June 19, 2013

Summer Practice Session #2

Over the weekend I made a trip to the bowling alley for my second practice session of the summer. This time out I planned to work on different wrist positions. After posting video from my last session and the expert analysis of Matt from Bowling Roller Coaster, I also decided to work on not falling off my shot.

After a few frames to warm up I began to bend my wrist in toward my body at the start of my delivery. This cupping position allowed me to get a few more revs on the ball and generated a stronger reaction when the ball started to hook. While this will be a valuable resource on heavier oil, it does come with the drawback that I was pretty inconsistent at hitting my mark. I think that is something that will go away with more practice, but for now I will have to weigh the pros and cons of making this adjustment during league play.

After shooting a game a piece with each ball using the bent wrist technique I spent another game and a half focusing on holding my position at release. When I am at the top of my game I can do this naturally, but after spending some time away from the lanes once league ended I found myself reverting to some bad habits. I also paid a bit more attention to how far I drift on the approach from where I start my delivery on the second row of dots to where my sliding foot finishes at the foul line after release.  It turns out I consistently drift ten boards right from my first to fourth step. I don't feel this hurts my game at all, but it will be something to consider working on for another session.

Even with all of the different adjustments I am working on I have still managed to average 200 over 7 games. I hope to carry the success from last season right into this fall and I think these practice sessions are a tremendous help so far.

June 11, 2013

Summer Practice Session #1

As I mentioned before, I have decided to forego a summer league this year to develop a practice regimen focusing on a few weak points in my game. For my first session I wanted to work on playing different lines and areas of the lane.

I started by throwing five frames to warm up and set a baseline, which was my typical line of standing with my left foot on the 24 board and throwing over the 8 board at the arrows. Once this was established I moved my body and mark right so that I would roll over the first arrow and strike consistently. After a couple tries I found a good line and was able to carry pretty well. Then I moved my body left and my mark to the second arrow and tried to strike from there. Even though this line was only two boards different than my baseline I found this to be the hardest to strike with regularity. I eventually threw a few good balls and decided to work further left to shoot over the third arrow. This brought me to a part of the lane I rarely consider, but I was able to manage some success quickly.

In addition to gaining familiarity with what my go-to ball can do on various parts of the lane, this exercise also helped me get a bit more comfortable throwing in areas I seldom use. Throwing at the 4 or 5 board doesn't have to be scary or intimidating because the ball will come back to the pocket. On the other hand, when done correctly, throwing closer to the center of the lane can also be useful on particularly dry lanes on league night. Gaining versatility will allow me to be prepared for varying and changing lane conditions and make me a more difficult bowler to play against.

After playing around with these lines I threw one last game reverting back to my baseline, which still worked best (that's why it was my baseline). I struck the first 7 frames and then left a 10-pin in the eighth. As I was two steps into my delivery in the ninth frame the lights went off in the bowling center and the blacklights came on. It was 11AM, birthday party time. Since there were no accompanying lasers I couldn't see individual boards and my last two frames were a bit off. I still finished with a 244 game, but it could have been a bit better.

Luckily, early in the last game I took a video of my delivery for analysis. The line I'm playing and delivery are typical of what I was throwing in league this past season.

Starting at the footwork I noticed that my first step does come slightly left as recommended, forcing me to walk a straight line to the foul line and allowing a straight arm swing. I start my delivery from a crouched position to compensate for the fact that my sliding knee does not bend much at the point of release. This results in the ball landing about 4 feet out on lane instead of seamlessly from my hand just over the foul line. Also, the toe of my sliding foot points inside rather than straight ahead, which I find offers a bit more balance. Which brings me to my balance leg, which is elevated instead of sliding on the approach. This can be an issue sometimes causing me to fall off my shot to gain balance, but since this is pretty much how I have bowled my entire life I think I have adapted fairly well.

My shoulders stay pretty level and square to the foul line when I am throwing well. If I dip my right shoulder or open up my shoulders then my accuracy tends to suffer. You'll notice that I start with the ball pretty close to my body just under waist level, resulting in a backswing that peaks just even with my head. I also stay behind the ball until the point of release when I rotate my thumb from about 3 o'clock to about 11 or 12 o'clock. I plan to work on ball and wrist positioning over the summer so the backswing and hand position could vary.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts and analysis of my video. I'm far from text book and always looking to improve, but for now it gets results.

June 5, 2013

Mixed League 2012/13 Recap

After a sub-par performance in the 2011/12 season I sought some valuable experience over the summer by joining a league that bowled on PBA patterns. The league placed an emphasis on accuracy and adjustments and as a result my fall league scores reaped the benefits. In addition, I added a new ball to my arsenal, the Brunswick C-System Alpha Max, which has become my new go to ball. I have been able to strike with more regularity and my spare shooting has greatly increased now that I have a system to determine the number of boards I need to move for each spare shot.

Last season I threw 39 200 games and 7 600 series compared to 53 200 games, four of which were 250 or better, 17 600 series, and two 700 series this season. My high game and series this season, a 279 and 730 respectively, were both personal bests. My low game, a 136, and low series, a 516, both came on the first week of league. This also means that I didn't throw any series under 500 all season, a first for me.

One big problem I managed to correct this year was my difficulty in adjusting to lane transitions. Last season my second game average plummeted while I took several frames to adjust to changing oil conditions. This season I got progressively better from game to game, averaging 196 in game 1, 201 in game 2, and 208 in game 3. By gaining the knowledge and confidence to make quick adjustments I was able to continually improve as the night wore on.

When I started this blog my goal was to achieve a 200 average by the end of the 2013 season. Despite gall bladder surgery which kept me off the lanes for 20 days I was able to reach my goal and then some. My 202.48 average is another personal best and over ten pins better than last year's final average. Once I fully recovered from my surgery and had some experience with my new ball, say from week 11 on, I averaged 208.

While I benefited from the PBA Experience league last summer I have chosen a different course of action for this summer's training. I plan to spend a few days each month at the alley working on a few weak aspects of my game. These include changes in ball speed and hand position, as well as getting comfortable in playing different parts of the lane. I also want to gain familiarity in how each of my balls react under the same conditions so that I can seamlessly transition between the two during league play. In addition I plan to utilize video of my form to identify potential problem areas that can affect the ball's performance on the lane.

I hope to have a productive off season and pick up where I left off when league starts back up in August. How are you spending your summer?