Bowling Approach: The First Step


Being that this website is called the bowling approach, I guess it was inevitable that the topic being covered would be the approach itself.  So laugh it up as this will happen quite a few times, as there are at least four steps to cover.  This article will delve into the footwork on the first step.

“Good Start. Good Finish.” The old adage is certainly true as nearly all of my good shots start with a couple key movements. If I have a bad start it’s difficult to have a good finish.  So lets talk about that ever so important first step because it is the first key in getting to that foul line properly.  Throughout the article the first step will refer to the first step of the 4-step bowling approach.  If you take a 5-step approach this would be your second step.

Beyond 5 Steps. If you take any more than five steps I’d first like to acknowledge your level of uniqueness.  For you I have a bit of math.  Take the number of steps you take and subtract the number 3 from it.  That is the step number I’m referring to when I say first step.  I’m sure there is an 11 step bowler reading this right now thinking…okay my 8th step…got it!

Step and Push. No this is not labor, it’s step and push (though feel free to breath whenever it is comfortable for you). The first step has a couple things happening.  It is where the ball side foot moves forward and at the same time the pushaway begins. So let’s take a look at that footwork already!

Length of the first step. A common question I get is how long should my first step be.  I’m going to cop out here and say it depends on your pushaway length, but as a general rule you want that first step to be slightly shorter than the length your arm extends on the pushaway.  Making the step any longer will make it extremely difficult to  keep a consistent armswing.

Walk the tight rope. So now that we have the length settled, what about the direction?  Most bowlers instinctively take their first step directly forward, though you’ll notice most professionals and high level amateurs cross over their first step. The reason they do this is to allow the ball to swing freely passed the hips as there is no need to maneuver the ball around the hips.  The end result is better consistency with the armswing with translates to better accuracy.  It’s a devilishly simple strategy, but won’t be the most comfortable thing you try if you’ve never done it before.

So to reiterate the ball side foot steps forward and crosses over directly in front of your non-ball foot.  It’s similar to walking a tight rope.  Practice this at home a few times and the next time you are practicing give it a go.  It will require a little patience as it will feel awkward at first, but something new and different always does.

Well at least I don't have a 15lb object in one hand!

Well at least I don't have a 15lb object in one hand!

The crossover step is something I’ve been working on this summer and it’s a complete game changer.  It has freed up my armswing quite a bit and puts a lot more speed on the ball(and with that comes other issues with timing, revs, etc.).  I still have a lot of work to do before I’ll feel completely comfortable doing this, but it is coming along.  Sometimes something so simple can have a dramatic effect and can take weeks (if not months) to get used to.  So don’t be afraid to try it out and post your successes and struggles in the comments below.

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  1. Another fact about bring the ball behind your back is that it causes you to tug the ball and/or come over the ball on release. I was in a bad habit of doing that and I could never really figure out why I came over the ball so often, no matter how much I tried to straighten my swing out. I tried to make my back swing straight but until I figured out I should step aside, my shots were ugly and very inconsistent. Last summer a very respected bowler pointed this out to me so now I always step to the side so my back swing can freely swing straight back and on the next step return back to my forward steps in alignment so I can better keep the ball inside and close to my ankle upon the forward swing, without having to maneuver my swing to straighten out because it is already straight!. Doing this helped out my spares as well; my averaged jumped 15 pins this past season bowling only 1 league, 105 games, including 1 sanctioned 300. I’m very proud of my adjustments and I hope to jump my average to 2teen this coming season. One league, 105 games. And I hope to finally shoot a sanction 800 and more sanction 300s.

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