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Proper Orientation of Bowling Tape

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Proper orientation of thumb tape can be the difference between a clean exit of the thumb hole and one that drags.  One common mistake I see is putting bowling tape in upside down.

The Wrong Way

This mistake stems from the fact that the thumb tip is shaped like the end of the tape and the assumption is that the tape is to be positioned like the shape of the thumb.  The real reason the tape is rounded at the top so you don’t feel or peel up the corners as your thumb is inserted or exiting the hole.

The Correct Way

When done correctly the round part of the tape should end up near the top of the hole.  I suggest placing the first piece just below (1/8″-1/4″) the beveled part of the thumbhole.

The Finished Product

As you can see from the pictures I personally use white textured tape in the front, but I also use 2 black pieces offset in the back.  Feel free to experiment with your tape textures and placement until you get a feel that is comfortable for you, but white in the front should be a good starting point for most people.

I am yet to meet a bowler that wouldn’t benefit by using bowling tape.  If tape doesn’t fit in your thumb hole (becomes too tight), get it opened up a bit so you can at least get a couple pieces in there.  You don’t want to be surprised the first time your thumb swells as it will inevitably happen during competition and you’ll have no easy options in place to fix it.  How delightful it will be when you can just remove a piece of tape and continue knocking down the pins effortlessly.

If you don’t have any tape you can grab some at your local pro shop or online here.

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Quick Tip: Tournament Preparation

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A lot of the youth bowlers were complaining to me recently, that they didn’t bowl well in a tournament because it started too early (8am).  I honestly had little if any sympathy because that’s a complete cop out.  I had to wake up numerous times when bowling collegiately at completely asinine hours(how about 3 or 4am) only to drive 4 hours hours to get to our destination, bowl for 7 or 8 hours and then head home the same day.  Preparation for this is key to giving you an edge over all those “it’s too early” bowlers.

Before a big tournament, make sure you get ample sleep and hydration.  This starts long before the night before the tournament.  In fact if you are a professional athlete of any kind, this planning could be months in advance, but I’d honestly settle for just a few days for most bowlers.  Getting a good night’s sleep is critical because it can directly correlate with your performance.  Groggy bowlers make poor bowlers that physically don’t throw the ball well, and make mental errors.  Also make sure to leave enough time to eat a reasonable breakfast and set yourself up to get to the bowling alley at least 20 minutes before the start of the tournament.

You never know what check-in might look like at the tournament so getting to the tournament center early sets you up so this is not a problem.  Also it gives you time to double check the fit on all your bowling balls before the practice lights get on.  I can’t tell you how many people only bowl evening leagues only to find on the morning of the tournament their thumb is either huge or shrunken.  Then they scramble to adjust tape in practice when it simply could have been avoided with a little preparation.

Especially if you aren’t familiar with the center, you might check how tacky the approaches are by sliding your shoe on the approach and adjusting your slide sole before practice begins.

Lastly, arriving early will give you a few minutes to relax and collect your thoughts before you start throwing balls down the lane.  This might not sound like much to most bowlers, but there is nothing worse than being rushed and arriving right before practice or worse, during practice.  You’ll be forced to make decisions quickly, when you likely would have made better decisions if you had thought about a few things before you started.

Paying attention to these softer parts of the game are important for gaining that ever so important edge in competition.  If this preparation only helps you carry 1 extra strike, it could be the difference between making or missing the cut.

For further reading check out Kegel’s Joe Slowinski who wrote a great article on the implications of sleep and bowling.

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Much of the bowling game can be learned by watching the professionals on the PBA, that is if you know what to look for.  There is more to it than someone just hurling a 15lb object at 10 pins down the lane shot after shot.

Watching the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions this year was exciting for a few reasons.  The first was the $250,000 prize, which is the richest prize in all of bowlings history.  The second was Mika Koivuniemi rolling a 299.  The third was watching the lowest score ever on national television (100) by Tom Daugherty (sorry Tom, we still love you).  Lastly for me was a discovery that I’m not the only crazy one who is not afraid to try something different.  Check out this picture below, which was taken right after Mika shot a 299.

Major Mika After Rolling a 299 at the TOC

Though subtle you’ll notice that his slide sole isn’t just one color.  It’s made up of two different slide soles (from the looks of it likely a Slide 8 in the front and a Slide 10 in the back).  I’ve also been experimenting on acheiving the proper slide for a while and I had tried just about everything until I came up with the idea to cut my slide soles in pieces and achieve all kinds of alternative slides to what is considered the “standard.”  I later discovered Chris Barnes was using this technique, and was pleasantly surprised to see Mika doing it as well.

What led me to try this was that Dexter’s Slide 8 was not enough, and their Slide 10 felt like I was ice skating (too much slide).  I took half of Slide 10 and put it in the front, and half of the Slide 8 and put it in the back to create a slide that was slightly more than the 8, and slightly less than a 10.  I joke that I’ve acheived a Slide 9, but really there are only a few tricks to achieving more or less slide, but none as dramatic as what I’ve just told you.  Powders are good, but it’s hard to get the amount right and depending on tournament rules you can’t use them.  Shoe brushes are helpful, but can only fine tune the slide.  The best way to change your slide dramatically is to change the slide sole, and this is an extension of that.

After showing off my new found “Slide 9” I got mixed reactions from bowlers, but I’m glad to see others and now professionals are using this technique.  So there are two things we can learn here.  Never settle for a mediocre slide, and pay attention to professionals.  They can teach us a lot about what we should be doing.

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