Archive for General


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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Scoping Out a New Bowling Alley

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This fall I got a group of my coworkers together to bowl in a league at a house I’ve never bowled at before. I always like to check out a center ahead of time and there are some things that I look for that will help prevent me from making mistakes and allow me to take advantage of all that is available at the new center.  Here are just a few things I’m looking for when I’m scouting out a “new to me” bowling center.

Lane Markers. Some of the newer Brunswick lane surfaces have markings beyond the standard arrows to help with targeting.  If you see these markers it’s easy to watch the ball’s breakpoint and determine how far out or in you need to keep the ball.

Dots. When lining up on the approach it’s common to use the dots as reference points.  Some centers have one set of dots, others have two and though it’s rare, some centers actually have 3.  It’s important to know where you line up in relation to foul line distance so you can start from roughly where you expect to be.  Also be sure to reference everything from the center dot.  Some centers have 5 dots, while others have 7 and if you reference off the left or right dot you can be a whole 5 boards off where you thought you were.  Don’t laugh, I’ve seen this happen countless times.

Carry. Different centers carry 10 pins differently. You will find that being a pinch light might afford you some great carry, while being dead flush sticks you with a dreaded corner pin or worse and 8, or 9 pin. Maybe one center will get a lot of messengers while others the pins just seem kind of dead. This is good to be aware of as you my find odd leaves at a lively house, or better yet find that whatever garbage you left behind gets hit in some odd fashion.

Also some centers just have some characteristics on spares that are just different.  A spare that carries differently in some houses is the 1-2-8.  You are going to want to be pretty high on the head pin or slightly crossing over to carry this spare, but you’ll find in some houses you can carry this shot consistently by hitting it with a light pocket shot(though I don’t recommend you aim this way, it’s just nice knowing you have some insurance if you completely mess up and get the ball too far right).  In some houses though you’ll notice that it won’t carry the 8 pin out.  My point is just to understand that just because it works in one house doesn’t mean it will work in another.

Lane Oil Breakdown. Different centers will oil with different patterns, different volumes of oil, different types of oil and put them on different kinds of lane surfaces. With all the variables in this equation the one thing I like to do is go in after a league has been bowled and see where playable areas of the lane still exist. This will give me an idea where I could end up playing toward the end of a league block.

Ball Returns. I am fortunate that my home center has ball returns that are not on the approach. I often take this for granted as it’s easy to play really deep angles whether you are on the left lane or the right lane. If I wanted to play really deep inside at a facility with the ball return on the approach I would have to practice walking around the return and get to where I wanted to be. So pay attention to ball returns, especially at houses where the shot tends to breakdown after only a few games, or if you know a large amount of games will be bowled on them before you are done.

Approaches. Some centers have wood, while others have synthetic approaches.  They both have different characteristics and it’s important to be ready in the case that you would need to slide more or slide less.  Whether it be interchangeable soles, a shoe brush or some other means to get the slide you need, make sure you are prepared.

Now there are more things that can help or hinder your game from center to center which are less critical, but still important to be aware of.  Ideally you would bowl at a center just to get a feel for simple things like ball return height, approach height (is there a step up, or do you walk straight out on the lane), lighting and reflections on the lanes.  If you are aware of all these little things before you start bowling, you will feel more comfortable and better prepared.

Maybe you are flying across the country to bowl in a national tournament.  What if your thumb swells or shrinks because of humidity or elevation changes.  These things happen, and if you are not prepared with tape or a tool to workout your thumb you can really make a long trip a total waste of time.

All of these aspects can be applied to a tournament, league or casual bowling while you are trying to impress your friends and show them you totally know how to dominate bowling.  Regardless of the reason, take some of these things into consideration when you are not at your home center.  All bowling centers are not equal.

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