Thursday, November 15, 2012

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.


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