Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bowling Basics Cannot Be Over-emphasized

Everything still comes back to this - "To be a good bowler, you must have the basic fundamentals solidly in place."

Once you decide to get serious about the sport of bowling, you've got to start by "throwing away" any pre-conceived notions and bad habits that you've developed and/or learned; and basically, start all over again.

This is one of the main reasons that I want to gage my prospective student's feelings about what they want to accomplish before I take them on as a student.

Before I fully developed my "Choc-List" of questions to ask of prospective students, I had turned down a couple of them during the first sessions.

The first guy was because every time I suggested a correction to try, his response was, "I can't do that," or, "That's too difficult for me," or something to that effect; and, the second was a guy who kept forgetting the times we scheduled for our lessons.

The former was so negative, we spent a lot of valuable coaching time arguing for his limitations; and the former just wasn't serious about wanting to learn how to bowl - he missed the first three lessons, AND the re-scheduled ones, so really, it was a total of six.

I told them that unless they were willing to get more serious about our lessons, I wouldn't be able to coach them.

Serious bowlers will practice as often as they can and they'll hire a coach because they know that practicing something without knowing the fundamentals is a true "lesson in futility."

Keep in mind, however, that even if I believe in the fundamentals and foundations, I am not a "by-the-book" instructor. I remember a quotation told to us at the beginning of the USBC Bronze Certificate coaching class, "The rule is, there are no rules." (That quotation is attributed to Fred Borden, the world famous bowling coach.)

I believe in teaching to many things in the textbook but I also realize that everyone has their own basic style and will teach to that style while developing their basic fundamentals.

I also know that there have been some new developments that have forced me to re-think some of the techniques I was telling my students. However; the basic fundamentals have not changed.

This "Choc-List" will be covering the stance, pushaway and armswing, approach and follow through, and final position (posting):

1) Starting Stance - Your body is relaxed, knees are slightly bent, back isn't stiff and tense, and your toes, hips and shoulders are aligned properly in a relaxed manner. Do you see that the overall objective is to be relaxed and not rigid and tensed up? You are setting yourself up for your approach and delivery, while you don't want to be overly relaxed, it is far worse to be in an uncomfortable and stiff position before starting your delivery in motion. Injuries are often caused by stiff and tense muscles and joints.

2) Pushaway and Armswing - The best pushaway has been one that leads into a free armswing and is "muscle-free" in that the weight of the ball is the main factor producing the arm movement in its entire pendulum-like arc. The method of attaining that pendulum armswing is dependent on the bowler's style and physical attributes - holding the ball high for taller people, holding the ball lower for smaller statures, and starting off to the side for larger bodies. The ideal pendulum armswing can be visualized as pretending your arm to be attached to your body by ball-bearings at the shoulder joint and there are no muscles in your arm. The weight of your ball is the only thing that can make the arm swing back and forth.

3) Approach and Follow-Through - Regardless of how many steps you take, your approach allows you to maintain balance, timing, and leverage at the foul line so that you can execute a smooth release and follow-through. I watch the length and rhythm of each step, the next to the last step (called the "power step"), the slide or plant, and the knee bend while coaching a bowler. For the follow-through, a few new styles have been introduced but, the technique of letting your hand and arm continue to reach for your aiming target after the ball is released is still the one I teach.

4) Final Position (aka "Posting") - After releasing the ball, you must be able to maintain your balance at the foul line until your ball hits the pins. The best positioning is for you to have your knees slightly bent, your body facing your target, your trailing leg as far behind and off to your left (right-handers) or right (left-handers) as you feel comfortable, your follow-through out in front of you, and holding that for at least 3 seconds. For examples of this finishing position, I encourage you to watch videos of the current elite Team USA, Junior Team USA, and collegiate bowlers.

While different aspects of bowling have changed over the last couple of decades, the basic fundamentals have not.

You must develop them if your goal is to become a consistent and high performing bowler.

Before Changing Your Bowling Ball

“Lucky” brings in six bowling balls with him every time he bowls.

Does that give him an advantage? Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn’t.

Does he bowl the highest series in the league every time he bowls?

Is he guaranteed to be the high average in the league at the end of the season?

Does he, with exact knowledge, select the proper ball every time he has to make a change due to the lane transition?

If the answers to these questions are a decided, “yes,” then perhaps having six balls give him an advantage.

