Monday, July 15, 2013

Don't Just Wish To Bowl Better

Before one of the league practice sessions, one of the regular bowlers commented to me that he wished he could be like me.

He said, "You never have trouble with converting the 10-pin."

I mentioned to him that on a recent night of bowling, I blew three 10-pin spares, including the tenth frame of the third game and shot a 694 series (thereby blowing my 700 series).

I also mentioned to him that there have been many times where I’ve gone into “mini-slumps” where it seemed as though I couldn’t convert any of my spares.

If it wasn’t for my strikes, I wouldn’t be ending up with the fairly good games that I do.
Now, "JohnBowler" is a pretty good stroker himself.

He carries a 200+ average and has been known to line the strikes up - he shot a 300 last year in our Thursday Night Men’s Classic league.

But, throughout the conversation, one thing became readily apparent.

He actually believed that bowlers with higher averages than him never experience the problems that he faces with his game.

I found out he had been a very good athlete in his younger days - baseball, basketball, and football.

But, as he got older, his past injuries caught up with him and bowling is one of the few sports he can actively participate in.

I very often hear those types of comments from my students and I spend lots of time reassuring them that higher average bowlers share the same thoughts many more times than they can imagine.

In fact, as I was preparing my notes for this article, many pictures of these, “I wish I could be like you (or you guys)“ flashed through my mind.

I engage in that kind of thinking and rhetoric myself - much more than I really want to.
It's in our nature, I guess to feel that way, regardless of the level of experience or skill we've attained.

Can that nature be overcome?

Once you become aware of it, you should be able to.
To that end, then, let’s put forward, a “Choc-List” to begin dismantling those thoughts and get our minds progressing forward in our pursuit of bowling excellence:
1) No one is 100% confident in everything they do. We have a tendency to admire and idolize what we see as people who are seemingly more talented than ourselves. We sometimes think that those people are way above our level. Take a look, however, when those people attempt to perform in another sport; not many of them can do it as well as in their specialty. Watch many of them bowl and you’ll see what I mean.
2) Find something in which you have a lot of confidence doing. There has to be one thing that you can do well and whenever you do it, your confidence level rises to such a point that you feel invincible. You feel as though you can compete with the best when performing in this particular field. Math problems, brain teasers, crossword puzzles? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical or sports activity. Doesn’t it feel good when you complete those activities and know that you can perform with the best of them?
3) Analyze what it is and why you're so confident in that activity. How did you get so good? How did you pursue it? How intensely did you study? Trace your steps and write down what you did to get so good. I’ll venture to say that PRACTICE is among what you had to do to get good. What are your feelings when you do this particular thing? Capture that feeling when you do it and perform well.
4) Transfer that confidence to your bowling. Write down your game plan for how you're going to improve. Your steps should include the same degree of study and practice that made you so good in the activity you've chosen to mirror. What problem(s) did you have in your pursuit of the other activity and what did you do to overcome it (them)?
The overall question becomes, “What is your why?"

Why do want to become good in the sport of bowling?

Are you willing to do “what's necessary” to get the level that you will feel satisfied at?

Be persistent, don’t give up, and you will.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Enjoy Your Bowling

Whether you're a social, recreational, or competitive bowler, learn to be happy with your game of bowling.

You can only make the best decisions you can when you can, based on your equipment and the tools that you have immediately available to you.

Here's a "Choc-List" for enjoying the sport of bowling, even if you've gone beyond the "only bowling for social reasons" of our sport:

Don't take yourself too seriously. The sport has become very complicated despite all the high scores being thrown.

What used to be the 200 average bowler is now the 230 average and it's no longer a matter IF you'll bowl a 300 game, 700 or 800 series, but HOW MANY of them you'll be able to throw.

Be realistic with where you are and set your expectations to that level. You may not ever achieve a lot of honor scores if you only have one bowling ball to use.

Don't be a constant complainer or whiner. Unfortunately, they have become part of the fabric of our lives.

You can't go anywhere or do anything nowadays without hearing people complaining about something.

Catch a conversation here, someone talking to a person on their cell phone there, ranting on the internet, and making caustic comments to someone's comments in a blog, they're everywhere.

So, too, will they be at the bowling center and you'll have to guard against joining with the pack and bring yourself down with the whining.

Don't compare yourself to other bowlers. You don't know what their goals or objectives are with regard to this sport.

You don't know their background. Have they had coaching through junior bowling, high school bowling, or collegiate-level programs?

Have they participated in Sport Shot or PBA Experience leagues?

Do they regularly go to tough competitions such as Regional PBA, Team USA Trials, or Mini-Eliminator competitions?

