August 26, 2011

Week 1 Recap

Game 1: 204
Game 2: 162
Game 3: 204
Series: 570
Week Avg: 190
Season Avg: 190


The first week of league bowling started with the observation that about half of the people there were new to the league. My team welcomed two new bowlers who have bowled in the league before, one of which was on a different team last year.

Practice was pretty routine, and I managed to find a decent line on the right lane. The left lane, though, was a different story and I left the 5-pin my two throws on that side. The lanes were the complete opposite from my practice session a few weeks ago, and the oil on the lane prevented the ball from getting any real movement. I was standing at the center of the approach and throwing over the second arrow.

The first game began with a 9/spare and was followed by the 3-6-9 leave, which I opened by only hitting two. I managed to stay clean the rest of the game, but continued to struggle on the left lane. I was in the pocket, but always a little too high or light. I moved left/right and up/back on the approach about an inch trying to dial into the pocket just right, but to no avail. My only strike on the left this game was a lucky Brooklyn strike. When all was said and done I shot a 204.

The second game started similar to the first, with the first two shots leaving the 2-4-5. I missed my mark and only got the 2-4 my first try, but I picked up the spare the second attempt. This time I did not have the strikes to make up the ground I lost with the open frame. I converted the majority of my spares though, and salvaged what could have been a worse game. I was continually missing my mark to the right or left, and spent most of the game moving around trying to compensate. In the 10th frame I realized that it wasn't a matter of body position on the approach, but rather a twisting of my shoulders at the release. At the foul line, I was pointing toward the 7-pin, which caused me to miss my mark and the pocket to the left. Luckily the only split I left was the 3-10, which unluckily I did not convert. I made the big mistake of opening in the 9th frame by missing the 3-pin, which gave me nothing to build on in the 10th frame. I finished with a 162.

With the realization of what went wrong in the last game, I spent the first few frames of the third game making sure my shoulders were parallel to the foul line at my release. Immediately I began to consistently hit my target, and then it was only a matter of making small body position adjustments until I was in the pocket. Once I found the pocket I began to strike, and with the strikes came the confidence to convert my spares. I finally had my first turkey of the day and finished off the evening with another 204 game.

Lesson Learned

My take away from this week is that if you are continually missing your target, evaluate all of your mechanics before making a body position adjustment. Although your muscle memory takes over after you have been bowling for a while, sometimes small details of your delivery lapse and require some effort to get that aspect back on track.

A good checklist is as follows:
Follow-through - Is your arm straight throughout your backswing and release?
Shoulders - Are your shoulders parallel to the foul line at your release?
Wandering - As you walk toward the foul line, are you walking in a straight line or listing to the right or left?

Once you identify the problem, concentrate on that aspect for a couple of frames until you are sure it is corrected. Once the delivery is back to normal you should be able to hit your mark, and from there you can focus on dialing into the pocket.

How was week one of your season?

August 22, 2011

Last Season's Recap

With the new season starting on Thursday, I thought I would take a look back at how last year went.

Last August was my first foray into a sanctioned adult league. After spending six years learning the fundamentals in a YABA sanctioned youth league, I left for college with a 180 average and no real plans for continuing my bowling. I bowled a handful of games over the next few years until I joined my school's bowling club. I bowled there for two years and after graduating I laid dormant for a little while. After earning my masters degree, my wife and I joined Pittsburgh Sports League's bowling league for two short seasons. It was enough to reignite my love of the game and I decided to join a sanctioned league that fall.

My wife and I joined a mixed league and it was a lot of fun. After a few weeks I was averaging 181 and bowling anchor for my team. I wasn't very happy with the way the pins were reacting to my ball, an old Columbia 300 Boss Titanium I had bought from my youth league coach back around 2000. So I did some research online and settled on the Brunswick Python as my new ball. I had it drilled a few days after it arrived and immediately noticed a difference in pin action. My first week with the Python I threw a 247 game and 667 series, my highest of both for the season. I got through the rest of the season with a short slump, but overall it was a successful first year back. I ended with a 192 average and my team finished in 3rd for the year.

The past season's successes have left me pretty anxious to get back for a full league season with the Python to see how I'll do. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off and build on the 192 average.

How was your 2010/2011 league season? Are you excited to get back?

August 15, 2011

Its in the Bag

You never know what kind of trouble you might run into on a particular night, so keeping an array of accessories in your bag in addition to your balls and shoes is always a good idea. There is a lot of stuff out there, but I've compiled a list of what I keep in my bag so that I am prepared for just about any occasion.

Bowling Towel

Other than giving you something to play with while waiting for your ball or the bowler on the next lane to finish up, the bowling towel is probably one of the most important accessories in my bag. Before each frame, if not each ball, wipe off the surface of your ball to clean away all of the oil picked up during the previous frame. There are a lot of variables in bowling, so by removing this residue build-up you can at least be sure that your ball surface has not changed from frame to frame.