If the answers to these questions are a decided, “no,” then perhaps the six balls give him an advantage.

If the answers to these questions are a “maybe,” then perhaps the six bowling balls give him an advantage.

Bowling is not an exact science and should not be treated as such.

I have seen bowlers with six bowling balls (or more) win tournaments.

I have seen bowlers who used only one bowling ball win tournaments.

I have seen bowlers who have used two or three bowling balls win tournaments.

So who really has the advantage?

Whether it is finding the proper ball or making the optimum “manual” adjustment, I advocate that it is the bowler who can find the “sweet spot” on the lane for that particular day is the one who has the advantage.

To tell you the truth, I would probably have a lot of bowling balls if I could afford them.

I am, however, in the same category as the majority of you out there; and that is, we were barely able to afford the three (two reactives and a spare ball) that we have now.

Us “Average Joe’s” then, have to depend on our knowledge and wits to try to overcome the varying conditions that we have to bowl under.

Having an arsenal of bowling balls is a good idea; but, what do we do if we don’t have that solid arsenal built up yet?

Here’s a “Choc-List” of some small adjustments you can make before changing your bowling ball:

1) Use parallel movements with your feet and eyes. For example, when you move your feet one board to the left, also move your target one board to the left. (Left-handers, use the direct opposite directions.)

2) Use angular movements with your feet and eyes. In this, you move your feet a different amount than your mark. For example, feet two boards left and target one board left.

3) Aim at a mark further down the lane. If your ball is hooking too much, move your mark further down the lane - don’t discount aiming at the pins. Bring your mark closer to you for the opposite condition.

4) Use your index and/or pinkie fingers. The closer these fingers are to your gripping ones, the straighter the ball will tend to go; the more spread out (or tucked as many do with the pinkie) the more hook you will have.

As with everything, “practice makes perfect,” so try them out first.

When you are comfortable with the way your bowling balls react and you can read the effects of each adjustment, and then take them to league or competition.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's A Sparrow

I received a video in my email this past week that really made me think. It showed an older gentleman sitting on a bench with an adult, younger male reading a newspaper next to him. A bird lands on a branch of a nearby tree and the old man says, "What is that?" "It is a sparrow," the younger man answers.

A few seconds later, another bird lands on a nearby bush and the old man inquires, "What is that?" The younger man looks up from his reading and says, "It is a sparrow." Still another bird lands on another tree branch and the old man again asks, "What is that?" The younger man looks up, visibly annoyed, and answers, "It is a sparrow, a sparrow, the same as the other birds you asked me about  a s-p-a-r-r-o-w!, Why are you doing this to me?"

The older man stands up and heads into the house they are sitting in front of. He comes back out with a book (it turns out to be a diary or journal that the old man has kept), turns to a page, and asks the younger man (by now I have figured out it is his son) to read the passage he points to.

In summary, here's what the son read out loud: "Today, I was sitting in the park with my young son and he asked me the name of a bird that had landed nearby. I answered him that it was a sparrow. Twenty-one times he asked me, 'What is that?' and, twenty-one times I answered that it was a sparrow. Twenty-one times I hugged him because of the affection I felt for this young son of mine…"

What does that have to do with bowling? On the surface there seems to be no connection, however, as a coach, I sometimes have to answer the same question over and over again. Because it is a student of mine asking the question, I tend to be very tolerant. Sometimes, before we can move forward with a lesson, a point must be clearly understood or the coming lessons might not make sense.

Patience - "It is a sparrow." "It is the second arrow." "It is a smooth follow-through." "It is a pendulum swing." "It is a reactive resin bowling ball." "It is your pre-shot routine." "It is your positive mental attitude." "It is your ability to adjust to different lane conditions." "It is your practice session routine." "It is your 'why'?" "It is your love of the sport." "It is a sparrow." - Patience. It is, indeed, a virtue.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Even In Bowling, Taking Action Yields Results

I saw a video recently of Tony Robbins, who's gained great success at being a life coach to many people around the world.

The subject of the video centered on a discussion about why people aren't able to achieve success.

While he and a couple of other successful people talked mainly about financial and life solutions, I felt it also had a lot to do with better bowling success in general, and improving a person's game in particular.