Have they been bowling for 20, 30 or 40 years and only compete in no-handicap types of leagues?

DO enjoy yourself at whatever level you're at.

There are a myriad of reasons why people come to enjoy the sport of bowling.

On a world-wide basis, (World Tenpin Bowing Association website statistic), "There are over 100 million bowlers, of which over 10 million are taking part in leagues, tournaments, and championships."

It is one of the most popular participation sports in the world.
Enjoy your bowling and don't take yourself too seriously.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Key To Bowling Improvement

We need to become better bowling students. The problem is that we're trying to get our games to come together too quickly.

I can understand that we have to bowl in leagues during the week and we work during the days.

However, to really improve, we need to take a step back and start practicing in the correct way until we actually get all the separate pieces right, then put them all together.

I was told at age 15 that I should learn “timing” first - out on one, down on two, back on three, and through on four (4-step approach).

The problem was, I became very mechanical with this type of thought process and it didn't matter how good my “timing” was if my “release” was all out of whack.

So, I concentrated on my “release,” which really helped me to be more consistent, but I lacked “power,” because my “timing” got thrown off and I couldn’t get into a very good “leverage” position.

I suppose this is why I eventually started "muscling" the ball, forcing my body to be in the right position at the right time.

Now, I've gone to a Free Swing and suddenly, “timing” means a lot more, but so does my “release.”

So, I've now come to the conclusion that “timing” and “release” should have equal importance; however, trying to get both right at the same time may not be so easy.

I think Brian Voss has it right - get the “timing” correct first, but do so by breaking it up into segments.

Right now, we’re still trying to work on what he says ALL AT THE SAME TIME so, we’re finding that getting our games to a higher level difficult and confusing at times.

Why do we find it so hard to follow the instructions of the "Master" and do what he asks us to do?

I believe it's because of bad habits we’ve developed over time.

We have the tendency to want things to happen “overnight.“

We’ve become poor students when it comes to learning new and different things.

We need to keep in mind that there are no “quick fixes.”

Therefore, here’s how I think we should proceed (4-step approach, but for 5-steps, it’s the 2nd step, for 6-steps, the 3rd, and so forth):

Segment 1 - Get the first step and swing correct before anything else;

Segment 2 - Get the first TWO steps and swing correct;

Segment 3 - Get the Finish correct;

Segment 4 - Get the Power Step correct;

Segment 5 - Get them all together into one continuous and flowing approach.

Then, and only then, can we can work on releases and ball speeds, and whatever else we feel would improve our game.

If we attempt to fine tune our bowling without getting a firm, solid foundation of the basics, we’ll be setting new techniques on shaky ground and not really improving anything.

In between leagues, at home or on the lanes at practice, we need to get each step correct piece-by-piece.

I feel that “Segment 1,” above, seems to be the most critical and that‘s why Brian Voss begins his elite training classes that way.

If you get that one right, then the rest of the segments, should follow.

Practice, practice, practice - at home, at the office, or on the lanes; but, get the First Step and Swing in the right position so they become second nature instead of trying to get all the steps right each night in league.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Hockey Stick" or "Banana-Shaped" Bowling Ball Arc?

I saw a video on youtube by the "Virtual Bowling Academy." It's a great series of videos with terrific learn-to-bowl tips and suggestions.

One that recently caught my eye talked about the shape of your bowling shot as it moved down the lane.

It compared the shape to a hockey stick and a banana, preferring the "curvy" one to the "snappy" one.

I started looking more carefully into arguments for-and-against this theory and it appears that the "curvy" wins out over "snappy."

It hit close to home when my girlfriend mentioned that she was having a really difficult time controlling her reactive resin ball and she wanted to go back to one that didn't have such radical reactions to the oiling conditions.

Isn't this the biggest problem all bowlers are having with the modern sport of bowling – controlling the reaction of their high tech bowling ball?

Really, when you think about it, the great majority of league bowlers are all about once or twice a week with "decent" averages and scores, one bowling ball, and possibly, one practice session in between league nights.

In the days of less aggressive bowling balls, bowling pro shops used to joke that their most common request was to drill the ball so it would go "lo-o-o-n-g, snap back, and hit like a truck."

That was fine in the days when lanes were oiled from the foul line down to the headpin; but, for the past twenty years or so, oil is placed on the lane considerably less than sixty feet.

I'd like to remind the reader that in the "perfect pocket strike,” the ball makes contact with only the 1-3-5, and 9 pins, after it hits the pins, and if the ball enters the 1-3 pocket at the 17-1/2 board it will result in a strike every time.

