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."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bowling Practice Routines

A lot of bowlers make comments like, "I practiced on Tuesday and bowled terrific; but, in tonight's league, I'm doing terrible," or "I shot a 268 in practice on Wednesday and now I can't hit the pocket to save my soul."

I try to explain to them that those comparisons are "apple-to-oranges" because it's a different day, different lane condition, and different environment.

Somehow, they can't understand so they continue to practice their bowling only thinking about their score rather than working on their game.

We all have to practice to become better bowlers.

Are you the type that only cares about how high your practice score is or are you the type that ignores the score and works on improving the fundamentals of your game?

If you're the latter, than this article may be of interest to you.

There are, no doubt, many different practice routines out there. Over the years, I've picked up a few that I use at various times when I practice.

The first and foremost thing you have to get in your mind is to never, ever worry about your score when you're practicing.

Here a “Choc-List” of routines I use from time-to-time:

1) Bowl using only your spare ball. This forces you to try a different and tighter line or angle to the pocket. This practice routine improves your overall game and in particular, your armswing and targeting accuracy. Moreover, what happens if you get into a situation where you only have your spare ball to bowl with?

2) Bowl using a different target (mark) in each frame. Do this exercise as follows: 1st frame, 1st arrow (five board); 2nd frame, 2nd arrow (10 board); 3rd frame, 3rd arrow (15 board); 4th frame, 4th arrow (20 board); 5th frame, 5th arrow (25 board). From the 6th frame on, reverse the steps starting with the 25 board. This will force you to think about how your ball normally breaks and how you have to adjust your shot to the pocket in order to accommodate the different angles.

3) Bowl to practice the 10 pin spare. Here are two methods - a) shoot every shot only at the 10 pin until you can pick it off cleanly without hitting any other pins in the rack; and, b) aim at the 10 pin on your first ball and pick up what's left with your second ball.

4) Use a different ball for each throw. I set my four balls on the ball rack in no particular order. Always picking up the last ball in line, I just keep going until the 10 frames are completed or I choose to stop. This gives you a pretty good workout because, again, you're having to concentrate and focus on making your shot for the ball you picked up.

Use your imagination and make up some more, useful routines to keep your mind off the score.

Remember that improving and sharpening your bowling skills are what's important.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some Basic Bowling Equipment Specs

The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) is responsible for establishing and maintaining specifications (specs) and standards for the sport of bowling worldwide.

Here are some of the basics specs you should know:

1) The bowling ball is about 8-1/2 inches in diameter. The total distance around the ball (circumference) is 27 inches. There's no minimum weight; but, the maximum is 16 pounds. There are various types of materials that the ball can be made of  such as polyester, urethane, particle, and reactive-resin.

2) The bowling pin is 15 inches tall and 4-11/16 inches at its widest part.. Each pin can weigh between 3 lbs 6 oz and 3 lbs 10 oz. In the normal bowling centers, the lower weight pins are used. The Professional Bowlers Tour was authorized to use the heavier weight pins starting in 1998.

3) The bowling lane is 60 feet long from the front bowling pin (the #1 pin or "headpin") to the foul line. From the center of the headpin to the very back of the bowling lane is 2 feet, 10-3/16 inches. This makes the overall length or a regulation lane 62 feet, 10-3/16 inches.

4) The approach area is where you walk to deliver the ball down the lane. It's 12 feet from the foul line to the first line. It's an additional 3 feet to the second (or back) line. The total length of the approach area cannot be less than 15 feet.

5) The width of the playing area of the lane is 42 inches. It's comprised of 39 "boards" which are marked in groups of 5 (the triangular arrowheads on the lane playing surface) from side to side.

There are no defined specifications for bowling bags and bowling shoes, however, manufacturers continue to strive for better fashion and practicality. Multiple-ball bags have made it easier to carry your arsenal to the bowling centers.