Mr. Robbins drew an illustration with four squares. In the upper left block he wrote the word, "Potential," in the upper right square, "Action," the lower right, "Results," and the lower left box, "Belief."

Arrows connected the blocks as they pointed to the right, from the "Potential" to "Action," downward, from "Action" to "Results," leftward, from "Results" to "Belief" and, finally, upward from "Belief" to "Potential."

There's potential for everything in the world but many people can't see them because they have no belief.

When they do sense there's potential (because some belief trickles into their mind) their belief isn't strong enough for them to take action.

By not taking action, they can't get results which then can't bolster their beliefs.

Subsequently, most people sit at their own level and don't attain success in their lives.

They never move forward to realize success that would bolster their beliefs and make their lives better.

And what is the biggest factor that prevents people from taking action? Well, that's "Fear of failure;" and yet, it's ironic that "Fear of failure" is the primary reason that people fail.

Many successful people already have their beliefs ("Confidence") firmly in place.

Therefore, they always see the potential and are always taking action, getting good results, and continuing to bolster their belief.

Successful people tend to appear to move between "Action" and "Results" because their "Beliefs" are so strong.

"Potentials" never seem to appear since they're acting on them before they have a chance to materialize.

There are varying degrees of success, however, and regardless of their past achievements, moderately successful people can and will block themselves from taking action because of some perceived "fear of failure."

Have you ever heard the phrase, "It's all relative?" In other words, there can be a 130-average or 210-average bowler who won't be able to advance beyond that point because of their limiting beliefs.

So, there's always a point at which a large percentage of bowlers can't, or won't, get any better because of that "fear of failure."

My "Choc-Talk" is merely a summary of that of that illustration: "For whatever level you're at in your bowling, realize the POTENTIAL for where you can be, take ACTION, get the better RESULTS, and build your BELIEF that you can (and will) be a better bowler.

At some point, you'll be moving between 'Action' and 'Results' automatically."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beyond Recreational Bowling

So your interest in the sport of bowling is now beyond the once-in-a-while, recreational past-time and are ready to take your game to the next level.

Your first step is to buy your own ball and shoes (and, of course, a bag to carry them in); secondly, find someone who is willing to coach you and give you lessons; and third, practice, practice, practice.

I recommend that your first ball be a used or low-end reactive ball drilled for minimum hook in what I call the "straight up drilling." Your local Pro Shop will be able to help you with ball selection and more detailed advice. (They will usually have some older model or used balls available for purchase at very economical prices.)

The reasons are not only to keep the cost down, but until you settle on the particular style - line bowling or cranking the ball - you'll be  comfortable with, it really makes no sense to spend $200 or more on a top model ball that you can't control. This will not be the only ball that you buy.

The shoes you rent from the bowling alley are generic and made for both right-handed and left-handed bowlers so both soles are leather.

This decreases the amount of leverage you will have as you release the ball. When you look at the shoes that are manufactured for personal sale, the sliding sole is leather and the other sole is rubbery.

The rubber is for grip to give you a better posture and stance as you enter into your slide and release the ball down the lane.

There are bowling shoes that allow you to replace the sole of your shoe based on how slippery or "sticky" the lane approaches happen to be.

Practice - there is no way around it.

If you want to get better, you must get into a routine of regular practice sessions, preferably with a coach.

Ask around at your favorite bowling center and you can generally find coaches who charge little or nothing to help you with your game.

Look at it this way, all PBA Tour bowlers have coaches and in fact, all professionals, including Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, has a coach who helps him with his game.

There are also many books, CD's, and DVD's available that provide excellent hints and tips; but, they won't replace the real-life bowling coach.

"Practice With Purpose" rather than just going out to get high scores, because when you get right down to it, your score in practice does not matter.

Most experienced bowlers will often throw an entire game focusing on only one aspect such as picking up the 10 pin, keeping their elbow tucked in to their sides, or shooting the ball off a different arrow in each frame.

What matters is fine tuning of your style, timing, methods, spares, and overall approach to the sport of bowling.

Earl Anthony, one of the greatest bowlers of the modern era, has been quoted as saying, "never throw any more ball than you have to."

If you watch videos of him bowling, you will see a very simple, yet highly effective style that managed to dominate the sport for many years in his heydey.

Walter Ray Williams, Jr.,  who just surpassed Mr. Anthony's PBA tour win record, also has a very simple, yet highly effective style. Nothing fancy, just excellent basic fundamentals, accuracy, and consistency.