New technology has opened up the potential for strikes by going beyond those two “perfect” conditions, causing pins to "fly all over the place" and knock them down in a diverse number of ways.

It also, however, opened up the potential for some radical combinations of pins in seemingly solid hits.

The 4-9 split, light hit 7-10 split, and stone 9's, 8's, and 7's are all too common in the modern game.

It's also made for unlikely spare combinations like the 1-2-6-10, 2-8-10, 3-4-6-7-9-10, and the ubiquitous 4-6-7-9-10, or it's left-hander counterpart, 4-6-7-8-10, commonly referred to as the "Greek Church."

PBA tour and international elite bowlers are migrating to the "straighter is greater" theory and using various methods to counter the "snappy" reaction of their bowling ball arc.

A lot of their balls are drilled neutral or "pin-down" and/or they're using Urethane bowling balls to counter-act the radical ball reactions that occur after the ball leaves the end of the oil pattern.

(Note: The "pin," is the colored dot in the bowling ball that marks the location of the ball core. The term, "Pin-down," indicates that, after drilling, it’s located between the finger and thumb holes.)

I won an Elite Spider Wasp in a raffle on New Year's Eve and had it drilled "pin-down," and plugged and re-drilled my Rogue Cell into a verisimilar style.

I’m using the cover stock properties to make up for the "tamer" drilling pattern. The "pin" to CG (Center of Gravity) line is also in a "tamer" configuration.

I’ve managed to maintain my average but find that I don't need to move very much as the lane dries up.

I also find that I need to be more accurate with my targeting because the banana-shaped arc of my ball doesn‘t allow me to miss by seven boards and expect the ball to return to the pocket as with my reactive resins and "pin-out" balls.

This may work out in the long run because it’s easier to control my ball on the lanes, even as the oil pattern deteriorates.

I’m still learning how, and when, to use my two balls and thus far, I'm encouraged with the results.

As bowlers who can't practice the way the Pros do, as bowlers who only have one bowling ball, and as bowlers who can't replace our reactive resins every time a new model comes out, it make more sense to get to something that takes less "work" in order to have a consistent movement down the lane.

I need to find a combination that will merge the latest technology with an easier tactic to control my ball and simplify my game.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Minor Bowling Details To Know

I like to take my students on a tour of the bowling lane sometime during the first lesson. Many of them have never actually seen the lane up close.

While I cannot physically show you (the reader) the details I 'm relating here, I hope you'll ask your favorite bowling center for permission to walk alongside one of the end lanes, past the foul line, and study the details of what I'm about to I'm tell you.

These are points are one's not everyone coach discusses, but, they are important to your knowledge of the sport of bowling.

For ease of description, I'm rounding off numbers because some of the specifications are fractional. to the thousandths of an inch.

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

Note: If you stand at the foul line and gaze at the pins, you're looking at 60 feet to the center of the headpin and 62 feet, 10 inches to the very end of the lane.

My “Choc-List” is as follows:

(1) The lane is oiled only for a certain number of feet from the foul line. In a typical bowling center, this is about 39 to 41 feet. Beyond that, no oil is put down, and whatever's there is because the bowling ball “carries” it down there.

(Note: If you can, take a walk down the side of the lane before anyone bowls and then, after people have bowled. In the “before” you will not see any oil after the end of the oil pattern; in the “after” look, you will see a lot of oil streaks.)

(2) 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 to spare. The 7 pin and the 10 pin have about 14 inches of playing area. These are some pretty wide errors of margin, don’t you think?

(3) Looking at the triangle of pins from our vantage point on the approach, the “V-shape” of the pins is (headpin-to-the-left) the 1, 2, 4, and 7 pins and (headpin-to-the-right) the 1, 3, 6, 10. The center-to-center measurement is 5 to 6 inches between each. That is, 1 pin to 2 pin, 2 pin to 4 pin, and 4 pin to 7 pin, etcetera.

(4) There are 39 boards from gutter-to-gutter on a regulation lane so every “board” is 1.06” in width. Using the center of your body the marking for where you stand on the approach (and assuming you walk fairly straight), every board you move, left or right, is affected by 2 inches at the pins.

What is the significance of these minor details?

You'll be able to use them to adjust for different lane conditions and for becoming a better spare shooter.

Think about them carefully and you’ll be able to hone up on your bowling skills.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bowling and Walking

Something I've incorporated into my walking has helped me with my bowling.

For your bowling approach, it's taught that you should take your first step and place it directly in front of your other foot.

As well as helping you to walk in a straight line (aka, "walking the tightrope") this movement also helps to get your hip out of the way of your arm swing.

I think Fashion Models practice walking that way to give them excellent posture and keep their head and shoulders straight.

