April 30, 2013

Week 33 Recap

Game 1: 215
Game 2: 279
Game 3: 234
Series: 728
Week Avg: 242
Season Avg: 202

Coming into the night we found out we were tied for second place, five point behind the second half leader. We needed a big night, a lot of points, and a little luck if we were going to win the second half and go on to the league championship game.

The first game went pretty well. I started with a double and then lost my line a bit in the middle of the game. I started hitting light and the strikes weren't coming. I decided to move right a half board and the strikes started coming again. it was the only adjustment I made all night. I felt like I was struggling a bit, but I finished with a 215 game. As a team, though, we didn't have a great outing and our opponents had a couple pretty good games. They opened the door in the tenth frame, but by then we already too far behind to win the points.

In the second game my only focus was to throw over the 8 board. If I hit my mark the pins didn't stand a chance. I never felt more focused. I struck the first seven in a row with no sign of nerves. To my teammates' credit, they did a great job of keeping me laughing and distracted. I threw another great ball in the eighth frame, but a ringing 10-pin remained on the deck. I could hear a few groans and gasps as I turned around, but I stayed calm and picked up my spare. It didn't change anything and I threw four more balls the exact same way to strike out. I scored a 279, my new personal best. I also put myself in a three way tie for the league high game.  As a team we picked up the win and managed to tie the total pin count after two games.

I started the third game with a turkey before a high hit left the 3-10, which I chopped. I picked up a 4-pin spare somewhere along the way, but threw eight total strikes during the game. My second ball in the tenth swung out to the right and, although it hit the pocket, the entry angle was too steep and I left the 8-10 for another open. I finished with a 234 game and my second highest series, a 728. The team also picked up another victory and a total pin bonus point.  We learned that the first place team lost their first two games, but they appeared to have the third game well in hand and so we had no chance of overtaking them.

Last night felt easy, and frankly that's a little scarey. I felt no sign of nervousness or butterflies after striking the front seven and every ball was right on target. My small progressions this season have reached the final step. I just threw eleven strikes in a game. There is only one more place to go from there.

Next week is our league playoff. At worst, I think we will be bowling for 3rd place. I guess there is money on the line there. I am also in the top three for high scratch game and series which usually pay out and I have the second highest average in the league. Not a bad season. Now its time to finish big next week.

April 29, 2013

Week 32 Recap

Game 1: 205
Game 2: 239
Game 3: 174
Series: 618
Week Avg: 206
Season Avg: 201

I presented at a professional conference late last week so my apologies for the lateness and lack of details in my recap. Last Monday feels like it was forever ago.

Our team was sitting in fifth place with two weeks to go, but everyone is bunched pretty tight together in the point standings. We came into the evening knowing that we needed a big team night if we were going to reach the league championships.

The first two games were pretty uneventful. We were all doing pretty well. My only open was a missed 4-pin. The team took all available points and we looked great.

Then I hit the burn in the third game and went completely down hill. I've been having a difficult time dialing in once my preferred line runs dry and it is a definite practice area for the summer. Maybe it is because our opponents have been playing a similar line to mine, but it seems that my line is breaking down more noticeably than it has all season.

In the third game I had a hard time striking and missed a 6-pin early on. Also, for the second week in a row I adjusted for a spare in the wrong direction, thus missing the 1-8. That is a pure mental error and there really is no excuse for it. I'm not sure what has brought that on lately. My wife had a 173 in the third game on a 112 average which really put the team over the top and we took all available points on the night.

Tonight is our last shot at qualifying for the championships. I hope the team can carry last week's momentum and I can clean up a few things to make a push toward winning the league.

I promise a much better recap for this week now that my big obligations have passed. Thanks for hanging in there.

