Monday, September 15, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bowling: The Sport That's An Exact Science?

"All exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation." -Bertrand Russell

There is a mindset that tends to prevail in the bowling world.

This may be what's working against me and preventing me from getting to the next level of my game.

Try recalling the bowling conversations you've had recently and tell me that this mindset hasn't dominated the talk.

Here's the mindset: "Everything is exact."

Here's the statements:

"I hit my mark exactly where I wanted to."

"I threw the ball exactly the same way as I did last frame."

"The ball hit the pocket exactly where it's supposed to be for a strike."

Now, let's see, we tend to believe that we're doing the same thing over and over on the bowling lanes; yet, we can't sign our signature exactly the same way each time?

We think we're hitting a board "dead on" when it's approximately 1.0641025 inches wide and we're throwing a ball that has a diameter of 8.500 to 8.595 inches?

We're looking at our mark from a distance of 11 to 12 feet away (if you're aiming for the arrows) looking down at the mark from however tall you are.)

We're falling all over the place so our release is not coming from a stable platform?

And, our head is bouncing around as we lurch up, down, forward, or side-ways?

The point I'm trying to make is that we're not as exact as we like to think we are.

In fact, there are no exacts in the sport of bowling nor in the world, exactly.

Which brings me to this article's "Choc-List" when you can't seem to strike and must make adjustments:

1) IT'S NOT YOU. When you're stringing strike after strike, "everything" falls. It's not because you're throwing every shot exactly the same, each-and-every-time. It means you're in the "sweet spot" for this game, series, or this moment. If you start leaving single pins, the spot has moved (or you never were in the correct spot in the first place.) Move, because It's not you.

2) MOVE MORE THAN ONE BOARD. Depending on who's on the lanes with you, what line they're playing, and what types of balls they're using, the lanes will change differently. One board of change may not be enough to overcome the amount of oil depletion that's occurred. If it doesn't work, you can always move back or somewhere else.

3) THE LINE CHANGES AFTER EVERY BALL. Even if you're the only bowler on the lane, your reactive resin ball will be taking oil off the lane surface or moving it around after every throw. If you're using a plastic or urethane ball, oil still comes off although at a slower pace. Anyway, expect the lane to change after every ball thrown.

4) IT MIGHT WORK NOW. If you tried something in practice or earlier in the match, don't discount trying it again later in the game or series. There are no definitive studies about how a lane will play after oil depletion. 16 people will have 16 different reactions. It might not have worked earlier but, it might work now.

This is the exact end, approximately.

See you on the lanes.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Analysis OF The Perfect Pocket Hit

Here are some facts surrounding the "PERFECT pocket strike" hit:
(Facts researched, tested, and released in technical papers from the USBC.)

(1) The ball enters the 1-3 pocket on the 17-1/2 board;
(2) The entry angle of the ball is 6 degrees; and,
(3) The ball only contacts four pins: 1, 3, 5, and 9.

In my simplistic mathematical statement:

"The Perfect pocket strike" = (1) + (2) + (3).


(1) + (3), nor is it (2) + (3), and neither is it (1) + (2); it absolutely must be (1) + (2) + (3), no ifs, ands, or buts.

For those of you who complain constantly about leaving solid single pins when you hit the pocket, think again.

Before you go on and on and on about being "tapped," remind yourself that at least one of the aforementioned factors caused that single pin to remain standing.

Now, let's quickly mention a few other factors that haven't been studied (not that I could find, anyway), which probably contributes to a "supposedly perfect pocket hit" to go awry:

(1) The speed of the ball when it hit the pocket,
(2) The axis tilt of the ball (is it "wibbling" when it should be "wobbling") and,
(3) Is the ball picking up momentum when it hits the pocket or is it running out of steam and "rolling out?"

Also remember these are just three out of so many factors that could cause the pins not to fall.

What's my point?

We're not perfect.

We all know it.

We all admit it.

So why do we believe that when we hit what we think is a perfect pocket in bowling and leave a single pin, that it was a "perfectly thrown ball?"

And, we spend countless minutes and wasted energy after that attempting to prove that it was, in fact, a perfect hit, don't we?

How foolish is that, really?

