Bowler's Reference
The Pre-Shot Routine

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Before Stepping on to the Approach

Remember the times when you have gotten set to bowl, only to become distracted with a noise, or catch someone out of the corner of your eye, 2 lanes over, starting before you?

Did you stop, reset and restart your pre-shot routine or try and throw your ball anyway, even though your timing, subconsciously, has now been thrown off?  Well, every sport faces a similar issue.  Every sport has developed techniques of blocking out the noise, the tension of the moment, and bringing focus to the task at hand. It is called a pre-shot routine.

The Pre-Shot Routine is actually part of the mental game of bowling. In the sports world, the mental outlook is very important for success. This is true not only in sporting events, but in all aspects of life. There are several ways to achieve this positive outlook, and much has been written.

A pre-shot routine is a set of actions or trigger thoughts you call up each time you bowl.  These actions or thoughts calm the mind, brings stability and focus into your next move, evens out your timing, and triggers your entire mindset and actions to bowl your best shot over and over again. A good pre-shot routine is just like what you see when world class athletes perform.

The Professionals Do It

Basketball players bounce the ball a certain number of times prior to their free-throw.  Tennis players bounce the ball a number of times as part of their serve.  Baseball players swing the bat a couple of times just before getting into their hitting stance.  Golfers take the same number of practice swings before actually putting the ball.  Track runners swing their arms and give a back kick before getting settled into the blocks prior to the starter's gun.  The next time you watch a sporting event, focus on the individual athlete and learn their pre-shot routine.   Why wouldn’t you expect to observe a bowler’s pre-shot routine as well?  Well, actually the better bowlers do have a pre-shot routine.

Why establish a pre-shot routine? It establishes your mental focus as well as your physical preparation for the next shot.  The pre-shot is that brief mental preparation that prepares you for each shot.

Our thought process is often distracted by random conversations (most that are pointless), unpredictable occurrences, and we tend to lose focus between each ball delivery.  We become distracted from thinking through whatever we need to do to prepare for the next shot. The pre-shot routine is effective because it is our way of regaining our focus.  And while it is an essential factor in consistent bowling, it’s as unique as our fingerprint.  Individual pre-shot routines differ as well, and are tailored to assist in establishing a calm, consistent recovery from distractions and a refocused concentration on how you will perform your next ball delivery.

We all have daily routines.  I have a routine when I rise up in the morning, another when I prepare for the day, and still other routines as I move through each daily task.  I return home, eat, rest and bowl, each with a familiar routine attached.  I move though each routine as though it were simply a part of who I am, and how I approach life.  We even have familiar routines in our conversations and personal interactions.  We speak differently to our boss, our spouse, people at work, and even strangers, each in a familiar manner that identifies how we conduct life. 

It would be safe to say that most folks have unique routines allowing them to remain relaxed and comfortable as they approach life.  So what about bowling?  Wouldn’t it be great to feel that relaxed and fluid motion when you are executing a delivery? 

A routine, a pre-shot routine, enhances the probability your body will execute your delivery as it has been trained to do.  After a period, you won’t even notice you’re doing it.   

The pre-shot routine calms you physically, helps renew your focus, and minimizes distractions that often ruin your delivery.

Establishing a pre-shot routine should enhance and not complicate your bowling.  The pre-shot should be simple, meaningful and calming.  A lengthy pre-shot can actually be detrimental if you “over-think” the shot. 

Perform your routine prior to each ball delivery.  The pre-shot routine begins as you move toward the ball rack, and before you pick up your ball. It should only involve triggers that move you toward making a consistent ball delivery.  We’ve seen pre-shot routines in almost every sport. 

Let’s look at typical pre-shot components you may consider:

  • Recognize your surroundings.  What is happening around you as you step toward the approach such as a split on another lane or pointless chatter should be tuned out?

  • Check the pins to ensure they are all there and on spot

  • Prepare your ball towel, folding and unfolding it before picking up the ball.

  • Take slower, and deeper breaths

  • Visualize.  Take a mental note what adjustments you will make for this shot.  Cement your strategy to gain a mental image of the next ball delivery DO NOT wait until you are on the approach to do this.

  • Relax your shoulders

  • Dry your hand with your rosin bag or towel.

  • Dry your hand with the air dryer to ensure dry fingers are placed in the ball.

  • Move behind your target line where you plan to establish your stance

  • Pick up the ball with both hands, and cradle the ball in your non-bowling arm. 

  • Wipe off excess oil from your ball.

  • Ensure your ball is at the correct height, and your hand is in the position that reflects the ball reaction you intend.

  • Step on the approach and set up your stance as you designed it for this shot

  • Look at your target, zone or target points, and picture the path you want your ball to take

  • Repeat a positive thought as you visualize where and whatever you want to do.  Examples: “Steady Speed”, “Wait for the ball”, “Stay Aggressive”, “Follow Through”, “A Good Stance and a Good Finish”, etc.

  • Pre-shot triggers should be productive; it does matter that you do it every time and you are aware of what you're doing.  Some pre-shot routines may even be humorous or part of a mental game you play with your competitors.  The pre-shot routine is a discipline that leads toward fun bowling.

  • Concentrate.  Clear Your Mind, your focus is on your bowling, and you are calm.

  • Take a deep breath and exhale, then bowl!

Being prepared mentally on and off the lanes is THE most critical phase of bowling. What good does it do if the only thing you are thinking about on the approach has nothing to do with your next ball delivery?  The idea of a pre-shot routine is to better ensure a positive outlook; a technique to achieve success in whatever your next task is.  This is true with bowling, most any other sport or any other aspect of a successful life.  Bowling, after all, is a great place to learn how to focus, how to perform well, how to approach each shot in life, and how to interact with those who enter your life.


We talk about heaven being so far away. It is within speaking distance to those who belong there.

Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.


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