Learn to Exploit the Pre shot Routine like Mike Aulby


As the years go by, more and more bowlers (as well as elite athletes in other sports) are understanding the mental game is a critical piece to overall performance.  A key to having a strong mental game in bowling is the pre-shot routine.  Basically it is the series of activities leading up to the delivery of the bowling ball.

If you are not sold on the idea of the pre-shot routine take a look at free throw shooting in basketball.  The players that have the best conversion percentage of free throws have a set routine they do before they shoot the ball.  The same holds true for bowling.

mike-aulby-pre-shot-routine-bowling-ballAulby, Master of the Pre-shot Routine

A good example of a pro that mastered the pre-shot routine was Mike Aulby.  Being a professional he was fortunate to be able to work with a sports psychologist to help develop his routine.  His pre-shot routine looked something like this:

  • Check the pins to ensure they are spotted properly and determine whether to use a re-rack
  • Take a towel to the sole of the sliding shoe
  • Pick the ball up off the rack and towel it off
  • Put the fingers that are going into the bowling ball over the hand dryer until they are completely dry
  • Check the slide shoe to ensure there is no sticking by running it back and forth on the bowling approach
  • Lift the ball and blow into the thumb hole
  • Line up the feet on the appropriate board
  • Support the ball with the non ball hand and insert the fingers of the ball hand.
  • Insert the thumb
  • Lower the ball and tuck in the elbow
  • Find the target with the eyes
  • Take a deep breath and let it go slowly

For 2 more examples of pre-shot routines check out Team USA members Diandra Asbaty and Derek Eoff in the video below.

There are many different pre-shot routines being used successfully by all kinds of players.  Some are long, while others are quick and easy.  Either way, find something that fits in with your game.  If you prefer a simpler game don’t be afraid to have a couple of cues to get yourself going. If you want to have more time in the “get ready” phase something more complex like Aulby’s might be appropriate.  The best bet is to start with something as a template and then tweak it to fit your style.

An important thing to note is if something breaks your concentration during your preshot routine it’s important to drop the ball back on the rack and start over.  If part of your routine is toweling off the ball, be sure you re-towel off the ball.  I know it sounds silly, but it helps with consistency and ensures total focus and concentration.

Additionally your pre-shot routine should be used throughout practices, leagues, tournaments, etc.  It is not just for when money is on the line.  Remember to build the consistency into your shot and the pins will fall.

What does your pre-shot routine look like.  Leave a comment below and let us know!

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  1. Jay says:

    I basically work on my approach 2-3 times before I bowl. I march in place 4 steps and then focus on letting my arm fall from the back swing to my follow-through. I usually start this during the end of the first shot of the bowler I’m following. This give me a chance to get some reps in and feel comfortable.

    During the routine I’m visualizing the shot. If I follow through incorrectly I visualize where the should would go and what it would do. I try to get the release and close to “perfect” as possible.

    After that I do the following before the approach…

    Pick up the ball
    Wipe off oil
    Get to my starting point
    Place fingers in first then thumb

    It really depends on how comfortable I feel. Sometimes I don’t even do a routine when I’m totally comfortable. That’s rare though. I’m one of the only people who work on their approach before their turn, but it’s alright. It feels comfortable for me and helps me visualize the shot.

  2. Joe E. says:

    Before I get on the approach :

    1.I put my left foot on the edge then I focus on my target.

    2. I stand by the ball return and focus on my pre-determined spot on the boards i.e. the 20 or 17 board,

    3.(This might seem strange to some,) I flicker my tongue over my bowling finger take my position at the boards, all this time I try not to take my focus off of my target, this keeps me from being distracted by other bowlers or league players goofing-off.

    4. At this point, I insert my fingers in the ball then my thumb, re-focus on my target, take my four steps and release the ball. Though not every release is a strike as long as I keep it in the neighborhood of the pocket I will get an “easy” spare.
    5.Finally I go back to the waiting area re-focus for about 15 to 20 seconds and I should be ready for my next shot.

    What is most important for me is to make the distractions disappear before I release the ball.

  3. As I said before I absolutely just LOVE oovoo.

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