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."