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Rules The objective of bowling is quite simple: Deliver the ball and try to knock down all of the pins. However, if you really want to get into bowling, you should know much more. As is the case with any sport, bowling has a long list of rules that govern play. These rules should be followed to ensure consistent scoring, competitive play and a true bowling experience each time you visit the lanes. THE BASICS Completing a game A standard game of bowling consists of 10 frames. A frame ends on a bowler's first roll when he or she knocks down all of the pins. Otherwise, the frame ends after the second ball is rolled, regardless of whether all of the pins fall. If a strike is rolled on the first ball in the tenth frame, the bowler receives two extra rolls. If a spare is recorded as a result of the first and second rolls in the tenth frame, one extra roll is rewarded. Legal delivery A delivery is made when a player releases the ball and it crosses the foul line on to the lane. A delivery counts and its results are incorporated into your score unless a dead ball is called. Foul A foul occurs when a part of the player's body goes beyond the foul line (in most cases, it is the foot) and touches any part of the lane, equipment or building during or after a delivery. The roll counts, but any pins knocked down as a result of the roll are not added to your score. If the foul occurs on the first ball, pins that have been knocked down must be respotted before the player rolls again. Legal pinfall Legal pinfall occurs when pins are knocked down: * By the ball itself or by a deflected pin; * By a pin or pins deflecting off the side of the pin deck or the rear cushion; * By pins knocked down by a pin rebounding from the sweep bar when it is at rest on the pin deck before sweeping dead wood; * By pins that lean and touch the kickback or side of the pin deck; Any pins that have legally fallen are termed "dead wood" and must be removed before the next delivery. In most cases, the sweep bar will remove dead wood, but if a pin is out of the range of the sweep bar, ask an employee at the bowling center to remove the rest of the dead wood before the next delivery. Note: A pin that rebounds off the pin deck and stands on the lane must be counted as a standing pin. Illegal pinfall If pins are knocked down when any of the following occur, the roll counts, but the pinfall does not: * A ball falls into the gutter before reaching the pins; * A ball bounces off the rear cushion and into a pin or pins; * A pin is knocked down by mechanical pin setting equipment; * A pin is knocked down when dead wood is being removed; * A foul occurs; * A delivery is made with dead wood in the lane or the gutter and the ball hits the dead wood before hitting the pins; Dead ball When a dead ball is called, the delivery does not count, and pins knocked down on the delivery must be respotted so the bowler can roll again. When any of the following occur, a dead ball should be called: * It is immediately noted, right after delivery, that one or more pins were missing from the setup. * A human pinsetter interferes with any standing pin before the ball reaches the pins. * A human pinsetter interferes with any downed pin before it stops moving. * A player bowls on the wrong lane or out of turn. * A player is interfered with by the pinsetter, another player, spectator, or moving object as the ball is being delivered. When this occurs, the player can either accept the resulting pinfall or call a dead ball. * Any pin is moved or knocked down as a player delivers the ball but before the ball reaches the pins. * A delivered ball comes in contact with a foreign obstacle while traveling down the lane. HANDICAPPING Handicapping is a means by which bowlers and teams of different skill levels can compete with one another. The idea of handicapping is based on taking a percentage of player averages, and varies from league to league. Consult your league coordinator to find out how your league is handicapped. KEEPING SCORE Check out our score keeping basics. AMERICAN BOWLING CONGRESS LEAGUE RULES For complete bowling league rules from the American Bowling Congress (ABC), please visit their official web site at Etiquette Whether you're playing in a league or playing for fun, there's a right way and a wrong way to bowl. In general, it is important to treat the bowling center and other bowlers with respect at all times. However, bowling does have some specific, unwritten rules that you should know. Follow the etiquette points listed below every time you bowl, and you'll be a welcomed guest in any house. Equipment etiquette * Do not loft the ball or toss it on to the lane surface. This can cause damage to the lanes, and you may be held liable for the damages. * Do not use another person's ball without asking first. * Keep all personal items, especially bowling balls and bags, off the seats, the approach and any area where people are regularly walking around. * Wait