Common Competition Strategy Traps and How to Avoid Them

Common Competition Strategy Traps and How to Avoid Them
Joe Slowinski, USBC Gold Coach

As a coach, I often read materials in sport science journals as well as review content from other sports.  Through such a professional development practice, I am always exposed to new insight into coaching and sport performance enhancement.  Recently, one article caught my attention in regard to applying the content to lane play planning and competition strategies planning.  In“Be aware of Potential Traps in Strategy,” the author shares nine common strategy traps that occur in tennis competition.  Each strategy trap is one which can also occur in bowling.  Accordingly, to help coaches and players perform at a higher level, I adapt seven of these strategies and discuss these in the domain of bowling competition. 

The too complex trap

In a tournament setting, a strategy that is overly complicated can breakdown quickly when stress or anxiety is introduced due to a player feeling overwhelmed leading to forgetting the plan or being confused about the strategy.  A simplified plan with lane play, release and a bowling ball arsenal can be more effective since it is less susceptible to the tension of the tournament environment.

The ‘It worked before’ trap

Many bowlers fall prey to this thinking.  In this scenario, a player practicing on a specific pattern frequently and believes they have a plan that will ultimately be successful without the possibility of failure.  It is further burdened in the situation where a player has bowled well in a competition setting.  With the variables of lane transition based on the bowlers at a specific tournament or topography of a specific center, this is a dangerous mindset going into a tournament.  Moreover, the over-confidence with the plan prevents developing back-up plans and strategies.

The ‘Too little too late’ trap

Waiting until the practice session to develop a lane play plan is a strategy that is a recipe for major issues.  Without a plan based on the known friction of the lane surface (age or embedded friction of material), pattern length, pattern structure and oil volume, there are too many variables to not begin with a reasonable lane play strategy based on the known variables associated with the tournament venue and lane pattern.

The inflexibility trap

In such a strategy trap, a bowler or team continues to implement a plan that is failing.  Without back-up plans, the player/team is doomed to underperform.  For better lane play planning, be certain to have multiple back-ups plans in the event the initial plan is not successful.

The eternal hope trap

Similar to the inflexibility trap, in the eternal hope trap, a bowler maintains a lane play plan believing it will eventually work.  This is equally problematic as the inflexibility trap.  In such a scenario, it is often believed that the lanes will transition to benefit the player and the tournament can end without the player ever benefitting.  If a strategy is not working, utilize your bowling skills and arsenal to make quick adjustments based on what the lanes are informing you should be done.

The lack of insight trap

A bowler must have insight into his or her strengths and weaknesses as well as bowling ball arsenal.  This insight into one’s own versatility and equipment is essential to build a lane play plan that is based on one’s ability to create shapes that match-up to the tournament patterns from the beginning to the end.  Without such awareness, a lane play strategy will be either inconsistent with a player’s ability to implement in competition or will fail under the tension of the tournament setting.

The false consensus trap

There can often evolve a belief among the coaches, teams and players that a specific strategy will work for a specific lane condition scenario.  This consensus can lead to group think or a false belief in absolute success.  Specifically, due to the lane surface, oil pattern structure or topography, a strategy is not guaranteed to be successful for all players or teams due to their skill set and equipment.  In a similar but different false consensus trap, lane play planning evolves as bowlers and teams begin to emulate the practices of those who have had success in earlier rounds or qualifying blocks.  In such a dynamic evolution scenario, a large mass of bowlers and coaches belief that they can copy the lane play plan of other teams/players that was successful in earlier rounds.  Yet, due to more teams and players emulating this strategy, the lanes will transition very differently.  And, moreover, in major tournaments, as events progress, the events are bowled with more and more players on teams and events (e.g., from doubles to trios to teams).  Accordingly, lane transition is different than the initial event due to more bowlers on each lane each game.  The combination of more bowlers and more bowlers playing the same success zones will lead to major differences in lane transition and a strategy trap.

Young,  J. (2012).  Be aware of Potential Traps in Strategy.  ITF Coaching and Sport Science Review  56 (20): 6 – 8.