In your approach to the sport of bowling, as with many things in life, the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Sir) should prevail.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Basic Bowling Etiquette

Bowling is a social sport and it's "rules of etiquette" are something everyone should learn for their own enjoyment as well as for others. Everything we do in life has a "standard of conduct" for which we are held accountable. These standards fall under the category of nothing more than common sense and being aware of your own actions. 

With politeness and courtesy as the primary words for our discussion, let's list some of the main "rules of bowling etiquette":

1) "Right-of-way." Bowling lanes are placed side-by-side and when a person is poised and ready to throw the ball, the person or persons on the adjacent lanes should wait for them to complete that turn before stepping on the approach for their turn. There is nothing more distracting to a bowler than being locked in on the mark and have someone fly past them on their right or left.

To put this into perspective, try running past a golfer as he is going through his swing; for that matter, envision yourself doing a similar action to a tennis player as he is serving, a pitcher as he is delivering the ball to the batter, or anyone who is concentrating on hitting a target of some kind.  People just naturally would show courtesy to the athlete because, "it is the proper thing to do."

2) "Keep food and drinks out of the bowler's settee area" (this is the area immediately surrounding the automatic scorekeeper console in most bowling centers). When a bowler gets on the lane approach and throws the ball, the importance of having their last step slide should be very evident both from a safety and delivery of the ball standpoint. If anything gets on the bottom of a person's sliding foot, they will stick at the foul line and fall on the lane. At minimum, it will be a tremendous strain on the leg and body. Common sense dictates that if food or drink are in the settee area, they have a good chance of accidentally being spilled.  Why take the chance? Keep food and drink further back from the bowler's area.

3) "Use your own equipment" unless you have permission to do otherwise. Even if you are using a house ball, it can be very disconcerting if someone uses the ball that you personally selected for yourself. This becomes even more acute if you have purchased your own equipment and another person uses them without asking.

4) "Don't make loud noises or do anything distracting" when another person is on the lane ready to deliver their ball. Since bowling is done in an enclosed environment, people from several lanes away could be distracted by your "unsportsmanlike conduct."

5) "Respect the bowling center" and don't abuse the lanes or equipment. Some people get angry and let their frustrations out on the equipment. Actions that come to mind include (but not limited to): lofting the bowling ball further down the lane than normal; kicking the ball return covers; and slamming their balls down on the chairs, ball racks, floors (poor bowling ball).

Politeness and courtesy. These are the operative words when you go bowling. Bowlers don't ask for anything more than that. Be aware of your what you say and do, show common courtesy, and be polite to others. Your enjoyment of the sport will be enhanced many times if you merely follow the rules of common sense that society has taught you.

Some Very Basic Bowling Terminology

Not surprisingly, a large majority of people already know that bowling is where you roll a ball down a lane, knock down some pins, and score points. Once known as a gambling game right alongside "pool," it has become so ingrained in our society that people already know a lot of the terminology without having participated in the sport.

Let's take a look at some basic bowling terminology that the beginning bowler can learn quickly and easily. These are terms to make you sound like you know what you're doing the next time you go bowling with your family or friends. (Keep in mind, though, that you may be able to "talk-the-talk" but unless you have practiced, you may not be able to "walk-the-walk.") You have been forewarned:

The place where you go to bowl, besides being called bowling lanes, are also known as the "center," the "alley," or the "house" interchangeably.

Lane Approach - the "approach" is the physical area you walk on. It begins adjacent to the ball returns and ends at the foul line. It is generally 15 feet long. There are two demarcation lines and dots that aid the bowler in lining up their position.

Bowling Approach - your walk, or "approach," to deliver the ball onto the lane.

Arrows (target arrows, mark) - positioned 15 feet down the lane from the foul line, the "arrows" are actually triangular arrowheads. There are seven of them equally spaced five boards apart.

Automatic Ball Returns - Between each pair of lanes (lanes 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc.), running underground; the bowling ball is picked up from the back of the lane and returned to the bowlers.

Automatic Scorekeepers - generically, "the computer," or "automatic scorers." Displayed on screens above the approaches, computers keep a person's score.

Boards - the bowling lane is 43 inches in width from channel to channel (gutter to gutter) and is comprised of 1 inch boards.

