February 27, 2012

Week 26 Recap

Game 1: 237
Game 2: 189
Game 3: 219
Series: 645
Week Avg: 215
Season Avg: 192


Practice showed that the lanes were a little drier than they have been over the last two months. The ball was coming in a little earlier and easier. I was pretty confident in my line entering the first game, so much so that I chose to not over-practice my strike shot and wear out the current oil level. Instead I took the opportunity to shoot at the 10- and 7-pins.

I started the first game with the first four in a row. For the fifth frame I pulled my shot slightly left and hit left of the headpin, but picked up the 1-3-5 spare. I struck in the sixth frame and had a nine count spare in the seventh. I followed that same pattern in the eighth and ninth frames before striking out in the tenth. I finished the game with a 237 and only missed my mark twice all game. It was also my teammate's first 200 of the season, a 204, and we beat our best team game by over 100 pins.

The second game saw the lanes get a little drier and the ball started to come in a little high. I pulled two more shots this game, one leaving the 1-3-6-8-10 which was my first open of the night. My first adjustment was to move left a board, but I found that the ball was catching some oil and not coming back to the pocket. I moved up a few inches from my original spot and found the pocket again. I stayed clean after my early miss and finished up with a 189.

The third game felt a lot like the first. I was in the pocket with ease, but where light hits were carrying in the first game high hits were carrying this game. I threw the ball out a little too far right in the ninth frame and the ball didn't recover. I left the 1-2-10 and rung the 2-pin around the 10-pin to miss the spare. I struck the first two balls in the tenth, with the ball coming about a board higher in the pocket each ball. I needed seven pins to tie and eight pins to win the game. I knew my next shot was going to run high as soon as I let it go. The ball hooked high into the headpin and I left the 3-6.  I held my breath for a moment as I though I saw the 9-pin hiding, but it fell. That's the second week in a row I managed to squeak out a one pin victory on a less than stellar shot. I finished with a 219 game, a 645 series, won the brackets for the night, and gained a whole lot of confidence.

Lesson Learned
Coming into this week I decided I needed a plan to correct my most recent issue of missing my mark. I actually used a quote from the movie The Patriot as my guide: Aim small, miss small.  In the movie, this advice is in reference to the accuracy of shooting a gun, but the same principles apply to bowling. The smaller I make my target on the lane, the less likely I am to totally blow my shot. During the past few weeks, I have used the second arrow as my target. This week, I decided to use the tip of the arrow as my mark, a much smaller target to hit. While I may have missed the tip of the arrow on a few shots, I only missed the arrow completely a handful of times, tops.

The second game, what I am going to start referring to as the transition game, continues to be an issue. I say transition because this seems to be the game where the lanes change the most and when I make the most drastic adjustments. While it usually sets me up for a good final game, the second game's score still hurts my final total and typically reflects poorly on the team's game.

The last ball in the last game stumped me in the heat of the moment. With the game riding on my final shot, I knew the ball was going to come in high. I didn't want to swing the ball in from further right or move my body left because, as I learned in the ninth frame, the ball wouldn't make it back to the pocket. I couldn't move my body further up on the approach because I had already made that adjustment and would have fouled. I chose to just throw the same shot and hope the ball wouldn't travel that extra board left, but it did and I got lucky. In retrospect, this was the perfect situation to increase my ball speed. With only an early quarter team victory in the balance, I still felt a tremendous amount of pressure to not let my teammates down. I can't even imagine what the pros on TV are feeling during a close match with all that money on the line.

February 20, 2012

Week 25 Recap

Game 1: 182
Game 2: 186
Game 3: 177
Series: 545
Week Avg: 181
Season Avg: 191


I came into the night a little worried about how I was going to perform. I had developed a head cold the night before and was feeling a bit groggy heading into the evening. The lanes have been consistent the last few weeks so I knew where I needed to throw.  Getting the ball there was going to be the real challenge.

I struggled on the left lane most of the night and threw two strikes in the entire first game. I picked up all but one of my spares, a missed 10-pin.  The lack of strikes shot down my chance at a 200 game, but the spares kept me afloat with a 182.

The second game started a bit better with alternating strikes and spares in the first five frames. In the sixth frame I missed my second 10-pin of the night. I stayed clean the rest of the way, but couldn't string anything together. I finished the game with a 186 and won the game for our team by 6 pins.

The last game was a struggle. I started coming high on the right lane so I upped my approach back to my preferred speed. The left lane became a struggle once again and I just couldn't throw a consistent shot. I opened twice early on in the game. I can't recall the leaves, but they were the result of light hits. Going into the tenth frame I knew I had to mark to keep my team in it. A good pocket hit left the 9-pin, which I converted. I needed six pins to win the game and hit high on my last ball. I left the 3-6-9-10, but it was just enough to squeak out a one pin victory. I finished with a 177 game and another 545 series.