I began concentrating on placing my steps one in front of the other and noticed that I had to keep my head up as I walked that way and my eyes were focused quite a ways ahead of me.

This got me to thinking about looking at marks (breakpoint sighting, e.g.) further down the lane.

I began looking for points of references 10-feet, 15-feet, and further, ahead of me as I walked.

Here are some of my overall improvements thus far - the three board drift to the right I've always had is gone, my arm swing has begun to get "effortless" and I'm able to bowl 10 games with seemingly no effort.

My accuracy is improving in that I can see the ball roll over my mark up to 30 feet, and I'm getting better at posting at the line and holding that post until the ball hits the pins.

Here's my "Choc-List" of my walking and sighting methodology exercises:

(1) Walk by placing each step directly in front of the other. This will help keep your posture more erect and shoulders straight.

(2) Look at reference markers at varying distances from where you immediately are and walk in a straight line towards them.

(3) Practice lining up your right and left shoulders, your right and left feet, and the middle of your body to the marker selected. This can help with lining up the shot on the lane and any adjustments that have to be made.

4) Sometimes, I'll vary my walking style, (i.e., sideways, backwards, and close my eyes for a while). If you think of other variations, try them. I believe this will help with overall balance.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Short Bursts Of Concentration For Bowling Better

A key factor in your bowling game will be the ability to concentrate and keep your mind from wandering "all over the place."

Our current world is one of "multi-tasking" and "information overload."

We work through our regular eight hour shifts getting constantly bombarded with tasks, projects, new procedures, and changes of all kinds.

Is it any wonder that when we show up for our bowling competition, we can't quite get our minds to totally “focus on the task at hand?"

A successful elite bowler thinks of bowling the greater majority of their day; us "non-pros" get to think about bowling for probably 15% of our day, if that much .

How many of us out here are able to show up for our league after a particularly rough day at work and shut out thoughts of our workday, completely, for the next 2-1/2 hours during league competition?

Not many, I'll venture to say; however, the ones that are able to do just that will be the ones who can perform at a higher level that night.

Today's "Choc-List" is based on some tips and suggestions for training yourself to get into the moment and concentrate on your bowling:
  1. Short Bursts of concentration. Concentrate on the next 10 to 15 seconds of your current moment. Visualize yourself at the exact moment that you're releasing your bowling ball onto the lane - hold that thought for 10 - 15 seconds, then let go. Try it again - visualize your ball rolling over the 2nd arrow - hold that thought for 10 - 15 seconds, then let go. Try it the next time you go bowling - practice or competition - train yourself to get into 10 - 15 second bursts of concentration.

  2. Let go of your thoughts. When you try to concentrate, you may inadvertently defeat your own purpose. Have you ever tried to fight off a thought? What happens? By fighting the thought, your mind is suddenly filled with thoughts of all kinds. If a thought enters your mind, let it go instead of dwelling on it. This will make it easier for you to get control of the Short Burst that you need to keep your mind on your bowling.
  1. Breathe deeply and clear your mind. Inhale deeply in through your nose and exhale fully through your mouth. Usually it's long in-and-out breaths. You have to be the judge of what is right for you. Slow your thinking down, synchronize it to your breathing, and stay in the Short Burst moment.

  2. Notice your "stress buttons." Write them down. Recognize them. Become intimate with them. Remember the saying, "Know your enemy?" Well, stress is your enemy for focusing and concentrating so you have to be aware of what causes you to get stressed or pressured out. Breathe deeply and go through your Short Burst moment.
Let's see if we can train ourselves to get into these "Short Bursts of Concentration."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dubious Bowling Records

"Hey, bruddah, what can you do after you've just completed the worst night ever of bowling?"

Myron the Muse is not really asking me for advice, He's just wants to whine about his "poor" night of league bowling.

"Okay, so what kind of a night was it?," I ask.

"Well, let me tell you," he says; "In the first game, I blow the 4-pin in the 10th frame and we lose by two pins."

"In the second game, I manage to shoot a 200, and we win by a few pins; but, in the last game, I shoot a 114 ….. (a 114!) … and we win by one pin."

"Wait a minute, that means that your team won the overall because you won two games and must have gotten the series total. Isn't that correct?"

"Well, yes, but my performance was really terrible," the Muse whines.

As I see it brother, there's nothing you can do about it because it's gone, in the past, and you can't re-do that night of bowling again.

Just suck it up and get on with your life because as unfortunate as the time was, it might not have been your last "worst-ever game or series."

And with that, I mention to him a "Choc-List" of dubious and odd ABC (now USBC) records.