The personal bowling shoes have the sole opposite the sliding foot made of a non-slip surface for better traction as you walk on the approach to release your ball. For the sliding foot, there are now accessories (foot sock) or Teflon sole surfaces that allow you to slide even if you step in liquids.

Looking over the history of bowling, 2-holed, wooden bowling balls were replaced by 3-fingered rubber bowling balls. They were then replaced by polyester (plastic), urethane, particle (a hybrid particle), and reactive-resin bowling balls.

As far as pins are concerned, they have evolved from "wooden sticks" to a more durable wood-core with a plastic coating around them. Recent technology has brought to existence "synthetic pins."

Bowling lanes themselves have come from three different types of wood to the now more common synthetic lanes which are more durable and last longer than the older wooden type.

What you should watch are the advancements in bowling ball technology and bowling lane oil specifications. These two variables are the most likely to change in the future as the sport of bowling continues to advance in popularity and participation.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bowling Self-Talk

I like to think of myself as a positive-thinking person; but, there's been many times where I've talked myself into doing poorly when I've bowled.

What makes us do it? Do we all have the same way of looking at things so-much-so that we like to talk to ourselves more negatively than positively?

That little inner voice is also commonly referred to as, "self-talk."

The encouraging statements are "positive-speak" and the discouraging statements are "negative-speak."

We've all heard them, and more importantly, we've all repeated them to ourselves.

What allows the "negative-speak" to come through louder than the "positive-speak?"

It's probably not enough practice in "positive-speak" and positive affirmations.

I remember reading that each person is bombarded with "negative-speak" at least 80% - 90% of the time.

The figure is even higher depending on the person's profession - for example, a person who works in the merchandise return department of a retail store.

With that kind of daily grind, it can be difficult to keep yourself focused on "positive-speak;" but, if we start practicing and get into the habit of positive affirmations, we can certainly beat down the "negative-speak" to a point where it won't bother us.

To that end, then, let's begin to develop and maintain a positive mental attitude and make it a full-time endeavor for us.

You could go down to the book store and buy tapes or CD's about positive thinking and begin listening to them.

That would be a good idea for the short-term.

A better idea for the long-term, however, is for you to make your own tape of positive affirmations. It will be well worth your time.

In these modern times, I would search the internet (you can also purchase books, tapes, or CD's) for positive thinking thoughts and positive affirmations.

Write them down and when you've gotten a list of several hundred, record a tape, CD, mp3 player, or transfer them to an iPod in your own voice so you can listen to yourself over and over again on a regular basis.

You may have to sacrifice listening to your favorite tunes all the time; but, hey, you're trying to improve your bowling game aren't you?

The more time you spend listening to positive affirmations, the sooner you'll see improvement.

Remember what we learned in school?

By writing something down on paper and then reciting them aloud, it'll help us to memorize and remember what it is we're trying to learn.

Then, by listening to the positive affirmations repeatedly, we'll cement them into our brain.

Everyone responds favorably to a person with a positive attitude.

By practicing "positive-speak," you'll be well on your way to building and exuding the air of self-confidence that's needed to be successful.

Before you know it, your bowling average will increase and your confidence will carry you through any pressure-filled situation such as having to strike out in the 10th to win a championship.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Are You Ready For Your Bowling Goals?

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." - Michael Althsuler-

I know that if my ball's not drilled to fit my hand properly, re-drilling is the best solution for improving my bowling,

I also know that if my bowling mindset is not  fitted properly to the tasks at hand, "re-drilling" that mindset is the best solution for improving my game.

I spend a lot of  time trying to convince students that they’re better than they think they are.

If it gets to the point that we can’t overcome their thinking, I tell them honestly that we're wasting our time unless they're willing to "re-drill their mindset."

There are too many people out there who like to argue for their limitations and it’s not worth anyone's time trying to convince them otherwise.

A person has to be "ready, willing, and able" to change in order for "real change" to occur.

Before deciding that they want to become a better bowler and raise their average to a higher level, they must determine if they really want that dream.

