29 Mar Athletic Discipline: Norm Duke
Recently, I have been bowling with my daughter. My drive to be good at things I do led me to begin watching the PBA Tour. When I was growing up, my dad and I would watch bowling on ABC on Sunday’s. I always loved watching and listening to Chris Schenkle, still one of the best broadcasters ever! At the time Marshal Holman, Mike Aulby, Walter Ray Williams and Pete Weber were ruling the circuit. Just starting to come into his own was Norm Duke. If you have been following the PBA Tour, Norm just won back to back tournaments at the age of 54! This is an outstanding feat considering two weeks ago he beat the best in the world, Jason Belmonte for his 39th PBA Tour victory. This week Norm beat the 22-year-old phenom Anthony Simonson for his 40th victory. Norm becomes only the 3rd bowler ever to achieve 40 wins in his career.
While watching these events, I have thoroughly enjoyed Norm Duke’s style. He has a completely different aura about him compared to his competitors. Norm’s focused is unmatched. It’s not that the other bowlers are not concentrating. It’s not that they do not have a pre-shot routine. It’s not that they don’t have their own competitive style. Norm is just emanating competitive discipline at the highest level. I am going to list the habits I notice in Norm that I believe are making him so successful this late in his career.
Norm is focused while bowling his ball, while waiting for his ball to return and while he is resting in between frames. Occasionally, Norm will engage the fans but it’s very brief. Compare this to Kyle Troup, who I love, he engages the crowd using his hair pick or checks his phone in between frames. I am not taking anything away from Kyle. He is great for the sport of bowling! His style is just different and it’s what works for him. But it’s hard to argue with the style of a guy who is one of the greatest ever. Norm buries himself in the game which gives him the best chance for higher states of consciousness that produce flow, peak performance and peak experiences.
2. Physical Fitness
At 54, Norm is as lean as a teenager. Just by looking at him you can tell he eats well and exercises regularly. Athletes normally do not eat well until they become professionals. Nowadays athletes have personal cooks and team owners employ cooks at the facilities. Bowlers don’t have all the luxuries of the higher revenue sports like football, baseball and basketball. This means Norm takes care of himself. The announcers were marveling at Norm’s athleticism as he was trying to avoid a foul at the Indianapolis Open. Norm has suffered a bunch of injuries throughout his career, but he has learned from his trainers. He takes great care of himself and he knows it gives him the best opportunity to perform at a high level.
3. Mentally Tough
I have noticed how Norm accepts the pins he is dealt. Randy Peterson calls Norm “The Iceman” because of his clutch play. One reason why he has been so successful is because he hardly ever misses the pocket. When the straggler pins hang around after a perfect roll, Norm gives the pins a look and gets back to work. When his opponents are ripping strike after strike, Norm just focuses on his own game. His steely intensity and perseverance intimidate his competitors. I have watched other members of the PBA Tour get wound up in their misses. Their body language changes, they begin to give into the uncomfortable feeling that comes with missing their lines. They begin to make comments and jokes about their game which provides an easy way out of the stick-to-itiveness required no matter your struggles. They complain about the ball and they often refer to their ball teams. Norm will work with the ball teams as well but it’s different. You do not see the concentration melt away from him like you do the others.
4. Love of the Game
After watching Norm these last 2 weeks, I have found myself wanting to bowl right after the event. Norm’s love of the game and the competition are inspiring. You can tell he is hanging on to every shot like it’s his last. The game hasn’t grown old for him. He is practicing the most mundane moves and his technique is almost the same as it was 30 years ago. I love watching someone cry after they win, and Norm has cried on TV the last two weeks. I once had a friend tell me I looked at home while playing golf. That’s what I see in Norm. He should not be doing anything else but bowling in that moment. He was born to be an athlete and influence the rest of the world to be interested in the great game of bowling.
I see confidence in Norm through his routines. Something about how he stands at the back of the alley and gently twists the ball before taking his first step reflects his attention to every detail. He has performed these movements millions of times and he trusts them implicitly. The way he rolls the ball is different from the other players. He has a 16lb ball and it doesn’t spin as much as the modern pros. Many of the pro’s have attempted to emulate number 1 in the world Jason Belmonte’s two-handed technique. Norm looks like a bowler from 25 years ago, but he owns it! Norm relies on his technique and his routines. This displays confidence and gives him the security he needs when the heat is on. He doesn’t change a thing. His timing and rhythm stay very consistent. This all leads to him being “The Iceman”.
I love observing special athletes. It has been a pleasure watching Norm these last couple weeks. Here is a clip of him verse Jason Belmonte. Try to observe the points I have referenced above. You will also see Norm using common athletic techniques such as deep breathing and positive self-talk. I’ll warn you though, you will want to go out bowling as soon as its over!