As the season nears, I find myself looking for time to get in a few games of practice so I don't completely embarrass myself on Week 1. However, just making time to practice isn't enough, as there are two common methods of practice from which to choose. Here are a few pros and cons for each.
What better way to practice than to go out and throw a few games just as you would on any league night, right? This allows you to see real scenarios that you will face during league, such as your most commonly left spares and the pressures associated with stringing together a bunch of strikes. It also provides the opportunity to work on your adjustments as the oil pattern begins to break down. More importantly, this gives you the chance to get your muscle memory and timing back to mid-season form after an extended absence.
During the season, bowling practice games is a good opportunity to try out one or two new techniques without risking league scores and averages. However, this can also be dangerous during the season as your mechanics may suffer after an attempt to drastically change something in your approach.
Some may argue that if you hit a point during practice where you are only throwing strikes you really aren't learning anything, but I beg to differ. I think one of the most difficult things to do is being consistent in your throw while adjusting to changing lane conditions. There is no shame in bowling a 300 in practice, and any experience with stringing strikes together is a good one.
Another way to approach practice is to shoot at your most common leaves and then use the second ball to pick up the remaining spare, which may consist of shots you wouldn't normally leave during a game. This allows you to work on that one spare that keeps you from a clean game (cough cough 10-pin). The second ball then gives you a chance to roll at something you may see once a season, but isn't it nice to know that you can approach that shot with confidence when it pops up?
This method is much more beneficial during the season or for someone who bowls frequently between seasons when there is not much downtime to fall back on bad habits. While your first shot, or strike ball, should be your strongest and most comfortable, proficient spare shooting will take your game to the next level.
There is always the option to mix the two practice styles into a combination that works best for you. Throw the first game as you would any league game and get accustomed to the lane conditions. Then use the second game to work on some of your problem spare shots. This will also continue to break down the oil pattern and simulate other bowlers with different styles throwing on the same lane. Then throw a third game just as you did the first. By now the lane should be reacting a bit differently and will give you the opportunity to work on how to adjust your approach.
How to Approach League Night Practice
I cherish these ten minutes like Christmas morning. My first few shots on each lane let me set up my strike ball and knock off the rust. Once I have my first ball down, I always take at least one shot at the 10-pin which is my most frequent leave.
Use the comments section to share how do you practice in the off season? During the season? Warm-ups?