I'm going to leave you with three things on my "Choc-List" to think about if you insist on complaining about that single pin you left when you hit the pocket so perfectly:

1) What do you have to do to pick up the 4 pin spare? Hit the 4 pin, correct? What happens if you don't make contact with the 4 pin, you miss it, isn't that so? In summary, if you hit the pin, you get a spare conversion, if you miss it you get an error or blow, right?

2) In a 5-person team game, in order to win the game total, what does the team have to get? Their five person total has to be higher than the other team's five person total, correct? In summary, if your team's total is higher than the total of the opponent's, you get the win, if not, you lose, right?

3) In order to get a perfect pocket strike, the ball must enter the pocket on the 17-1/2 board, have a 6-degree entry angle into the pocket, and the ball must contact only the 1, 3, 5, and 8 pins. In summary, if these three parameters are met, we strike; if they aren't met, we don't get a strike.

Let's summarize the "perfect pocket strike" again ----

"If all the pins fall down, that's the proof that all the factors for throwing a perfect pocket strike were met; if pins remain standing, that's the proof all the factors were NOT met."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Small Details To Help Your Bowling Accuracy

I like to take my students on a tour of the bowling lane sometime during the first lesson - preferably before we start throwing balls down the lane.

If they don't actually see something, they might not gain a true perspective of the point being made to them - "Seeing is believing," if you will.

While I can't physically show the reader the details I'm relating in this article, I hope they'll ask their bowling center to let them take a walk alongside one of the end lanes to get a "first-hand" look what at I'm talking about.

These are small details that not everyone discusses; but, they are important to a bowler's knowledge of the sport of bowling.

NOTE: For ease of description, I am rounding off numbers to the lower side because some of the specifications are very fractional to the thousandths of an inch.

The difficulty of this game of bowling is exemplified by the details I'm listing.

My "Choc-List" of fine points is as follows:

1) The distance from the foul line to center of the headpin is 60 feet, to the end of the lane itself, 62 feet 10 inches.

2) In a typical bowling center, the lane is only oiled for a certain number of feet from the foul line.

This is about 38 - 41 feet and beyond that point, no oil is laid down.

(After bowlers begin rolling balls down the lanes, whatever oil gets deposited on the previously "un-oiled" portion of the lane is there because the bowling ball "carries" it down there.)

Note: Typically, the lanes are oiled prior to a league session. If you can, ask your bowling center manager to allow you to take a walk down the side of the lane before anyone bowls and then, after the league is over.

You'll be able to see "dry streaks" in the first 38 - 41 feet and "oily streaks" from the end of the oil pattern to the end of the lane.

3) Your ball is 8-1/2 inches wide and each pin is 4-3/4 inches at its widest point. That means for a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 pin, you have nearly 21-3/4 inches of area to hit them to make a spare.

The 7 pin and the 10 pin have about 14 inches of playing area.

4) Looking at the triangle of pins from our vantage point on the approach, the number assigned to each pin in the "V-shape" is as follows:

(a) From the headpin moving to the left, the 1, 2, 4, and 7 pins.

(b) From the headpin moving to the right, the 1, 3, 6, and 10 pins.

(c) The three pins in the middle of that "V-shape" are the 5, 8, and 9.

5) The center-to-center measurement is a fraction less than 6 inches between each. That is, 1 pin to 2 pin, 2 pin to 4 pin, and 4 pin to 7 pin, etcetera.

6) There are 39 boards from gutter-to-gutter on a regulation lane so every "board" is 1.06 inches in width.

7) Using the inside of your sliding shoe as the reference for where you stand on the approach every board you move, left or right, is affected by 2 - 3 inches at the pins.

Drawing a straight line from the inside of a person's sliding shoe to the top of a person's head is the vertical center of the human body.

What is the significance of these minutiae?

You should be able to use them as rough "guess-timates" to adjust for different lane conditions and for spare shooting.

Thinking about them carefully, all bowlers may be able to use them to sharpen their accuracy on the lanes.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Arguing For Your Your Limitations

I was having a relatively poor night of bowling last season when a guy on another team told me that I shouldn't feel so bad because it was the lanes, and not me, that were causing my low scores.

Imagine that, someone else wanting to make excuses for my inability to knock the pins down.

Like all "out-of-the-ordinary" statements that are made to me, I started paying attention to see how much more of those types of remarks I could pick out.

I'm figuring you already know the results of my informal observations, correct? Too many.

People seem all to willing to make excuses FOR you.

Is it any wonder that most of us bowlers find it so hard to focus and concentrate on our own efforts?