Bowler's/Electrical Tape

Whether you realize it or not, your thumb and fingers expand and contract based on the weather. When it is hot and humid, your phalanges will expand. When it is cold, they will shrink. In a 30+ week league season in the majority of the country you will experience both extremes. This same phenomenon can occur as the bowling night progresses and your thumb can swell from the first to the third game, so it is a good idea to be prepared to make a quick change on the fly.

Throughout the majority of the season, the thumb hole on my ball is a little too large. I use one to a few pieces of black electrical tape to give my thumb a snug, but comfortable fit making sure that the thumb can easily come out as I release the ball. Black electrical tape and the pre-cut bowler's tape is pretty much the same thing, only a roll of electrical tape is a bit cheaper. When adding tape to the hole, be sure that the edges are even or below the ball surface. Also, only apply tape to the part of the thumb hole that touches the back of your thumb. This will allow you to make adjustments without affecting your span.

Sandpaper/Emery Board

If you find that your thumb has swollen to the point where the ball is sticking at the release and all tape has been removed from the hole, the only option is to expand the hole. A few swipes with a piece of sandpaper or an emery board will allow you to make a slight adjustment to the hole size without affecting the overall quality of the original drilling. As with tape, try to avoid changing the front half of the hole so you do not change the span and sizing on the ball. It is also important to keep in mind that while tape can be removed or added to a hole, sanding is a permanent change. So be careful and only sand enough to get you through the night.

New Skin/Skin Patch

If you have ever tried to bowl with a cut on your thumb or finger, you know how painful and frustrating that can be. You also know that a Band-Aid just doesn't cut it. A skin patch or some New Skin applied over a small cut or an area that sees a lot of friction during the course of the night will allow you to bowl without much of the discomfort. However, be warned that this will probably sting when initially applied to a cut, but once it is on and dry you can barely tell its there.

Ball Cleaner/Rubbing Alcohol

Before I touch on this one, I will say please check with your league officials regarding the rules on changing your ball surface during or between games. Many leagues will not allow ball cleaner to be used once league games have started.

That being said, a ball cleaner will allow you to get a little more bite on the lanes, particularly in high oil. A bowling ball surface, much like your skin, has pores. These pores, among other things, allow your ball to hook on the lanes. And also like your skin, a build-up of oil can clog those pores, preventing them from doing their job. To avoid this, use a ball cleaner or rubbing alcohol at the end of a particularly oily evening or before practice. If you arrive early enough to the alley, watch how others' balls react on the lane. If they seem to be sliding or not grabbing, take that as a sign that it might be a good night to clean the ball.

Rosin Bag

One of the most frustrating things a bowler can encounter is a less than pristine approach. If your sliding foot is sticking at the line and throwing off your shot, a few pats of a rosin bag on the bottom of your sliding shoe should allow for a cleaner follow through.

Also, if your thumb or fingers are wet or sticking in the ball, a little rosin will absorb the moisture on your hand and should help your release.

Some Tools

I find that it usually helps to keep a pocket knife or a small pair of scissors in your bag to cut tape and help place it in the ball. Plus, you never know when these might come in handy.

Its also never a bad idea to keep some cash and bowling coupons in your bag, for impromptu raffles, brackets, 50/50s and practice sessions.

What do you keep in your bag? Is there a bowling accessory you couldn't live without?

August 8, 2011

The Pre-League Warm Up Practice

So I finally got out to bowl for the first time in three months, and it showed. After a long hiatus like that, I am always reminded the next day about how out of shape I truly am by soreness in both knees and my right bicep.

My goal for the day was to simply get my mechanics back to where they should be when league starts in three weeks and, eventually, I did accomplish my goal. However, there were a few things working against me. First, I chose to practice at a different bowling center than my league because it is closer to my house, we had a gift card, and I wanted to see if I could bowl well enough there to make it worth entering a tournament there next weekend ( which I did not).

Secondly, the approach seemed pretty tacky and I was getting no slide to the foul line. Some people prefer not to slide, but that is where the most important part of my release occurs. Adding a few pats of the rosin bag to my shoe did help and eventually I was able to work out the problem, but the first game had thrown my timing completely off. Once I began to consistently slide without the worry of falling on my face I was able to correct the timing issues and throw consistently.

The third problem, which really wouldn't be a problem any other practice session, is that the lanes were bone dry. I was the first person to throw on that lane since the night before and the break point was a lot closer on the lane than it typically is. It was a bit of an issue the first game while I was sorting out the sliding problem and just warming up, but I found a good line by the end of the first game and my scores increased by increments of 30 pins the next two games. By the end of three games I felt pretty comfortable in returning to league play in a few weeks.

My most important rule about bowling, whether it is a practice game or the last game for the league championship, is to walk away with a new piece of knowledge. If you throw the worst game of your life, you should still be able to look back and think about something you learned: a new angle, a change in hand position, etc. This will leave you better prepared to handle this situation when it is encountered again (and you will see it again). If you can make every outing a teaching opportunity, you will find that your knowledge of the game will greatly improve and leave you in a better position to adapt when something unexpected happens.

How has your pre-league practice gone so far?