September 30, 2011

Week 6 Recap

Game 1: 141
Game 2: 153
Game 3: 227
Series: 521
Week Avg: 173
Season Avg: 188


Last night I fell victim to bad practice decisions, and it cost me in my first and second games.  I threw four straight strikes in practice, which sounds like a good thing.  I was going to use my fifth practice frame to shoot the corner pins and get a feel for my spare shots, but I ran out of time.  Entering the first game I was only able to speculate at how my ball would react shooting at the 7-pin, and for that matter, how much my ball would move while shooting at the 10-pin.  The lanes were a little drier than last week, so I knew I would have a bit of a hook to work with.

The first game began with my fifth strike in a row, but I left and missed the 10-pin in the second frame.  I did not have the concentration needed on my spare shot, which I knew because I couldn't recall where my ball crossed the arrows.  Through the rest of the game I left two more ringing 10-pins, a 2-pin, and a 2-10 split.  Of those, I converted only one 10-pin and picked up the 2-pin of the split.  I managed to get a few strikes, all on the right lane and finished with a 141, my worst performance of the season.  My problem on the left lane was that the ball was just a hair too high in the pocket, a common cause for a solid 10-pin leave.  I tried two of my most reliable adjustments, moving up and moving left on the approach, but the ball was still coming in a little high.  The difference between a strike and leaving the 10-pin was less than one inch, and as it would eventually turn out, the successful adjustment would also be the matter of an inch.

The second game started with another 10-pin leave.  After this shot, I decided to try increasing my ball speed on the left lane.  This adjustment gives the ball a little less time to get to the pocket and I hoped it would make up for that one board difference I needed for a strike.  I find that this adjustment comes with a risk of throwing off some of my mechanics, so I tend to leave this as a last option.  During the first half of the game I kept it clean on the right lane, picking up a strike and a 10-pin spare (a result of that lane beginning to run high), but I still couldn't solve the mystery of the ringing 10-pin on the left lane.  Finally, I decided that instead of changing body position or ball speed, I would look about an inch past where my mark was.  This gets the ball a little further down the lane resulting in a later break toward the pocket.  In addition, this adjustment also has a tendency to force the bowler to follow through, assisting in accuracy.  I missed a 4-pin and another 10-pin, but I finished the game with a 153 and some much needed confidence going into the final game.  I made a few spares and I was consistently in the pocket, what wasn't to like?

The last game was glorious compared to the rest of the evening.  I was striking on both lanes.  I converted my last 10-pin, a 4-pin, a 6-pin and the 4-7 leaves.  It is amazing how confidence can change an evening.  My new mark had the ball coming in a little lighter than I usually like, but the pins were falling so I wasn't about to change anything.  I needed a 279 to hit my average for the night, and I finished with a clean 227 which is my highest game of the season and a 521 series, another season low.  This was a respectable finish to an embarrassing evening.

Lesson Learned

Stay patient and don't quit.

After three weeks of sub-par totals and watching my average plummet ten pins, I am officially in a slump.  Its frustrating, but I am trying to make this a learning experience and get it out of the way early in the season.

The second game was probably the best 153 I will ever throw.  Every hit was in the pocket and that game could have just as easily been in the 280s or (dare I say) higher.  Every ball was a strike or a nine-count.  As far as my first ball is concerned, last night was the most consistent I have ever been.  This type of consistency allowed me to try all of the above mentioned adjustments without further damaging my score.

That being said, there were other factors having a negative impact on my score.  I was 3 for 7 in converting 10-pins and I missed the 2-pin and 4-pin.  Much like last week, missed spares, especially single pin spares, destroyed my first two games.  Three of my four missed 10-pins saw the ball pass to the left of the pin so closely you could barely put a piece of paper between them.  The adjustment that solved that problem was the same that fixed leaving the 10-pin in the first place, looking just past my mark.  Though I think that adjustment was more about correcting my follow through than playing the lanes.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that I was "chicken winging" my arm on my spare shots.  Once I tucked my elbow back in as a result of the adjustment I started converting my spares.

How do you handle leaving the 10-pin on what appears to be a good strike ball? Do you make any adjustments to correct the issue?

September 23, 2011

Week 5 Recap

Game 1: 168
Game 2: 204
Game 3: 152
Series: 524
Week Avg: 174
Season Avg: 191


Practice seemed like every other night.  The lanes were freshly oiled, but the ball was moving a bit in the backend and I felt pretty comfortable with my shots going into the first game.  The main difference here was that all eight bowlers were present for the first time and all eight bowlers were right handed.