We are having a tough enough time trying NOT to argue for our limitations; but, at the same time, other people are counter-acting our thoughts by arguing FOR them.

Is that a dilemma or what?

Richard Bach, the novelist, wrote, "Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they're yours."

I wonder if he knew that there are people out there who are, "Willing to argue your limitations FOR you so that, sure enough, you make them yours?"

I'd venture to say that in the elite bowler ranks, Professional Women and Men, National and International Champions, and so on, are not having to face as much negative talking and thinking like we, at the local level, do every day.

The key point is that they're "elite" bowlers because they have learned to think positively "all the time."

(I'd venture to say, also, that if a bowler does not think positively, he or she will have a very difficult time making it to the "elite" bowler status.)

What can you do, at the local level, to keep your mind from arguing for your limitations?

Funny you should ask, as I have a "Choc-List" right here for you:

1) Be Decisive - Make a decision that you will shut off any negative words or thoughts. You get to be a better bowler by thinking positively and shutting out negativity. "Where there's a will, there's a way" and your will determines what you focus your attention on. You're the one who controls it.

2) Be Aware - Make a study of what not to say or think about. Write down, right now, all the words and phrases that could prevent you from thinking positively. Pay attention to direct or indirect statements that reflect the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. By cementing them in your mind, you'll be able to keep them out of your thoughts and spot them coming out of someone else's mouth. Keep updating your list as you think of them or if you hear them.

3) Be in the Present - What's happened to you in the past is of no consequence to what you're doing at this moment. So what if you shot a low game or series last time? Chances are, the only person that remembers the exact score is you. Ask around and you'll see what I'm saying is true. The future hasn't come yet. Are you clairvoyant? Do you have a track record for being able to predict and control the future? Admit that the only time you can ever control is right now. Don't live in the past nor be afraid of the future.

4) Become A Better "Mental" Bowler - There are many disagreeable things that local-level bowlers have to put up with. Overcoming them as you move to becoming a better bowler is a great feeling that you can savor each step along the way.

I am going to paraphrase another well-known saying, "Magic is the opposite of Bowling. When you know how magic works, the magic goes away, With Bowling, when you know begin to look for how it works, the magic begins."

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Friday, July 18, 2014


A few years ago, one of my bowling buddies, "Bo-Ler," (name altered to protect the innocent) changed his ball before the start of the 3rd game. He said, "This ball is meant to go long and snap at the end."

He threw the first frame and the ball went very long, then snapped around 62 feet down the lane (give-or-take) and he picked off the 6 and 9 pins only - a two count on his first ball! A good time was had by all and he will probably never live it down.

This has nothing to do with the main subject of my article; however, it was such an odd occurrence, I felt I had to document it for posterity. "Bo-ler" is a good sport.

Now to the gist of this article --

A while back one of my coaches mentioned a "pet peeve" of his.

In response to his question of how they bowled, people seem to always answer that they "didn't hit their average," or "I just made my average tonight."

He contends that people are not aiming high enough when they tell him things in reference to their "average."

"Coach" says that people should be trying to bowl the highest they can every time out.

He, personally, does not bowl just to "hit his average" because he wants to beat his highest score and series every time out.

When he coaches someone, he doesn't talk about a person's "average" because it tends to make people bowl only to a certain level.

Not only is he a long-time high performer in the state and is in the "Hall of Fame;" but, "Coach" is one of the people who has been able to adapt to the new era of high-tech bowling.

"Coach" has hit on something I'm calling, "Limitation Lingo."

It lies just below the surface of "negative speak," but could be more responsible for a bowler's inability to rise above a certain level of performance just because it's so subtle.

I'm sure we've all heard of "negative-speak," and "positive affirmations."

I've written about them in the past and there are numerous books, videos, and bowling articles that talk about the two subjects.

Very briefly, though, "negative-speak" is all the talk to yourself that tears you down so that you can't perform well.

"Positive Affirmations" are phrases and thoughts used to counter all the negative stuff.

Can you, however, recognize these common expressions that you or your fellow bowlers use quite regularly in conversation?

"I didn't hit my average tonight."

"I just want to shoot my average every time I bowl."

"All I want to do is bowl decent so I don't embarrass myself."

"I may not win but I'm going to enter and do my best."

"At least I can say, 'I tried.'"

Do any of these terms inspire any kind of confidence?

