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Thinking and Personality Traits of Champions - The Top Eight

This is an excerpt from Bowling Psychology by Dean Hinitz.

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”


Derek Jeter, five-time baseball World Series champion


The following list might be considered eight of the top traits for winning personalities. If you already possess any one of them, that’s great. If you’re not strong in an area, decide whether you could make a desired trait part of who you are.

  1. High motivation and commitment. In some ways we could begin and end here. Without this quality a bowler will stop training as soon as the going gets too rough. When you have true commitment, you have the world. You’ll work through fatigue, injury, disappointment, momentary failure, self-doubt, or any other setback. Your intention is your four-wheel drive. If you have it, you just keep on going.

  2. Goal oriented. It has been said that you can’t hit your target with your eyes closed. Great bowlers are up to something. They have a plan, and they follow through to make sure that it happens. Reaching for the stars is wonderful. Pick a star. Now pick a strategy to get to that star - and follow through.

  3. Optimism and positive expectations. This quality is an essential part of being able to see the upside, the learning, and the growth in every training and competition experience. Without this winning trait, there are so many pitfalls on the road to winning, and on the road to winning again, that lesser individuals cannot keep traveling.

    It doesn’t take much imagination to come up with all the things that can feel like setbacks in your body, in training, and in competing. Winners understand this. They act as if the bowling universe gives them exactly what they need in order to strengthen, learn, develop as a person, and become a champion. Losers tend to feel that life has ganged up on them. Are you a winner?

  4. The right kind of perfectionism. Typically, perfectionism can be crippling, with its overemphasis on doing everything exactly right. Certain kinds of perfectionism can cause overthinking, self-punishment, and a negative emotional life.

    The winning kind of perfectionists still maintain high standards. Often they like to be well organized, but not always. Most important, they don’t sweat mistakes or missed shots, and they don’t mentally self-punish. This kind of winner does not get overly concerned about the judgments or criticisms of others. They know their own standards, and they know that the critics don’t roll the ball - they themselves roll it.

    Champions use perfectionism to drive their practice plans and practice shots. They suspend perfection demands once the competition lights come on, shifting into the mode of bringing maximum effort to shots.

  5. A striking ability to focus and concentrate. Way beyond most competitors, athletic champions can zero in on key performance elements. They are uncanny in their capacity to remain untouched by distractions.

    A term for this trait might be called “quiet mind.” The bowler has one point of relaxed, clear focus. Time stands still. Nothing outside the moment at hand matters. And the critical point is this - champions stay awake and aware immediately after shots. This allows them to dispassionately sense and see what has happened and to make adjustments for the next shot.

  6. The ability to handle virtually any stressor that comes up during training or competition. Superiorly trained soldiers learn that all battle plans change once the enemy is engaged. They know that they will deal with situations as they occur and change.

    Winners have a sense of confidence about their military-like capacity to adapt, improvise, and survive anything that comes their way. They keep anxiety at bay, have excellent levels of emotional control, and don’t let any of the storms of bowling life overwhelm them. A winning trait is to be an athlete who’s able to say, “I’m even better under pressure.” With the game on the line, a champion wants the ball in her hand.

  7. A winning personality that includes mental toughness. Mental toughness can be defined in many ways. Think of a long-distance runner, a boxer, or a veteran bowler. In any one of these cases, how would you define the athlete’s toughness? Dealing with pain? Falling down and getting back up? Getting dominated by opponents and not giving in?

    No matter what happens, the mentally tough just keep coming. They might not be the most gifted athletes in the world. But they’re the ones with blood on their faces, mud in their hair, and tears streaking their cheeks . . . and still going on. Others might shake their heads in disbelief, but when the dust clears, the mentally tough are still standing.

  8. Intelligence quotient. Sports intelligence is a newly recognized aspect of a winning personality. A person can be a genius, or simply really smart in many things. She can be smart in math, reading, music, problem solving, or other areas. Being bowling smart means you have the ability to accurately analyze your own performance, create and innovate on the lanes, and be an astute student of the game. Bowlers who have sport intelligence can learn even more readily from instruction.

Learn more about Bowling Psychology.