People so often don’t think beyond the ideal of a “200 average” and don’t fully realize what it will take to get there.

Also, once they get there, what then?

I believe that everyone should write down their goals and lay out a plan for how they’re going to improve their bowling.

A person doesn’t have to show it to anyone but it’s important they be written for them to review frequently.

Here’s my “Choc-List” for getting into the proper mindset and getting your goals into focus:

1) What is your “Why” level - Why are you willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to achieve that goal?  Why will you work on that goal even if you’re not feeling well? Why do you want that goal more than anything else in the world?

2) What is your “Knowledge” level? - How much do you know about bowling? Have you read books, watched tapes, or listened to audio about bowling? Have you talked to “experts” about bowling? What are you going to do to gain that knowledge? Will you be open-minded enough to capture that knowledge?

3) What is your “Self-Confidence” level?” -  Will you be able to brush aside the negative-speak? Can you keep yourself moving in a positive direction at all times? How are you going to keep up your self-confidence?

4) What is your “Willpower” level? - What do your determination and self-discipline attitudes look like? Remember the old phrase, “Intestinal fortitude?” Courage, perseverance, and inner drive. Will you give up before you reach your goal? Can you continue to move forward even if “everyone else” has given up on you?

Document your answers carefully and be honest in your responses. They’re the key to determining whether or not you actually want to pursue that goal of bowling better.

Remember, too, that at every level of success, there are unspoken “rules of behavior” that other people will place on you.

Realistic or not, those expectations are there in every aspect of our lives.

Do you really want to have to put up with the responsibilities expected of people “with that kind of average?”

Are you prepared for the scrutiny you will receive because you're a 210+ average bowler?

Your Bowling Self-Esteem

A popular definition of "self-esteem" is, "Self-respect: confidence in your own merit as an individual."

Everything I say or do affects my self-esteem.

My highest objective, therefore, should be to keep my self-esteem as high and as positive as possible at all times.

My self-esteem is the most important aspects of my bowling game.

If I really think about it, my performance is absolutely dependent on how confident I am when I make my shots.

If I have a high degree of self-esteem, I think more positively, I have more confidence in my ability to score high, and I have more enthusiasm about the game I'm bowling.

Having high self-esteem means I'll feel good about myself and will value myself as a wonderful and terrific person.

People with high self-esteem tend to feel great about themselves and their lives, in general.

They also tend to be the best person that they can possibly be.

Their energy and enthusiasm level is very high and they can achieve their goals much easier than someone who has low esteem.

My positive self-esteem will protect me even if myr bowling scores are lower than I expect them to be.

My spirits are kept high because I'm resilient and can deal with the ups and downs of the sport.

I can draw on my positive-thinking to foster my inner peace and contentment.

Bowling seems to be more of an individual sport; in reality, however, the enjoyment of it depends heavily on my relationships with others.

It's commonly referred to as a "social sport," and/or a "recreational sport."

The more we can like nyself, the more I'll enjoy the other people I'm bowling with.

I have to get along well with others to perform well.

If I'm to keep myself at my best levels of performance and feel good about myself at all times, how do I cultivate, foster, and grow my self-esteem?

Very simply, I need to take responsibility for the content or my mental state and the quality of my thinking.

Building that level of self-esteem takes dedication and a constant awareness of how I'm thinking rather than how I'n performing.

My mind controls my actions.

The "Self-Esteem Choc-List" is as follows:

1) Having clearly written goals and action plans. Be realistic and set challenging yet, attainable (and measurable) goals and define the actions with which I'll achieve those goals. As I move step-by-step upward toward my goals, my self-esteem will be kept moving forward positively because I'll feel good about achieving each step. When I reach each goal, I'll set another higher, yet attainable, goal with the subsequent action plan.

2) Commit to definite standards and values. I've got have a clear belief system towards my goals and action plans in my mind. My self-esteem is heavily reliant on me not compromising my beliefs. Self-discipline on my part will ensure that my standards won't be compromised by settling for a lesser goal or action step when I've set it at a higher level. In the longer term, I won't feel happy about myself if I set one level and settle for a lower one, therefore, my self-esteem will suffer. In other words, "don't cheat myself."