until the pin-setting machine has finished its cycle and the sweep bar has raised before releasing your next ball. You might think that there is no way you will ever hit the pin-setter during your delivery if you throw the ball just before it has finished its cycle. But it is not worth the risk. * Respect every piece of house equipment and treat it as if it were your own, especially when renting house shoes or using a house ball. Time management * Always be on time for league play. Remember, you have teammates that are counting on you. Bowling houses work in shifts, and a late bowler can affect the shifts that are scheduled for later that night. * Be prepared to take your regular turn on the lanes. Slowing down the pace of play by not paying attention is frustrating for other bowlers. * Stay in or around the settee area until it is your turn to bowl. Other bowlers should not have to track you down to tell you it's your turn to bowl. * Take as much time as you need at the approach, but don't take time just for the sake of taking time. Doing this may distract the people with whom you are bowling. * Meet the person who bowls before you as he or she is stepping off the approach. Concentration * Yield to the bowler on your immediate left or right if he or she is ready to bowl. * Do not distract anyone in the setup. Keep talking and movement to a minimum in and around your settee area when someone is about to bowl. * Avoid standing on the approach next to any bowler. * Do not make any gestures or celebrate excessively when returning from the foul line. * Limit or avoid sudden, loud noises at any time. * If another bowler is in the middle of bowling on the lane next to you, do not enter your approach until he or she has finished the shot. When two bowlers enter their respective approaches at the same time, it is common courtesy to offer the other bowler the opportunity to bowl first. On the approach... * Never carry refreshments onto the approach area. Not only is this disrespectful to the bowling center, a spilled drink can be dangerous in the approach. * Stay in your own approach area. Walking or flying off into other approaches is not only rude but also can be dangerous. Stay in control at all times during your delivery. After delivery, step back off the approach area so the next person can bowl. * Sometimes the approach area is not in the best condition. In this case, refrain from using chalk, powder or resin to condition the area. Most bowling centers take a lot of pride in the condition of the lanes. If you have a serious issue with the condition of the approach or lanes, it is courteous to talk to the center's manager out of hearing distance of other center employees and patrons. Bowling 101 Let’s go bowling! So you’ve heard about the 40's footwear and polyester shirts associated with bowlers and now you want to be a part of the action. Well, bowling is about much more than the cool fashions. At we provide you with everything you will ever need to know about how to become a cool and accomplished bowler. Lace up your bowling shoes You are moments away from a complete and interactive bowling experience. We’ve managed to pack all of the information anyone would need about bowling onto this site. Just a beginner? We've got advice for you. Ready to turn your 140 score into a 240? We've got advice for you, too. Let us guide you through the bowling section of our site. Start off with the gear page to learn the basics of what every bowler needs to succeed. Think bowling is for beer-drinking bruisers lacking in table manners? Forget it. Bowlers are a terribly misunderstood bunch. And while the sport may not be as genteel as, say, croquet, good manners are part of the game. Click on etiquette to get the lowdown on fair play. While the basic objective of bowling is to roll the ball down the lane and knock down all the pins, you still need to know all the rules before you can rule your local bowling center. Finally, you can't possibly go to the alley without being able to talk like a high roller who blows out 12 strikes a game. Check out the glossary for a complete list of words and terms every bowler should know. How am I going to learn how to bowl? has the best instruction and amazing animation to walk you through the fundamentals. Ever wanted to learn to bowl from a professional? One of the most accomplished bowlers of our time, Parker Bohn III, will give you personal, animated lessons. You'll get all of the instruction in an easy-to-learn, interactive manner, using the latest in computer animation technology. You will actually see a skill in action while you read the instruction. Linking to the lanes Once you go through our lessons and learn how to bowl, you’re going to want to go out and throw some strikes. We’ve provided a list of bowling local contacts that can help you along the way. Believe it or not, even bowlers need to physically prepare themselves. Take a look at sports medicine to find out how you can better prepare yourself for your next game. Speak loud and clear! Have a question about throwing the hook ball? You can ask our certified experts during a live chat event. Want to discuss your latest trip to the lanes with other users? Use the bowling message boards. Become a well-rounded bowler How do you become the most complete bowler you can be? By working on your technique, using strategy and thinking to win, you will become a better bowler. Get started Our bowling lessons have a natural progression. Here's our suggestion for how you might want to kick off your bowling lessons: 1. Start off with the getting started lesson to learn everything from how to pick up the ball, to how to hold the ball and how to keep your stance. 