If you feel bad about your own scores, consider that you don't want to be immortalized as follows:

1) In 1971, the lowest score ever recorded in league competition was rolled. Eighteen gutter balls and two 1-pin counts. Total score of 2.

2) Were you one of the "fortunate" ones to have witnessed the 1991 nationally televised final of the PBA tour when all the pro needed was a 7-count and threw the ball in the gutter?

3) Between 1965 and 1967, the longest losing streak was recorded and reported for posterity - 120 straight losses. No mention of who they beat to end the streak.

4) Bowling in her first LPBT (Ladies Professional Bowlers Tour) event, this woman record setter bowled a 300 game in her very first game as a pro. For the next 17-games of qualifying, she failed to break 200 and ended up in last place

Unless you are on the way to shooting a score of zero, or are rolling nothing but gutter balls, you won't be close to setting any dubious record(s).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Posting Your Bowling Shot

Here's a brief "Choc-List" about “Posting Your Shot”:

1) Hold your finishing position until your ball clears the pin deck. Even if you think that you did something wrong during your approach and/or your release, hold your position rather than giving up on it. You'll find that your ball will do wonderful things as it makes its way down the lane. People always talk about follow-through and this is a way to ensure your arm accomplishes that.

2) Trailing leg behind you and toe on the ground (Off to the left for right-handers, off to the right for left-handers). Your leg should be as far off to the left or right as is comfortable and that you are not curled up at the line. This gets your hip out of the way and allows for maximum leverage at the point of release. By keeping your trail leg on the ground, you keep your body in balance and not teeter-tottering at your finish position. (A two-point finishing position as opposed to a standing on one leg.)

3) Knee bent at the finish. As well as helping with the leverage, this will accommodate a smoother release of the ball onto the lane. How much should the knee bend? As much as is comfortable for you to achieve that smooth delivery onto the lane.

4) The pendulum armswing. Most of us are taught to hold the ball with both hands in the starting position. Once the non-ball hand drops away and you start your downward swing, don't exert any force on your armswing. The weight of the ball should be all that's necessary to carry your ball through the backswing and forward to your release. In a "perfect" armswing, your arm should feel weightless through the entire arc of the arm swing.

When done properly, these four pointers will help you post your shot and increase your probabilities for throwing a strike.

Not only will your scores improve, but, you'll begin noticing why other bowlers are not carrying their pins as much as you are.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bowling Ball Pitch

Let's talk about, "PITCH,” which refers to the angle each of your holes are drilled into a bowling ball.

A bowling ball is a sphere so it has a "geometric center," (the exact middle point of your ball).

By recognizing that there is this GC, you now have the reference point from which the angle, or "pitch," of your holes are calculated.

As each of us are uniquely different, so each of us has unique hand characteristics.
Any ball driller will know this and can make several considerations in order to give you a comfortable feel and release.

Some of these are, (but not limited to): injuries, ailments, size of your fingers/hands, how much strength you have, and how flexible you are.

Some of these are easily seen while others are virtually undetectable.

The person fitting you for your ball should be asking you about your hand as he or she tries to figure out what the best fit would be for you.

Here's the "Choc-List" for bowling ball PITCH:

1) Zero Pitch - the hole is drilled directly toward the GC of the ball.

2) Reverse Pitch (often referred to as "Away") - the hole is drilled below the GC or "away from the palm." As your hand sits in the bowling ball, your thumb and/or fingers feel as if they are in more of an open position. This pitch tends to give a person an early release so it's more suited to bowlers with wider spans and stronger hands.

3) Forward Pitch (often referred to as "Under") - the hole is drilled above the GC or "under the palm" As your hand sits in the bowling ball, your thumb and fingers feel as if they are gripping the ball more securely without much effort on your part. As you may have already guessed, this is for shorter spans and not so strong hands.

4) Right & Left "Lateral" Pitch - as you look down on where your holes are drilled, this is the direction right or left from the GC of the ball.

You shouldn't have to be bowling with a ball that hurts your hand.

With so many combinations available to him or her, a sharp pro shop professional can, and should be able to, drill a ball that will be both comfortable and practical for you to throw.
If you have any pain in your fingers or thumb, a simple way to remember what the proper PITCH may be for you is: "Pitch the hole in the direction of the hurt."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Your Bowling BARS

Adjustments have to be made every time you bowl.

There are more options in this day of high-tech balls but you still have to learn adjust comfortably with these options.

It doesn't matter how much oil is placed on the lanes or the pattern that's laid down.

Here, then, are four common adjustments that you should practice in order to be able to make the change comfortably when it's necessary to do so.