April 22, 2013

Week 31 Recap

Game 1: 216
Game 2: 188
Game 3: 195
Series: 599
Week Avg: 199
Season Avg: 201

I knew I was in for a rough night after throwing a few balls in practice. From the start the lanes were drying up quickly and I was not able to get to the line that carries best for me.  Combine that with the fact that I have not been at my best form the past few weeks and it was a perfect storm for disaster.

The first game actually started out alright. I had to play a little further left to find some oil, but the ball was coming back and finding the pocket. My only real miscue was a missed 10-pin, but I strung a few strikes together and pulled out a 216.

Whatever remained of a comfortable line from the first game quickly went away at the start of the second. After missing a 7-9 split in the second frame I switched down to the Python in an effort to play my favorite down and in style. I didn't strike much, but I was able to pick up the rest of my spares, including a 5-7 split. I left a lot of corners (mainly 4, 7 and 9-pins) which has always been a main concern with this ball. I ended up with a disappointing 188.

The third game was a lot of the same. I missed another 10-pin, going 1 for 3 on the night. I wasn't nearly as accurate as I had been, which I think can be partially attributed to trying to play with my speed. I came in under average again with a 195 game and totaled just under average on the night.

The big story was our lead-off man. He nearly threw his first 700 series, but still recorded his career high. He also led the team to a big point gain with only a few weeks left in the season. Lately it seems that we live and die by his performance, and he put on quite a show Monday night.

I need to shake off the last three weeks of league, which have consisted of one good game and two below average. I'm over-thinking things when just stepping on the approach and throwing the ball isn't working. This week I need to simplify things; stay behind the ball, finish upright and square to the foul line, follow through over my target, and just let the ball do all the work.

As the season winds down I am taking some notes on what I need to practice over the summer. One is playing different lines and recognizing where the breakpoint is when I move further inside. If I can find a couple lines that carry I'll be in prime position to score well next season. Another aspect is effectively altering ball speed. It seems that when I slow things down I need to concentrate on my footwork or not powering the ball through my backswing to catch up to my body and, as a result, I pull my shot. Basically it comes down to getting comfortable with my own abilities and learning the abilities of my equipment.

Simple enough, right?

April 12, 2013

Week 30 Recap

Game 1: 181
Game 2: 192
Game 3: 246
Series: 619
Week Avg: 206
Season Avg: 201

I was still riding a high from the ACAA tournament on Saturday coming into league on Monday night; however, my back was pretty sore all day Monday. It felt pretty similar to when I had inflammation in a spinal disc a few years ago. About an hour before leaving the house for the bowling center I did a bunch of stretches from physical therapy, popped a couple Advil, and hoped for the best.

I took it a little easy to start the night, throwing a bit slower to make sure I was warmed up. This killed my timing and caused me to drop my shoulder during the first two games. I constantly missed my mark to the left and the few times I did hit my mark I came in high and had to make an adjustment to strike. I tried my best to adjust while throwing bad first balls, but I wasn't very successful. Luckily my spare shooting remained pretty steady and with one open I was able to throw a 181.

During the second game I was able to pull myself together. I stopped worrying about my back, which felt fine all of a sudden, and got myself back to my regular form and speed. Then I was able to dial in my line. I found myself playing a bit more of an arc than I usually do late in the game as I tried to combat two opponents that were pushing oil all over the right side of the lane. A missed 4-pin in the tenth frame put me under average for the second game in row with a 192.

In the third game everything began to click. I actually got beer framed in the first frame and then threw five strikes in a row. After coming in high again I moved my line a bit inside and found some oil that benefited me the rest of the night. Strikes came easier and I was able to throw a clean 246 to convert a bad night to an over average performance.  The team took 5 of 7 points, but I'm not sure we will be able to make up enough ground to take a run a first.

I used to get pretty mad at myself when I bowled bad and, as a result, I would bowl even worse. Over the last two years I have been more in control of my emotions and came to the realization that just because I'm upset it doesn't mean I can't also be constructive. I was pretty mad at myself the first two games, but I was able to clear my mind and analyze what went wrong and how to correct it. Keeping cool has made a big difference for me and I can't stress enough how important this is.

