feel the same platespinning feeling I used to feel.

What mental mistakes do you think you were making during the first four games that became apparent afterwards? And what signals did you notice just before you concluded that your mistakes had been mental?

Oddly, I don’t see physical issues as quicker fixes, but I do see them as clearer and more obvious problems, and so this becomes for me a case of looking for my keys where the light is better, instead of where I probably dropped them.

I can’t agree with this more. Communication is critical.

I don’t coach YBC anymore, or anyone week to week, which is very different than coaching for a tournament like Masters (or the Open) where you only have a few weeks to prepare.

We’re not going to have a lot of time on the lanes together, so a big part of the process is communicating. Learning what you like, and don’t like, from a coach. Where do you feel comfortable in the lineup. How do you respond to pressure?

While I’m spending time watching and learning the shot you throw, so I can help you throw “your shot”, I’m trying to build bonds throughout the team. I’m trying to prepare you for what to expect, getting veterans to share their experiences so the newcomers are prepared for things that might happen.

If you have thoughts, I want to hear them. If you have questions about why I am or am not doing something during practice, or the events, please ask.

I don’t know everything, and I want to learn. I can’t do that without communication.

At the end of the day, hopefully we all learned something and are better prepared for the next time.