These are your bowling ball, your angle, your release, and your ball speed. A good acronym for these adjustments would be BARS - ball, angle, release, and speed.

We could cover many more variables; but, my purpose is to pike your interest by providing the basics and let those of you that want to, dig into them deeper as your desire drives you.

Here's the “Choc-List” for the basic adjustments I refer to as, "BARS":

1) BALL - if you're serious about the sport of bowling and want to be a high average bowler, you'll need more than one bowling ball. At a minimum, one will be your bread-and-butter; one will go longer than the others; and another will have a softer surface. This makes a total of four when counting your spare ball. From a hooking perspective, they are zero, small, medium, and large. Keep in mind that high-tech bowling balls are so advanced that you should consult with your favorite pro shop for the differences in ball specifications and reactions.

2) ANGLE - if you get on the lanes and your ball hooks further left than normal, move left; if your ball tends to go right, move right. Nowadays, consider playing outside the 5-board (first arrow) or as deep inside as the 30-board because the different oil patterns also affect how the ball breaks to the pocket. Keep in mind, though, that more oil in this day-and-age does not necessarily mean that the ball will hook less.

3) RELEASE – variables include, but aren't limited to, cupping or relaxing your wrist, having an apparatus on your hand being behind the ball, being on the side of the ball, and throwing full-roller, semi-roller, or 3/4-roller.

4) SPEED - if the ball is not hooking enough, slow the ball down; if it is hooking too much, throw the ball faster. Some possible adjustments are to move forward on the approach and take shorter steps to slow down, move back and take longer steps to speed up; hold the ball lower when you set-up to slow down and hold the ball higher to increase the speed; and, of course, you can always get a heavier (unless you throw a 16-pounder) or lighter ball to vary your speed.

How does one get to be an “advanced” bowler? It all comes down to practice, practice, practice.

Don't just throw for strikes and scores when you're in a practice session. Train yourself on the aforementioned hints to see how your ball responds on the lanes.

Get better and bowl better!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Get Out Of Your Bowling Sandbox

I entered a senior bowling tournament several years ago.

This was the first time for me to bowl in competition outside of my two "comfort zone" bowling alleys in pretty close to a year.

Like a lot of bowlers, I have my favorite places to bowl and, nowadays, I very rarely venture out of those two bowling centers.

The tournament was being held in a house that I hadn't bowled in since the summer of 2006 for a Sports Shot League that I helped put together.

This is in sharp contrast to 2002 thru 2006 when I traveled to practically all the bowling centers in Phoenix as well as several other areas of Arizona.

Time-wise, it doesn't seem to be such a big deal; but, practicality-wise, the shortcomings of limiting yourself to being a one or two center bowler showed up.

We entered with a 4-person team average total of 845 and I was the only one who managed a 600+ series, which only speaks to how badly we couldn't adjust to the lane conditions.

From the first ball thrown in practice, it was evident that some radical adjustments were going to have to be made.

There were moans of surprise and frustration ranging from having brought the wrong equipment to outright statements of, "this is ridiculous."

I ended up using my "Spare" ball because it was the only one I could keep on the right side of the head pin.

Regardless of what may happen, however, here's my "Choc-List" of what I learned that day and what I have to teach myself and my students:

(1) Do your best not to become and remain a “one-dimensional bowler.” Get out of your sandbox and see if you can play in another one. If you get used to one type of scenery, it may be difficult for you to adjust to another landscape. Your 230 average does you no good if you enter a tournament and bowl 425.

(2) Don't allow yourself to get lackadaisical about your targeting and accuracy. Just because you can miss your mark by 7 boards and still get a strike at your local center, don't lose your ability to hit within 2 to 3 boards of your mark. Get as far away from "area bowling" as you can. My friend, who was an international champion for electronic darts gave me this advice when he was trying to teach me: "Choc, aim for the hole in the dart board that you want to hit."

(3) Shut out the negative thoughts around you. Keep your mental focus so you can think clearly and keep trying things rather than wallowing in self-pity along with the other bowlers around you.

(4) Keep practicing with the plastic spare ball. I didn't have to worry about the ball hooking so I was able to use pretty close to the same marls for all my spares. Bowlers who weren't used to using their spare ball for every spare missed theirs constantly. By the time they decided to use their spare balls for everything, they had to guess where to throw their balls - and, since they were used to arcing the ball for the spare, there were many missed on the right of the pin.

Here's a side note: The other team had an anchor man entering with a 225 average. I didn't notice that he ever tried any different target line then outside the 5-board.

He kept switching balls until he ran out of the ones that he brought - I don't remember the exact amount he had.