A teammate of mine got into a little tiff with one of our opponents during the third game. He was bowling much better than usual and started a game with a turkey. While waiting at the ball return for the fourth frame an opponent (woman in her late 50s maybe, I'm bad with ages) came up behind him and grabbed him. She was just joking around, but he gets pretty upset about that sort of thing. She is also one of those people that yells in a shrill voice every time a teammate throws a strike. I'm not a big fan of these things myself. After that he opened the next few frames and was fuming. She made the mistake of poking him at the ball return a few frames later and he snapped. He let it be known that he did not want to be touched and that our team pretty much keeps to itself and never interferes with other bowlers. She took offense and there was an awkward few frames until everybody cooled off and could reconcile.

The whole thing made me aware that each team has its own personality, whether it is a collective persona or emanates from one individual. Our team does keep to itself for the most part and we really don't engage the other team outside of a pleasantry or high five. There are exceptions: one teammate is related to three bowlers on another team so we have a more laid back atmosphere when we bowl them. My wife and I also bring our two year old each week, so some folks are inclined to come see her.  There are a few teams that are quite boisterous and I usually just try to ignore them, but when it directly affects another team's performance then it becomes an issue.

We don't have official team captains, but I always try to fill the role of motivator and pep-talker on our team. What can I do to calm our guy down in these situations? Have you ever run into an issue like this in your leagues?

April 11, 2013

ACAA Tournament Results

Well the results are in and our team did better than expected.  So much better, in fact, that we won the whole shebang. Our 3474 handicap total was just enough to hold off the second place team which was 23 pins behind us. That's close, like one frame close. With the win we each take home a cool $30 and I believe there may be a trophy involved. We also put a target on our backs for next year's tournament.

As expected my 722 led the individual awards with the next highest scratch series being a 695. This gives me another $25. My 269 game and corresponding handicap game and series were also tops, but you can only win one individual award. My teammate Joe also won an additional $20 for second highest handicap game.

I definitely had a great time and it really made me want to explore more serious tournaments. I think I might try to convince my brother to come out to Erie next year for the singles and doubles events in the Pennsylvania State Tournament. Should be a good time.

April 8, 2013

Andrew Carnegie Athletic Association Bowling Tournament 2013

Game 1: 227
Game 2: 269
Game 3: 226
Series: 722
Average: 240

Saturday was my second run at U.S. Steel's annual bowling tournament at Legacy Lanes. I threw a 639 last year, but all I could remember is how friendly the lane conditions and pins were. I've only bowled in this house twice, but both times worked out well for me. I tried not to fall into a trap and my main goal was to focus on making good shots. As a team I set a goal for us to shoot about 750 scratch each game, putting us a few pins over average. The handicap was 90% of 220 which also helped us out a little bit.

From the first frame I felt really good. During the first game I quickly realized I had to play a different line on each lane, something I had experienced during league not too long ago. I stayed in the pocket all game and made all of my spares. I made a small adjustment during the game, moving up a half step on the approach, but otherwise I just threw the same shot all day. I finished with a 227 the first game and the team was about 100 pins over average.

We moved one pair to our right for the second game. Waiting for the first teams on that set to finish I noticed that everyone was running a little high so I decided to play the first game line that was further inside to catch the oil. I started with the first six strikes in a row, matching my personal best start to a game. Teammates stopped talking to me and everyone started tensing up a little bit. Standing on the approach for the seventh frame I could feel more eyes watching me than usual. I pulled the shot left, letting my nerves get the best of me, but the ball hit Brooklyn and carried the 5-pin for another strike. This was officially new territory for me. I knew that would be my one gift for the game and every ball form there on out had to be perfect. I told myself this was just another frame trying to knock the knot out of my stomach and hit all my marks again for my eighth strike in a row. It was getting serious. Between balls I had been playing with my daughter in the back, but even she seemed to shy away from me leading up to the ninth frame. I took an extra breath as I picked up my ball and set up on the approach. I threw a half board right of my mark, but I had been able to carry with similar throws before. I hit the pocket just a hair light and everything on the left fell a little slower than usual. A few pins rolled in front of the 7-pin, but nothing had enough momentum to knock it down. My streak ended at eight. I struck again my first ball in the tenth and finished with another spare for a 269 game, a personal best by one pin.

