August 18, 2012

PBA Experience League Recap

Pattern Final Averages

Cheetah: 187 (12 games)
NCAA#3: 183 (8 games)
Viper: 172 (12 games)
Scorpion: 170 (12 games)
Shark: 167 (8 games)

League Summary

Looking back, I think that my performance on the PBA patterns was slightly better than expected. While it was frustrating at the time, I knew coming in that these patterns would test the skills I had and expose the ones I lacked, and once I came to the realization that the league wasn't about scoring, but rather about learning, I started to bowl better.

I finished the league with a 176 average, which up until the beginning of August 2012 translated to a 193 average on a typical house pattern. I make the distinction because since the beginning of August, a 176 Sport League average now translates to a 198 THP average. The reason for such a dramatic jump in the adjusted average is that the USBC collected the data to create the adjusted average chart in two completely different ways. I won't go into the details here, but Jeff Richgels breaks it all down on his blog. In either case, my adjusted average is higher than what my final average has ever been; however, there are a few factors that come into play. The biggest factor is that I bowled about half the number of games in this league than I do in my usual league. With a smaller sample size, it is easier to distort the average of an overall performance.

I threw eleven 200 games during the league, which equates to 21% of the total games bowled. I also threw at least two 200 games on each pattern with the exception of the Shark, on which I threw none. My high game was a 235 on the Cheetah and my high series was a 771 on NCAA#3.

Self Evaluation

Not surprisingly, I fared much better on the shorter patterns. Since I typically throw down and in, I wasn’t trying to force a big hook into the pocket like some other bowlers. I did my best on the shorter patterns with heavier oil in the front end because my line was pretty direct toward the pocket, with a sharp hook at the end to drive through the rack. I wish I could have my missed week on the NCAA#3 back because I think my pattern and season average could have been a bit higher with an extra four games.

Again, not surprisingly, my worst pattern average was on the Shark.  This is the pattern that took me the farthest from my comfort zone, essentially narrowing the lane by 10 boards on either side forcing me to play deeper inside. The Scorpion was the other longer, heavier oil pattern and I struggled there as well. These patterns further exposed my need for a more reactive heavy oil ball and I am in the process of filling out my arsenal as a result.

Another glaring statistic is that my third game average, 166.77, is nearly ten pins under my season ending average and exactly ten pins under my next lowest game average, which belongs to the first game of the night. This tells me that I still need to work on quickly recognizing changes on the lane so that I can adjust my body position and mark before it impacts my scores. That being said, my final game average is 180.15 which tells me that even though it takes some time for me to recognize changing lane conditions, I do eventually make the correct adjustments.

Problems with the League

I developed a laundry list of grievances throughout the course of this league and after speaking with a few folks it sounds like these are all recurring issues from previous seasons. Many, if not all, of these problems could be solved by not having the bowling center manager and, might I add, the father of the high school All-American serving as league president.

The first problem is that the league didn't stick to the rules and oil pattern schedule distributed on Week 1. I unfortunately missed a week of bowling due to hospitalization and my teammate missed a week due to a vacation. While the rules stated that absent bowlers are given their average as their score for that week, we were not awarded any points if the opposing bowler did not beat our score. This most likely would not have provided enough points to move up in the standings, but why have rules if you are just going to make up new ones? 

Also, while we did receive a week's notice that the NCAA#4 pattern would be replaced by the Shark pattern; we received no notice that the last week on the Shark was being replaced by an extra week of the Viper. If you go back and read my description of each of these patterns, you will notice that they are polar opposites of each other. This change in pattern also happened to coincide with the All-American's second place team facing off against the first place team. Basically the All-American was able to utilize the league's two practice sessions to prepare for the Viper while her opponents walked in with equipment for a long heavy oil pattern instead of a short light oil pattern. It cost them the lead that night and they were not able to recover.

In the end, the league basically served as a way for the All-American to earn more scholarship money from all of us thanks to the manipulation of the rules and oil patterns by her father. There is a reason that not many people bowl in this league more than once and I will be joining them in that decision. If I choose to bowl in a PBA Experience League again I will be sure that it is sanctioned and has some means of accountability.

If I Had My Own PBA Experience League

Now don't get me wrong, the actual bowling was a great experience despite all the league BS that went along with it. But I think more could have been done to make this league more educational and fun for the entire group.

Given the 14 week format we used this year, I would advocate two weeks per PBA animal pattern and the US Open pattern for the first twelve weeks. At the beginning of the first week of each new pattern there would be a short tutorial session where the oil layout is discussed. The PBA produced videos about each animal pattern on YouTube could also be utilized. This allows everyone to be on the same playing field and have an understanding of what the preferred lines are for each pattern. This was how I prepared for the animal patterns and these videos provide a great introduction and idea of what to expect on the lanes.

The results of the first twelve weeks would serve as the basis for seeding a tournament in the remaining two weeks of the league. The tournament patterns would be voted on by the league and announced at the end of week 12 to ensure that teams bring the correct equipment for the lane conditions. The results of the tournament would serve as the final league standings, providing every team a chance to compete for the league championship and maintaining the feel of competition throughout the entire season.

Sport Leagues as a Solution to Sandbagging?

In the Richgels' blog post I mentioned above, he also made an interesting connection between Sport Leagues and the recent discussions of sandbagging and handicap leagues. He noted that one way to eliminate sandbagging is to make Sport Leagues the norm, encouraging competitive bowling over the recreational bowling that has recently gained the most support and is seen by many as the downfall of our sport. This way tournament averages, even on a THP, would use Sport League averages instead of general league averages, thus giving an advantage to those who take the time to get better. This is probably the most favorable solution I have heard concerning the issue of sandbagging because it is the first one to actually encourage the improvement of ability. If you want to succeed in Sport Leagues you have to be good, there's no faking it, and I imagine it would be much harder for a sandbagger to turn it on all of sudden like they tend to do on a THP.

Final Note

I suppose I won't really be able to evaluate the success of this league until I am able to reflect on my performance this fall. A jump in my average, increase in accuracy or ability to adjust more quickly to changing conditions would all be indicators that the PBA Experience was a worthwhile experience for me.


  1. I'll be following your performance this season with great interest. If your average jumps 10-20 pins this fall, I'll be following in your footsteps next summer.

    Congrats on a good summer, Zach.

  2. Thanks Matt. It was frustrating at times, but I do recommend trying a Sport League at least once. It really helps to identify weak points in your game.

    If my average jumps 10-20 pins this fall I will be finding a new PBA Experience League to join!