He didn't break a 500 series.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Basics of Bowling Ball Balance

"Symmetrical or asymmetrical, that is the question, whether 'tis more advantageous to have the ball roll down the lane in a smoother arc, or hark, would it cause more strikes that the core be left unbalanced for a more radical plunge to the pocket?

To sleep, perchance to dream of the perfect ball, with the perfect drill, impacting the pocket for the perfect strike, hence, I smile; for life indeed is good - I understand my ball and my average is rising.

--Excerpt from the fantasy, "A Mid-Summer Night's Bowling Dream." by Choc Higa--

Technically, the sport of bowling has become a bit more complicated when talking about bowling balls.

In order to keep improving, a bowler has to learn (and understand) about many specifications.

Some of these are bowling ball balance, cover stocks, oil patterns, hand positions, and targeting methodologies.

However, John Jowdy,  the renowned bowling coach said, "There is nothing in the world that can overcome a badly drilled ball."

Some knowledge with regard to bowling ball balance characteristics is important for any bowler.

A bowling ball is manufactured in sections (there are two-piece and three-piece bowling balls), beginning with the core and ending with the shell, or cover stock.

The core of a bowling ball determines the weight (lighter ones use more foamy materials than the heavier ones) and the shape of the core will make the ball roll smoother.

A symmetrical core (visualize a round one) will roll down the lane in a smoother arc and an asymmetrical core (visualize an oblong one) will tend to be more wobbly.

A football is the best example of this effect because it, in itself, is asymmetrically shaped with respect to a round sphere.

The cover stock is made up of one of four different types of compounds - plastic, urethane, reactive resin, or particle.

Each of these types of compounds plays a part in ball balance and how the ball rolls down the lane – plastic tend to hooks less while reactive resin hooks more.

Plastic balls are the popular choice for “spare balls” because they don't react to oil patterns.

Regardless of where a person bowls, the plastic ball will tend to go straighter than say, a reactive urethane cover stock.

(This negates the need to find where your marks are for shooting spares when the oiling patterns are different.)

A locator pin is a colored, plastic rod that is used to suspend the core of the ball in the mold as the second and maybe, third piece of the ball is poured.

In the final manufacturing process when the surfaces are made smooth, the pin will appear as a circular dot.

This, in effect, marks the center of the core of the ball and therefore, its position is very important when the ball is drilled.

Pin IN, Pin OUT, high or low pin, long pin or short pin, there are numerous variations to be considered so consult with your ball driller to determine the "best layout" for you.

The positive axis point (PAP) is a key to pin placement and has a direct impact on how your ball will roll down the lane.

To find your PAP, locate the first oil ring (circle) around the ball, usually the one closest to the thumb hole.

Find the center of this circle and then go to the point directly opposite to it on the other side of the ball.

As young kids, we used to think it was cool to place a white dot, made by cutting out a piece of tape in a small circle and placing it on the surface of the bowling ball, on the PAP and practice being able to throw our ball without that dot moving (of course, in those days we didn't know it was called the "PAP.")

Anyway, the PAP is generally 3 - 5 inches away from the mid-line of the center of your grip and about 1/2-inch up along the vertical axis line.

There is an excellent video here: (Storm Instructional Series).

Understanding the factors that affect bowling ball balance is a key component of how you'll want your ball to be drilled.

I recently watched a replay of a PBA match and noticed that several of them had their balls drilled with negative pin placements. (Normally, their pins are placed with more positive weight factors.)

Of course, the pros have ball specialists and coaches they consult with throughout their tournaments; however, I would venture to say that they, themselves, also know about ball specs, among other technical details.

There are basically three “types” of bowlers.

The TIGHT-LINE bowler tends to have lower ball speed, less revs, and the ball doesn't cover a lot of boards as it goes down the lane. This person must depend heavily on accuracy and consistency of delivery.

A STROKER hooks the ball more than the tight-line bowler so their revs and ball rotation puts them in the middle category. They can bowl well on a variety of lane conditions.

The CRANKER, at the high end of our bowler types is someone who can generate very high revs and a tremendous amount of hook making them very effective on conditions where there is a lot of oil.

Whichever type you are, or decide to be, keep in mind that each one can be just as effective as the next with the proper practice and having a properly drilled bowling ball.

Don’t be like a lot of bowlers who venture into their local pro shop, buy the nicest looking ball (or the one their friends told them about) and then place their fortunes in the hands of the ball driller.

What other choice do they have if they don't know the basics of bowling ball specifications?

If you’re going to get serious about bowling, you would surely want to learn and understand about what you’re doing when you spend upwards of $150 for a state-of-the-art bowling ball.

I would think so, anyway?