3) Clearly record my successes. As I reach each action step and goal, be sure to record and remember that bit of success. Accept the recognition given to me by my friends and acquaintances. It's okay to be modest, but, remember that "accomplishments are accomplishments" at whatever level my bowling performance is currently at. As aforementioned, bowling is such that, "... the enjoyment of it depends heavily on my relationships with others," so don't play down too much of the accolades that are given to me.

4) Set up rewards to celebrate your accomplishments. I may receive plaques, trophies, and patches from my governing organizations. Though those symbols do add to my self-esteem, creating tangible rewards for fulfilling my goals will have a deeper and more memorable affect on my attaining them. Set up a system for when I reach both small and large undertakings. Incentives are a great way to build my self-esteem.

Anything I can do to set up this foundation for self-esteem building can only help me improve my bowling.

Once I have my self-esteem on a firm footing, I'll see that I will have a strong mental game and will be an "optimist" rather than a "pessimist."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Basic Bowling Steps

The 4-step and 5-step approaches are the more commonly used deliveries in the sport of bowling.

Settle on the number of steps that you feel most comfortable with.

Experiment with the different steps and see which will be most advantageous and easy for you.

After finding your starting distance for the number of steps that will be taken, go through the motions for each one (“shadow bowling) until you decide.

Regardless of the first step in the approach, the greater majority of right-handers will finish their approach on their left foot (sliding foot). Left-handers will end up on their right foot.

The approaches with an EVEN number of steps (4 or 6) for right-handers will have them starting off with the right foot.

The ODD numbered (3 or 5) steps will have them starting off with the left foot. (For left-handers, the opposite will apply.)

The 4-step delivery is considered the standard and all explanation of a bowler’s delivery centers on this style. There should be a smooth coordination between the hand holding the bowling ball and the motion of the feet.

As you take your first step, push your ball forward and away from your body about the same distance as that step. Begin to let your left hand fall away from holding the bowling ball.

As the right hand naturally drops alongside the right leg, the left foot is taking the second step of the delivery.

With the weight of the ball carrying the arm behind your body in a straight arc to the top of the backswing, the third step (right foot) is taken.

Still maintaining an unforced and relaxed swing, the motion and weight of the bowling ball will carry your arm forward as you take the fourth step (left foot) and enter into a short slide that carries you to within inches of the foul line and you drop the bowling ball off your hand onto the lane.

With the basics of the 4-step approach understood, any deviations (such as the 1-step to the 6-step or beyond) is done from that foundation.

Visualization and mental imagery will play a key role as you vary your steps.

For example, if you have to take only three steps to deliver the ball, get your appropriate starting point, stand and visualize that you are going through the motions of the standard approach and allow your arm to swing as if the four steps were actually being taken.

That is, start pushing the ball forward and away from your body in a straight line while still standing in your starting position.

As you drop your left hand and the ball begins its downward arc, take your first step with your left foot.

When your arm swing reaches the top of the back swing, take your second step with your right foot.

On the forward and downward swing, take your third step with the brief slide and release the ball on the lane.

Another example is if you use the 5-step delivery and approach.

Start your first step with your left foot, but delay your push away until you begin to take your second step, which from that point on is basically the 4-step approach.

While there are basic foundations and fundamentals upon which your bowling game is built, it doesn't mean that you must follow them rigidly with no variations.

In the final analysis of your style and manner of bowling, you have to do what is best and most comfortable for you.

Without feeling natural and at ease with your bowling, it'll be difficult for you to achieve scores that are higher than the average bowler.

For the more advanced bowlers, it's a good idea to practice the different deliveries and approaches in case there's a time when your situation demands that you have to bowl with the different approach.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bowling & Baloney Explosions

A piece of bologna (baloney) I was frying exploded on me and I got slight burns from the oil splatter and pieces of it flew all over me and the kitchen.