If we're using these kinds of phrases, are we really "doing our best?"

Here's four words that convey the aforementioned statements' real meaning - "acceptable," "sufficient," "mediocre," and "adequate."

Oh, and how about, "apologetic?"

In anticipation of not doing well, we apologize to everyone in advance for that poor performance we "just know" will happen.

We've set ourselves up so we don't have to make excuses for our sub-standard bowling (although we know that we'll be apologizing for that low performance the rest of the night).

I contend that we're limiting ourselves with these subtle thoughts and phrases.

They're not as direct as "negative speak;" however, they undermine our performance just as much.

As a matter of fact, it may be even more damaging because they're so covert.

If you don't recognize them as bad, how can you react against them?

"Limitation Lingo" is not easily recognized because it is merely thought of as things that we regularly (normally) say or do.

We do it every day without thinking.

We've become attuned to doing "just enough to get by."

We don't want to offend anybody or let anyone down.

If we do well, we feel we have to apologize for doing well, if we do poorly, we need to make excuses for why we didn't at least do "average."

If we perform to the "mediocre medium," we feel good because we did enough not to stand out.

Try doing what I did and listen carefully to yourself and your fellow bowlers over the next several days or weeks.

Write down what you feel is in the realm of, "Limitation Lingo."

You will be surprised at the results.

"Limitation Lingo" is just below the surface of our way of thinking and emerges because we feel that we should be like "everyone else."

It's commonly accepted as "proper behavior."

Make a conscious effort to rid yourself of these thoughts and more importantly, stop using them.

What's wrong with saying, "Thank You," when you do well and get complimented instead of trying to act humble and play down the accomplishment?

There should be nothing wrong with being proud of your honor scores or performing well.

"Coach" is absolutely correct - we shouldn't be merely shooting for "average."

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bowling In The Marianas Trench

Well, Myron the Muse calls me in the middle of the evening and says, "Your next article needs to be about 'overcoming the bowling slump' because I just bowled a 415 series in a no-tap tournament."

Scratch? (meaning no handicap); but, of course, I knew that it was.

I was thinking of ways to keep his spirits up without laughing too hard. (He's my younger brother so I can do that, I think.)

Did I tell you that he is an accomplished guitar player, is trying to learn the electric piano, and is a whiz at the ukulele?

Myron is the life of the party when we have what we call "Kanikapila" (Hawaiian for, literally, "jam session," or as I learned from my haole friends in the military, "pickin' and a-grinnin'".)

One of the nicknames I toyed with when I first introduced him several months ago was, "Myron, the Bowling Muse-i-cal Muse."

He's probably lucky I didn't choose that one.

I guess my brother has forgotten that I did write an article about overcoming a slump just a few weeks ago.

It was under the title, "The Insanity Defense."

But, that's okay, I forgive him for forgetting.

Hey, what are older brothers for if not to forgive younger siblings?

We spend our entire lives forgiving them (wink-wink).

But, let me tell you, 415 scratch in a no-tap tournament is much, much more than a slump, my friends.

Let's see, that's an average of 138 when all you need is 9-pins on the first ball to have it count as a strike.

Additionally, the person bowling it is a 180- to 195-average bowler.

Words escape me; but, "TRENCH" comes to mind.

Like, say, the MARIANAS TRENCH in the Pacific Ocean which is purported to be the deepest trench on planet earth.

There are parts of it where they haven't yet seen the bottom!. That's deep!

Here's the "Choc-List" for what I believe the Muse allowed to happen to him:

1) He lost his concentration. He did not step back, take a deep breath, and say to himself, calm down, relax, just let the ball go.

2) He lost his focus. He was probably getting embarrassed thinking "everyone" was watching him so he could not get his mind back to his game.

3) He forgot the basics. (Ya think?) and he was probably trying so hard to get the ball in the pocket, he started moving around and lost track of where he started out from.

4) He consciously (or sub-consciously) gave up at some point and just started slinging the ball down the lane without aiming. He might have even "fooled around" on some of his throws so that spectators would think he didn't care.

We've all been there.

Won't be the first time, won't be the last.

Keep plugging away and make the best of things.

Do not ever give up on your game.

Things will always get better.

Just don't allow your mind to stay in the "Trench," or "Gutter," If you prefer; neither are deep enough to keep your slumping scores there permanently as long as you keep thinking positively.