Simple Bowling Tips

I find that a lot of bowlers have a tendency to “over-think their game.”

They analyze every shot, wondering why they didn't execute the previous shot correctly.

Their minds are muddled up with things that have no business being there when they're bowling.

Here's a few simple tips to help you keep focused on your game instead of trying to think of every thing you have to do when throwing your ball down the lane.

  1. Develop a “Pre-Shot Routine” (PSR) and do the same thing every time you get ready to throw your ball. You may have to document everything until you can do them without thinking.
  2. Wipe your Reactive Resin bowling ball so that you “present a clean surface to the lane on every shot.” Your ball should react to the oil on the lane, not what's on the surface of your ball.
  3. Get mentally prepared before stepping on the approach.
  4. Minimize physical tension (arms and legs) because relaxed muscles are the key to success in delivering your ball downthe lane.
  5. Hold your finishing position (“Post” or “Posting”) until your ball hits the pins. This helps you maintain proper balance and develop better target accuracy when rolling your ball down the lane.

Achieving the best Timing, Rhythm, and Temp possible is key to bowling and scoring good.

These five points should help you get you into and proper mental and physical condition for doing just that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An Ideal Bowling Ball Breakpoint?

In the past, there have been many articles written about how to play the lanes under different oil patterns.

In the 1980's, Sam Baca, at that time the Lane Maintenance Director for the PBA,
made known the "Breakpoint Strategy."

Very briefly, it's the point at which your ball starts breaking to the pocket.

Renowned USBC Gold Coach, Joe Slowinski, wrote about the "Exit Point Strategy." It was based on a study conducted by the then American Bowling Congress (ABC) head of testing, Neil Stremmel.

(If the ball exits the oil at this point, it has a better chance for hitting the pocket and striking.)

Basically, the formula is (Length of oil minus 31) = The point where the ball should be exiting the oil pattern to be the most effective.

For example, if the length of oil is 42 feet, then (42 - 31) = 11; therefore, by targeting your ball to leave the oil pattern at the 11 board, you maximize the margin of error to the left-and-right of the Exit Point, and still be able to hit the pocket with a solid entry angle.

"Tons" of different oil patterns have appeared on the international scene, mostly due to the WTBA, Collegiate Bowling, the PBA, and the Kegel Company.

They've set the standards for the current competition and oil specifications around the world. 

Thus, the development of the myriad of modified patterns.

As well as the "USBC Red, White, and Blue," "USBC Sport Shot," and PBA Animal patterns, we now have "WTBA Olympic City" and "Kegel" patterns.

(Note that NCAA - college bowling - and different organizations have their own sets of patterns for their particular competitions.)

The variations are going to continue as research studies go on, behind the scenes, in various Tenpin Bowling testing facilities around the world.

All these points being made, though, still doesn't diminish the fact that you've got to play the lanes as you experience them at the time you bowl.

Charts and theories only give you a starting point and you've got to make the necessary adjustments to score on that particular day and that particular bowling center.

(I won't even mention all the topographical and environmental factors that could affect the way the ball rolls down the lane.)

Nevertheless, the aforementioned theories are still valid when determining a starting point of how to play the lanes.

Start there and make adjustments accordingly.

I've been watching a lot of bowling events and especially, the WTBA (World Tenpin Bowling Association) ones, and have noticed a trend with regards to oil patterns and how to play them.

Regardless of the length of the pattern, it APPEARS that the "Ideal Breakpoint" seems to be right around the seven to ten boards at around the 40-feet to 43-feet mark down lane.

(On the lanes that have them, that's the brownish colored 10-board marker "way down there.")

The greater majority of videos I've watched show the ball hitting that point just before making its run to the pocket.

This, despite where the bowler hits the arrows.

Here, then, is my "Choc-List" for what I'm going to be checking out over the next several practice sessions: (Using three points as references for my targeting.)

1) Set my "Breakpoint" Target as the 7-board at 43 feet.

2) Calculate the "Exit Point." (See explanation of "Exit Point Strategy," above.)

3) Use the Arrows as my “Visual Target.” Draw a reference line back from the "Breakpoint," through the "Exit Point," and where that line crosses the arrows.

4) Depending on where I stand on the approach, use either the 10-pin, 6-pin, or 3-pin as my “Down-lane Target.”

Now it's up to me to adjust my hand, ball roll, speed, and angle to be able to play that line to the pocket.

Will it absolutely work? I’m not sure but I'm going to experiment with it.

By the way, I should mention that the bowlers at all levels who have the most consistent success with all the various patterns are the one's who throw the least amount of hook.

It gives very strong evidence to the old bowling cliché, "Straighter is better."