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.