We moved one more pair right for the last game and I started with the first four in a row. I made all my spares and strung a few strikes together, but my mind was still back in the ninth frame of the second game. I cruised to a 227, something not usually easy for me. I finished with my second best ever series, a 722.

The event organizer told me I had wrapped up the top scratch series which puts $25 in my pocket. She also said they were really rooting for me to get the 300 because no one had ever done it at the tournament before, which I find surprising because there are some great bowlers there. The team shot all three games over 1150 with handicap so I like our chances in placing.  I'll post the results as soon as I get word.

I had a lot of fun, but I also learned that my mental game still needs some work. I can't let myself get too worked up or excited in high stress situations. It was a new experience for me and two days later I am still riding the high. I wasn't even really upset at leaving the 7-pin and was quickly able to shake it off, hit the reset button, and concentrate on picking up the spare. Reflecting with my smiling teammates when I got to the back was a pretty cool feeling, though.

Maybe I should think about joining a league at this center next year, who knows how well I could do!

April 4, 2013

Week 29 Recap

Game 1: 257
Game 2: 193
Game 3: 163
Series: 613
Week Avg: 204
Season Avg: 200

On Saturday my dad and I went out for some practice and to retrieve my damaged ball. The manager said he was about 80% happy with the result of the total resurfacing and I could immediately feel some small bumps on the surface. I threw a game with the ball and it performed well. None of the bumps were in the track and for the most part all of the surface scratches that had built up over the last two years were gone. Overall I am happy with how the ball turned out, but I still feel that there was a lack of communication and slow response from the bowling center.  As for practice, it was a lot of me trying to help my dad identify some problems and less about me focusing on any one thing. I threw a pretty uneventful 600 series with my only concern being that I missed two 10-pins.

On Monday during practice I could tell I was going to be in for a rough night. The lanes were a bit drier than usual and so I played more of an arching line into the pocket rather than my usual down and in. The approach was also a little tacky at the foul line so I was a bit concerned about falling on my knee.

The first game started with a strike, a 7-pin spare and a split. I was hitting high so I moved up a half step and struck the next eight in a row. I left the 4-pin on my last ball for a 257.  That was the last bit of fun I had that night.

The next two games saw my line begin to break down and I began to consistently run high. I considered a ball change, but would then throw a strike or convince myself that I was doing something wrong and leave the Python back in the bag. Both light and high pocket hits were leaving splits and to make matters worse I missed two 4-pins and a 10-pin. We pretty much had to keep score manually the last game because the lanes were not scoring multi-pin leaves correctly. I was playing with ball speed which resulted in my timing being off and missing my mark. It was sloppy and I made poor decisions. I barely eked out a 600 and, thanks to my first game, was able to stay above average on the night.

When I'm bowling well I am doing enough things right that one mistake usually doesn't completely ruin the shot. This week there were a lot of mistakes and a lot of shots were not salvageable.  I was confident that I knew when to change balls, but I think that is one area that I will definitely need to work on over the summer. Another is effectively slowing my ball speed without compromising my timing and picking up my ball speed without blowing through the rack and leaving corners.

This Saturday I will be participating in the Andrew Carnegie Athletic Association bowling tournament.  Last year I shot a 639 and had the second highest handicap series, earning $20. I also averaged about ten pins less than this year. I'm looking forward to the competition and the challenge of changing lanes for each game, I just hope I can shake off this week's league scores and post some big games.