Lesson Learned

Well I battled the same problems as last week and earned the exact same result: a 545 series. My delivery was erratic and I missed my mark left more often than I actually hit it. I struck less than ten times, but fortunately picked up most of my spares. I can attribute a few of the misses to sticking at the foul line and pulling my shot. The others seem to be an issue with my release. I broke out my usual trick of holding the ball further right on my approach, but it didn't help. I had a difficult time concentrating and fatigue hit me worse that it has in a long time. I don't want to use my cold as an excuse, but I think it did play a factor, albeit a small one. This issue is something that I would usually work on in a weekend practice session; however, my life outside of bowling interfered with those plans and I wasn't able to get in any games. I guess I will just need to focus on my release that much more this coming week.

One idea or philosophy I did implement into my game Thursday night was a new approach to spare shooting. That afternoon I had read an International Art of Bowling blog post on spare adjustment systems. In the post, the author suggests breaking down spares into four zones: 7/4-pin zone, 2-pin zone, 3-pin zone, and 6/10-pin zone (see a crude representation in my handy colorful graphic on the left). So instead of trying to line up each shot specific to the leave, a whopping 1,023 possible combinations, you have one shot for picking up spares in each zone. This oversimplifies things a bit, but by utilizing the basic concepts of this approach, and fine tuning it to multi-pin leaves and my own style, I was able to pick up the majority of my leaves. Of my four misses on the night, two were missed 10-pins thanks to a lapse in concentration, and the others were washout near-splits with the headpin and a corner pin standing. I liked this simple approach and think that mastering this method will go a long way in improving my overall game.

Now if I can only get that strike ball down . . .

February 14, 2012

Some News Items

So every month my aim is to do a non-league recap post.  I failed to do that in January, but I have a few things I wanted to comment on this month.

First, I wanted to point out the Pittsburgh Penguins "Pens & Pins" Charity Bowling Tournament.  Every year, each member of the hockey team is made the captain of a bowling team comprised of fans to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation. This is a pretty cool event that combines two of my favorite things: the Pens and bowling.  It is also great to see bowling in the spotlight here in western Pennsylvania, even if it is only for a day or two.  I think that these world-class athletes would have a thing or two to say about the difficulty, competitiveness and fun bowling offers.

I also wanted to point out that my cousin Kyle threw his first 300 game.  It was his first. Congratulations.

Week 24 Recap

Game 1: 160
Game 2: 170
Game 3: 215
Series: 545
Week Avg: 181
Season Avg: 191


I was a little worried heading into Thursday night because on Wednesday afternoon I had put a pretty deep slice in the thumb on my bowling hand. Then, later Wednesday evening, I had scraped off a chunk of skin on the first knuckle of the ring finger on my bowling hand. Both of these cuts were on areas that see a lot of friction during the games and I wasn't sure how they would hold up over the course of the night. I arrived early and applied two layers of New Skin Liquid Bandage (never go to the alley without it)  to both cuts and they did manage to hold throughout the night.

The story of the third quarter has been the lane conditions and practice showed that once again there was heavy oil; however, each week there seems to be a little less. I found a line similar to last week's and was pretty comfortable going into the first game.

I wasn't striking much, but I was picking up my spares. That is until I missed a 10-pin because I was standing a little too far to the left.  I haven't been switching to my plastic ball to shoot the 10-pin because the heavy oil has kept the shot pretty straight. I started missing my mark to the left about half way through the first game, but luckily didn't leave many splits. I say "many" instead of "any" because I did leave and miss the 5-10. Nothing is more frustrating than having a good line to the pocket, but not being able to hit that line. I realized that I was missing my mark left because my body was getting to the foul line before the ball. I made a conscious effort to concentrate on my release and my accuracy improved. The lack of strikes and the two opens had done their damage and I finished with an abysmal 160.

The second game didn't get much better. I came in light and left the 1-2-10, leaving the 10-pin standing. I made the rest of my spares until the ninth frame where I missed an easy 6-pin. I started missing my mark to the left again in this game, but it was not due to the decreased ball speed like it was in the first game. I kept throwing the same line hoping I could correct it through concentration as I finished out the second game. I ended with a 170, but felt that I was throwing a bit better heading into the last game.

At the beginning of the third game I moved my body one board to the left. I started to hit my mark again, and then it was only a matter of dialing in the shot. I began striking and picked up all of my spares. The lanes did start to hook a bit more beginning in the sixth frame so I changed my ball speed and approach back to my normal pace. I struck the last four in a row and finished up with a 215, salvaging an embarrassing performance with only a poor series of 545. We lost the quarter after the second game, but picked up a win in the last game if for nothing else but our dignity.

Lesson Learned

I know it sounds pretty simple, but diagnosing a problem and correcting a problem are two very different things. In the first game I spent three or four frames trying to correct the problem of missing my target before I realized that I was getting to the line before the ball. As a result I was bringing the ball through the last half of my swing too quickly, releasing the ball late and pulling my shot to the left. This was the problem I feared when beginning to use the slower ball speed. Once I diagnosed the issue I was able to concentrate enough in a few frames to get everything back in sync.