I found, and continue to find, pieces in every crevice there is (or so it seems).

There are "good" baloney explosions and there are "bad" baloney explosions, it's a matter of how you treat them.

There was a very audible "popping" sound and I know it was loud because my girlfriend in the other room came running out to see what had happened.

We immediately started laughing and I continued to laugh through the tedious clean up period.

I still chuckle each time the incident comes into mind.

The other night, we happened to catch a documentary about an exploding whale in Japan.

It sparked one of those moments where she looked at me, I looked at her, and we just started laughing uncontrollably for what seemed like 5 minutes or more.

It was painful to the stomach.

I can imagine the residents of that city in Japan finding pieces of whale for years to come.

I think they'll continue to laugh about their incident as I do mine.

In the sport of bowling, there are many variables that affect our score.

These include such things as, but are not limited to, type of ball, weight of the ball, oil patterns, and the weather.

Do I have to mention our individual attitudes, health, and frame of mind?

Our performance depends on many factors being "just right," and us realists know that there will be bad scores as well as terrific scores.

That's just life.

Over the past couple of weeks, my "bowling baloney" have included several "good" and "bad" explosions - a 134 game, a 511 series, a gutter ball, three 4-6-7-10 splits in one game, and a 718 series.

Who can figure? You just have to make the best of it.

One of my teammates, "Dippy" (a 200+ average), shoots a 92 game in Thursday league, then shoots a 300 game on Friday night; rolls a 740 series on the next Thursday night, and comes back on another Friday night just barely breaking a 500 series.

Baloney explodes everywhere and at anytime!

As "Dippy" is always fond of saying, "What do we know?"

Bowling In The Zone

A while back, Myron the Muse asked me a question about when a person is on a string of strikes.

"Do you want to be silent and concentrate, or do you want to be relaxed and loose, talking and animated to prevent too much nervousness from stepping in?"

You see, on the one hand, it would seem that you'd want to keep yourself "in The Zone" so you don't lose the string of strikes; while on the other hand, you'd want to be less nervous so you don't lose the string of strikes.

A bit of a quandary, don't you think?

The reason he asked me the question is that on a particular night several months ago, he had just strung up nine strikes in a row and "choked" in the 10th frame.

Last night, he called me again to "complain" that he had strung up 11 strikes and choked on the last ball very badly - a "Greek Church" on the 12th ball.

(For those not familiar with that nickname, that is a five count comprised of the 4-6-7-9-10 most often thrown by right-handers, or the 4-6-7-8-10 most often thrown by left-handers - it really is a poorly thrown ball)

In both situations, I merely told him, "now you know how it feels so you'll just keep getting more and more used to the feeling;  you're on the verge of getting the big one real soon."

What else is there to say, really?

I have often evaluated my own thoughts and feelings trying  to remember how I felt as I went through my own moments of bowling extraordinarily good.

I've also asked other people their feelings as they went through their own superior performance in bowling or other sports.

Also, if you watch interviews on television after any great performance by an athlete, they all say pretty much the same thing in that no one can remember exactly how they felt.

They were just doing it and things just fell into place. I think this is what is called being in "The Zone."

The "Choc-List" for being in "The Zone" are:

1) You are not fully aware of what is going on around you. Conversations are fuzzy.

2) You can see targets, objects, or end goals more clearly. Your vision and thinking make you see small details exceptionally well.

3) You are in the moment. Every time it is your turn to perform, your whole body and mind is absorbed in the task at hand and nothing else.

4) You are not nervous. You are not thinking or concentrating too hard. You are just performing.

Trying to recapture the time that you were in "The Zone" is a futile effort.

Is that why, for a lot of us, there is a letdown period after performing an exceptional feat?

Is the letdown because we are concentrating more on trying to "re-capture the moment" instead of just performing?

You can't practice being in "The Zone." You can only hone your style of bowling so that those times occur more often than the next person.