The first game started with a strike; however, the second frame I missed the pocket to the right and left the 1-2-4-7 and missed the 4-pin on the spare attempt.  I came in light in the third, but picked up the 4-pin this time.  Then I managed to strike four in a row before the ugliness happened.  I came in light several times leaving three splits, including one in the ninth and tenth frames, as well as a 1-2-7-8 monstrosity that I only managed to pick up two.  It was a disappointing game to be sure, because when I was in the pocket the pins didn't stand a chance.  The oil was being pushed down the lane on the right side and the backend was not offering the hook it did at the beginning of the game. I finished with a 168.

The second game began much as the first left off.  I left a 5-7 split, which I field goaled, and missed a 7-pin.  I was slowing down because I was just flat out tired, which was bringing some movement back to the ball. Finally, I began to pick up my spares and even strike a bit.  I managed to throw a turkey from the ninth into the tenth frame this time and pulled off a 204 game.

The third game started with a strike, but then the 5-7 split came back with another light hit only this time I hit the 5-pin.  After that, I wasn't throwing a bad ball, but I was doing an awful job at picking up my spares, missing another 7-pin.  I did manage to convert a 3-10 split, which could easily be called the highlight of the game.  I had to spare and then strike in the tenth to pull off a 152, my worst so far this season.  Tonight showed the other side of why spares are important.  My first game would have been a 200 easy if I wouldn't have opened four frames.  My last game also would have been considerably higher had I picked up the few simple spares I left.

Lesson Learned

Tonight I learned that I need to trust my knowledge and instincts.  In speaking with another bowler I predicted that because everyone was right handed and the lanes were particularly oily, eventually that oil would find its way to the backend and ball movement would disappear.  When I started coming in consistently light, leaving a lot of splits on the left side, it took me a couple of frames to evaluate what I was doing to make sure it wasn't a case of missing my mark or pulling my arm across my body at the release.  Then when I did make a move, it was only a half board or a small adjustment.  I told myself it probably wasn't enough, but I was afraid of coming in too high and leaving even more splits.  It took a few small adjustments in a row to eventually find my line again, and by the time I did I had thrown a 168 game.

As for the third game, I need to remember that even though the backend was covered in oil on the right side, if no one is shooting on the left it is going to be considerably drier.  I missed two 7-pins last night because I did not think about this detail when lining up my spare shot.  I used to pride myself on my spare shooting, and I think I need to take a step back and work on making those single pin leaves automatic spares again.

How is league going for you so far? Are you working on any aspects of your game this season?

September 16, 2011

Week 4 Recap

Game 1: 226
Game 2: 160
Game 3: 185
Series: 571
Week Avg: 190
Season Avg: 195


Last night had a little bit of everything.  During practice it was easy to see that oil had been pushed into the backend, causing the ball to break just before hitting the pins rather than a feet few out.  After some moving around I managed to throw a turkey as practice finished up and was fairly confident heading into the first game.

The first game started with a spare and then I missed the 2-pin in the second frame.  I hadn't shot anything on the left side of the lane up to that point and found that the backend on that side was considerably drier and thus hooking a little more.  I came into the pocket light in both frames so I made a small adjustment back on the approach and hit five strikes in a row.  I managed to keep the rest of the game clean; however I pulled my first ball in the tenth frame, came in pretty high and was lucky enough to avoid a split.  I did the same on my third ball in the tenth, but finished with my high game of the season so far with a 226.  Its hard to be disappointed with that, but the missed 2-pin, a pretty routine pickup, and those missed opportunities in the tenth ruined a potential 240 or higher.

The second game began with me missing the 9-pin.  I was standing a little too far right and missed it by probably half a board.  The backend began to dry and the ball started to come in high so I moved left half a board to bring it back into the pocket.  I had a few spares and a strike until the fifth frame where I left the 1-7-10.  That has to be a first for me, it was pretty ugly.  I came in really light and barely tapped the 3-pin to take out the 2-pin and the rest just kind of fell back.  I managed to pick up two of the three pins and was fairly close to knocking out the 10-pin from behind.  I was light two more times in the second half of the game and left the 2-6-10 and another split in the ninth frame.  Usually there is some room for error in hitting your mark and the pocket, but last night was unforgiving.  I managed to followup my best game of the season with my worst of the season with a 160.

The last game picked up exactly where the first left off and I missed the 4-pin, another routine shot.  Clearly I was doing something wrong causing me to be inconsistent in hitting my marks.  I really concentrated and managed to stay clean up to the ninth frame where I missed the 6-pin.  I had plenty of practice with spares on the left side last night and was getting a little frustrated.  In the tenth frame I decided to change where I held the ball at the start of my release, holding it further to the right and facilitating a straighter follow through to my target than usual.  I managed to strike out and finish with a 185.