During the second game the same problem appeared, only the cause was different. I spent much of the game trying to throw through the issue, hoping that eventually my concentration would just magically correct it. It did not. Then I decided to move my body a board left, hoping that by changing the angle of my throw slightly I would be more likely to hit my mark. This got me through the end of the second game but still was not 100% effective. In the third game I finally remembered my trick for these types of situations. I held the ball a few inches more to the right at the beginning of my approach and voila! I was over my mark every ball from there on out.

As I've mentioned before, this adjustment allows me to have a smoother and straighter backswing. It is a little uncomfortable at first, but I can't argue with the results. I think it took me a little longer than usual to get to this adjustment because I was so caught up in my leaves and poor scores.  Its difficult, but sometimes we need to step out of the situation and look at what is going on from the outside in. As you replay the shots in your head and ask yourself how that one problem can be corrected, without thinking about the score at that moment and the frustration that comes along with it, the solution will often make itself apparent.

Looking ahead to the off season, I think I need to make an effort to incorporate this technique change into my approach full time. By solidifying a smoother and more accurate backswing, I can eliminate one of the most frequent issues in my game.

Third Quarter Season Review

At the end of the second quarter my average was 192. I am now at a 191. I have been pretty up and down this quarter, throwing my worst and second best series of the season on back to back weeks.

My biggest issue this quarter was adapting to changing lane conditions. I had a hard time adjusting to the heavy oil, but I did manage to find a shot that worked for me. Once I found that shot, it was a matter of correcting all the small things that plague my game.

I threw ten 200 games this quarter, about 42% of the games. Week 18 saw my first night of the season with all three games in the 200s, a feat I would like to replicate a few more times this season. Overall, I averaged 189 for the quarter, which is unacceptable for me. I need to finish with an average of 192 just to get back to last year's average, but I really need to pick up my game if I want to get to my goal of gaining a pin or two in my season average.

February 3, 2012

Week 23 Recap

Game 1: 222
Game 2: 183
Game 3: 183
Series: 588
Week Avg: 196
Season Avg: 192


I went into this week with a plan: start off with a slower ball speed and adjust my target and body position at the same time so I could give myself more options. The lane conditions were a little better this week, but I would still consider it heavy oil. I only had the chance to throw four balls in practice and did not have a comfortable line going into the first game.

I started off striking with the first two in a row. Light pocket hits were carrying, but what looked to be solid hits were leaving single pins. Almost everyone on our set was leaving splits, but I managed to avoid them. I picked up my spares, strung some strikes and felt pretty good. I even struck both times I hit the Brooklyn side. I spared and struck in the tenth frame and had a 222 game. I advanced through the first round of brackets by one pin.

The second game started with a light hit and a 2-4-5-8 leave, of which I only picked up two pins. I spared in the second, chopped the 4-7 in the third and missed a 5-pin in the fourth frame. The oil was further down the lane and the ball wasn't coming in like before so I moved a half board to the right and moved my mark on the lane a board right hoping to find a dry spot near the gutter. I struck in the fifth and kept it clean the rest of the way. The ball started to hang out a little more so I moved my target back one board left and found the sweet spot. I struck the last five in a row with my five best balls of the night. I salvaged a 183 game, but more importantly won the game for our team by a single pin. I also advanced to the finals in the brackets for the second week in a row.

Every ball in the tenth frame came in just a hair higher and I meant to move my body up on the approach before the start of the third game because I was already flirting with a split. By the time my turn rolled around I forgot to adjust and started off with a 3-10 split, chopping the 3-pin. I made my adjustment starting in the second frame and picked up my spares, mainly single pins, and struck a few times before leaving and missing the same split in the ninth frame. I spared and struck in the tenth, but the open in the ninth had done its damage and I finished with another 183 game and 588 series. I did win the brackets this week and my team made up a lot of ground coming into the end of the quarter next week. We are tied for second place, one point behind the first place team who, coincidentally, we bowled last night. Because we won more games than the other second place team, we will be bowling them again next week for a shot at our second consecutive quarter victory and another $100 per person.

Lesson Learned

There was something comforting about coming into the night with a plan. It seemed to make everything run smoother and I was definitely more confident on the lanes. I felt like I was bowling a bit better than what my series suggests, but the first few frames in the second game and the open ninth frame in the third game sealed my fate.

As if to reinforce my comments about the importance of the tenth frame last week I managed to fill the last frame of each game picking up 70 of a possible 90 pins. But as I saw in the third game, the foundation frame in the ninth is almost just as important as filling the tenth.

I enjoy bowling under pressure and last night wasn't lacking in that aspect, winning a round of brackets and a team game by a single pin. Next week brings the additional pressure of being one point out of first place and bowling head to head with the leader, so needless to say I am looking forward to it.