Bumpers or rails - side railings that can be raised for younger kids in order that the ball doesn't constantly go in the gutter (channel) thereby resulting in a score of zero. Established bowling centers will manually raise them while newer centers enable the automatic scorers to be programmed so they are automatically raised and lowered.

Foul Line - the dark strip that divides the approach from the actual playing surface of the lane. If a bowler goes beyond this line or touches anything beyond this line, the ball that was thrown is declared a "dead" ball and scores as a zero. When participating in league or tournament competition, an automatic sensor is turned on and an indicator light with a audible buzzer signals the foul..

Gutters or channel - these are the darker colored grooves on each side of the actual lane. They are usually a darker gray in color and run the entire length of the lane. When the ball enters the gutter, it is considered as out-of-play so will be a dead ball.

Pinsetters or pinspotters - the machinery at the far end of each lane that sets up the pins in a triangular pattern.

Again, this is a short list just to get the beginner started because there is much, much more terminology. The more you go bowling, the more terms you will learn. Good Luck and Good Bowling!

Tips For The Recreational Bowler

The term "recreational bowler" refers to a person who goes bowling once-in-a-while with family, friends, the company, or some other special occasion. This person's main interest lies not in the score of the game but in socializing and having a good time. Some of the following tips apply not only to the first-time recreational bowler; but, may also serve as reminders to the ones who have not bowled in a while (over a year or so).

1) Call ahead to check the status of available ("open") lanes - it could save you a lengthy drive and a group of unhappy kids. 99% of all bowling alleys have league competition in the early evenings on a continuing basis. The two main seasons for league competitions are Winter, which starts in August/September and ends in April/May; and Summer, which goes from April/May to August/September. (In the Winter season, it is often difficult to get a lane between 5:00 PM and 9:30 PM., Sundays through Thursdays.)

2) Reservations may or may not be taken - each bowling center has their own policy. Many centers are on a "first-come, first-served" basis when only a few lanes are available for "open play."

3) When you enter the bowling alley, look for the front desk ("check-in counter"), which will generally be close to the central area of the building. This is the focal point where you will check-in, check-out, and call on if there are any problems with the machinery or equipment. It'll be easy to recognize.

4) Prices of games and shoe rentals vary based on the time of day. Game prices are per-game/per-person and shoes are for the duration of your session. Expect to pay higher prices in the evenings and on weekends. Many bowling alleys have specials that are not widely advertised so ask for them since they are sometimes as much as 50% off their regular prices.

5) Make sure that the soles of your rental shoes are clean and free of anything that would prevent you from sliding on the lane approach. Since they are rented to right-handed and left-handed bowlers, both sides will have leather-like soles. Along with this, always test your sliding foot on the approach, especially in the area closest to the foul line.

6) Bowling balls for public use ("house balls") are placed throughout the concourse area and range in weight from 9-lbs to 16-lbs. For the younger kids, 8-lbs balls are usually kept behind the desk so you have to ask for them. Many places have them color-coded by weight.

7) Since "either-handed bowlers" will use the house balls, the holes in them are drilled for generic use. There are three holes in the ball, middle finger, ring finger, and thumb. To select a fairly good fit:
            a) Place your thumb in the hole and make sure it is "not-too-tight" nor
                "not-too-loose," but, "just right."
            b) With your thumb in the hole to the palm joint (all the way in), lay your middle
                 and ring fingers over the finger holes. The best fit is when the first joints of
                 both fingers are over the near edge of the holes.

8) Bowling is a social game in that each person's "playing field" is adjacent to another's. The number one rule when playing the game is termed, "right-of-way." With the exception of the end lanes (or if there's no one on the immediate adjacent lane), you should yield the right-of-way to the person who is already up and prepared to bowl. This is so you won't distract them from their efforts to get a strike or spare; and, for safety reasons. You'll observe that other bowlers who've learned this rule will do the same to you.

9) Learning more about bowling etiquette (courtesies) and terminology will further enhance your enjoyment of the game. This tip applies even if you always remain a recreational bowler.

I leave you with a final thought that is more often used in educational and business seminars but very appropriate here. That is, "The only stupid question is the one that's never asked." If you're not sure about what to do when you're in the bowling center, always ask. The center employees or the more experienced bowler on the next lane will be more than happy to answer your questions.