Lesson Learned

There were a few things that I needed to evaluate last night, and more importantly need to keep in mind for the future.  The first is to not make an adjustment too soon.  While being able to read the lanes and make changes without sacrificing your score is a mark of a great bowler, sometimes we adjust one aspect of our game when there is something else causing the problem.  Last night, for example, I changed where I was standing on the approach because I began to come in high in the pocket; however, once I moved I was consistently coming in light and I paid for that adjustment with the 1-7-10 and two splits I left in the second game.  My body position was not the problem, it was my inconsistency in hitting my target and the fact that the lanes provided no room for error.

The second thing is to remember to keep your cool.  If you are frustrated by how you are bowling, it can cloud your judgement and cause you to make bad decisions.  It can also inadvertently alter your game by increasing ball speed and other aspects that are typically things you usually don't think about.  This will just make things worse.  I was pretty frustrated with how things were going in the second game and into the third, and my score shows it.  I essentially cost myself a pretty decent 600 series because my frustration was blinding me to the real problem, which was my arm swing and release.

The third thing is to not be afraid to try something drastic to break yourself of a problem, especially during a game that is essentially lost.  In the third game I realized that I was the problem and not the lane, and struggled through most of the game trying to figure out how to consistently hit my target.  In the tenth frame I decided to hold the ball further to the right of my body at the start of my approach, allowing me to drop the ball straight down and back.  This minimized the movement of my arm and the ball and provided for a straight line to my mark.  I usually hold the ball to the right, but a little closer to my body, so my push off is typically out and to the right slightly.  The change must have worked because I finished the game with a turkey.

Sometimes we just need to hit the reset button.  If things seem to be getting out of hand take a deep breath, talk a walk around the bowling center, and start over again.

How do you deal with a frustrating night at the alley?

September 13, 2011

Bowling in Pop Culture

While other sports may be more popular, bowling has enjoyed a ubiquitous presence in American popular culture. Bowling seems to be a common activity that all Americans can relate to, and so we find that some of our most beloved fictional characters in that last 50 years spend some time at the bowling alley. The Simpsons, The Honeymooners, The Drew Carey Show, All in the Family, Home Improvement, Bones, The Flintstones, and Ed, to name a few television shows, all had at least one episode that focused on bowling. Bowling for Dollars, Celebrity Bowling and Rock and Jock Bowling also took to the lanes for viewers' pleasure.

Here are some of the most famous, and my personal favorite, fictional bowlers:

Homer Simpson
There are several episodes of the Simpsons that revolve around bowling. Homer gives Marge a bowling ball as a birthday present. Homer convinces Mr. Burns to fund a bowling team. Homer achieves his dream job as a pin monkey. Homer is even lucky enough to throw a 300, as is his infant daughter Maggie (D'oh!). For better or for worse, Homer Simpson has been identified as the one character that people around the world think of when they picture an American, so I think it is only appropriate that he is a bowler.

Fred Flintstone
The original bowler, Fred Flintstone brought his twinkle-toes style approach into the living rooms of millions. My dad actually slightly resembles Fred's bowling technique, which I suppose is an example of life imitating art.

Big Ern McCraken
As for a bowling bad guy, I don't think anyone can top Big Ern from Kingpin. Brought to life by Bill Murray and the best comb-over of all time, Big Ern was responsible for Roy losing his hand as a result of a hustle gone bad and Ishmael breaking his hand after failing to connect a punch to his head. When Roy and Big Ern meet in a head to head match, Ern overcomes Roy's 7-10 split conversion by striking out to win the tournament.

The Dude
The movie The Big Lebowski features a lot of great bowler characters, but in the end you have to like the Dude. While I appreciate Walter's adherence to bowling etiquette and rules, you have to admire El Duderino's awesome bowling themed dream. Besides, the movie has one of the best quotes of all time, which nicely sums up what this blog is all about: "F' it, Dude. Let's go bowling."

Who is your favorite bowling character?

September 9, 2011

Week 3 Recap

Game 1: 204
Game 2: 198
Game 3: 216
Series: 618
Week Avg: 206
Season Avg: 197


After one practice ball, I could tell that the lanes were going to be a little more favorable last night. The ball was moving a little more in the backend, creating more drive through the pins. The first game started with me missing my mark and missing the pocket to the right, leaving the 1-2-4-5 which I picked up. From there it was a series of 9-counts and strikes. I cannot overemphasis the importance of making spares, and this game was a testament to that. Picking up all of my spares kept a 200 game in reach until I managed to get a turkey spanning the ninth and tenth frames. I finished the game with a 204.

The second game continued to go pretty smooth until the fifth frame. I came into the pocket pretty high and left a 4-7-8-10 split. It looked like something out of an M.C. Esher painting. I only managed to pick off the 7-pin as I missed my mark to the left. That hit led me to move about an inch up on the approach, giving the ball a little less room to hook on its way into the pocket. I was right back in the game with strikes and 9-count hits, picking up the rest of my spares and finishing with a 198.

The third game began with a missed 10-pin, which is a shot I convert about 90% of the time. I shook it off and came back with a four bagger and a few spares. I opened in the ninth frame, a big no-no, by missing the 4-pin. This opened the door for the other team to sneak past in an already tight game. The tenth frame came down to myself and the other anchor bowler, only he was working on a strike in the ninth. I put some pressure on him by striking out, but he reciprocated with a strike after each of mine and they won their only game of the evening. That is a great example of why the ninth frame is called the foundation frame because without a mark you have nothing to build on going into the tenth. I finished with a 216 game.

Lesson Learned

Sometimes just hitting your mark isn't enough. How your ball crosses that mark on the lane is just as important. Last night my mark never changed, as every first ball was over the second arrow. Also, my only position change was scooting an inch up on the approach. However, my ball reacted differently depending on the line it took from my release to the arrow. When the ball crossed my mark and continued right for another few boards before hitting the backend, it hooked directly into the pocket and resulted in a strike. If the ball hit my mark more directly and stayed on the same board as it rolled over the arrow, the ball would come in a little high, but without the power the hook provides, resulting in a single pin leave while sparing me the potential splits.

Some bowlers use as many as three marks on the lane to assure the most accurate shot. It is always important to note whether you are hitting your mark, but if you are continually leaving single pins there is more than likely a small change that can help you bring down all ten. Compare those strikes to the 9-count leaves and ask yourself what was different about each throw: Was your ball's entry angle different? Was your ball speed different? Was the path your ball took to your mark different? By answering questions like these, you should be able to identify that small change that can lead to a big difference on the score sheet.

How is league play going for everyone? I'd like to start posting reader high scores every week if we can get some folks to send them in through the comments section.

September 2, 2011

Week 2 Recap

Game 1: 205
Game 2: 205
Game 3: 178
Series: 588
Week Avg: 196
Season Avg: 193


There isn't a whole lot to report on practice and the first two games. The lanes remained pretty oily, and so the ball was getting little movement until deep into the backend. I found the pocket right away and managed to throw a clean first game, ending with a 205. The second game was much the same, with fractions of an inch deciding a strike vs. a single pin leave. It seemed that I managed to correct the consistency problems that plagued my second game last week. I had all strikes or 9-spares until the 10th frame of the second game, which I missed my mark and consequently the 6-pin spare. I hate opening in the 10th, particularly when I could have a 220 game, but alas another 205 was meant to be. Luckily, both 205s were enough to advance me in the league's brackets and I moved on to the finals to bowl against someone I had just watched strike out the last six frames of his first two games. Plus, since we both have the same average, the bracket would be based on our scratch scores. An uphill battle to be sure.

Toward the end of the second game I began to come in a little high, and so to start the third game I moved half a board to the left. The first three frames saw me come in very light, barely hitting the headpin on two occasions. The ball started to grab a bit more on the backend when throwing at spares on the left and I opened in the first and third frames. For the fourth frame I moved back to my original position on the approach and really concentrated on hitting my mark. The strikes began to come back. I did have one doozy of a sixth frame where I threw what I thought was a great ball in the pocket, but I left a solid 8-10 split. I'm still scratching my head over that one. I managed to keep it clean through the rest of the game and finished with a disappointing 178. My bracket opponent threw another 220 something and hit a 700 series, so there is no shame in losing to that.

Lesson Learned

My two go to moves for small adjustments are moving my body left-right or up-back on the approach. At the beginning of the third game I went left because I was coming in high, but this move caused the angle my ball was entering the pocket to become dangerously shallow. Instead of the ball driving through the rack, it was deflecting to the right and causing leaves on the left.

In retrospect, because the ball was not really grabbing on the lane I should have moved up on the approach about an inch. This would give the ball a little less room to hit high in the pocket without ruining the entry angle. Another option would have been to increase my ball speed, but that tends to be a little more difficult to keep consistent. A third option would have been to look a few inches past my mark on the lane, causing me to throw the ball out a little further and thus making the ball wait a little later to hook on the lane.

Of course, no adjustment will be helpful if you aren't sure that you are hitting your mark and maintaining good mechanics.