2. Move on to the delivery lesson to learn different ways to approach the lane and release the ball. 3. Finish off with the shots and techniques lesson to see the different ways to bowl a ball. Set yourself up for success Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Keep your knees slightly bent and zero in on your target. Generally speaking, archers, pistol shooters and golfers take more care in setting themselves up than bowlers. Watch the next pro golf tournament and see how players like Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman set up before each swing. A good golfer aligns the body perfectly in order to direct the ball to its target—before the swing starts. You, and other bowlers, should do the same for each attempt, every frame. The preparation for movement in the bowling delivery is often called the stance or the address, but the word setup has more meaning because it tells you that you should systematically set yourself up in preparation for consistent, accurate movement. Why is the setup important? The better the setup, the better the delivery, so it is important that you make the same complete series of checks, starting with your feet and moving upward, every time you step onto the approach. If you were attempting to roll a hoop across a gymnasium floor at a selected target, you would not carelessly nudge the hoop to send it on its way. You would first make sure that the hoop was perfectly in line with its intended path and perpendicular to the floor. In doing so, you would be keeping the hoop's center of gravity (the balance point—the place where the hoop's weight is centered) under control and give it a better chance to go straighter. Good balance and accuracy, the benefits of maintaining control of your own center of gravity during movement, begin with a well-balanced setup. If you systematically set yourself up in proper balance with your feet supporting your hips, your shoulders parallel with your hips, your back muscles stable, and your ball in line with your shoulder and the intended target, you will be better prepared to keep your center of gravity from swinging side to side during your delivery. How to execute the setup To begin, carefully pick up your ball by its sides off the ball return. Place it in your non-bowling or balance hand, to avoid unnecessary tension in your bowling arm. Stand about two feet from the end of the approach, near the center, and look at the set of dots closest to you. This is termed the next-up position. From the next-up position, check for clearance of bowlers to either side of you and step up onto the approach to begin your setup ritual. Because you need a specific place to stand and to look at while you are setting up, place the inner edge of the sole of your sliding foot on the dot five boards to the outside (to your swingside, the side of the lane nearer your bowling arm) of the large center dot of either set of approach dots. Next, bring your feet together so that your toes and heels form a square and that the inner edges of both feet are two to three inches apart and pointed straight toward your target (second arrow on your swingside). Be sure that your knees are straight and that your hips and shoulders are parallel with each other and perpendicular to your feet. You are "squaring" or "squaring up." Hold your back upright and your head high—be "snooty"! Next, put your fingers into the gripping holes, then your thumb, and transfer your ball to a position in line with your bowling arm and the second arrow. Do not bend your thumb. If necessary, move your feet, turning your entire body so your shoulders are 90 degrees to this shoulder-ball-target "gun." Maintain the parallel relationship between your hips and shoulders. Keep your forearm slightly raised and hold most of the ball's weight in your balance arm, not your bowling arm. Stare at the second arrow from the swingside channel, slowly take a deep breath, exhale and hold in your stomach. Watch your steps Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Proper footwork can help you walk away a winner. Why is footwork important? The pace of your footwork and the mechanics of your gait (the stepping pattern you use when you walk to the foul line) can help you establish the timing, balance and strong finish that you’ll need to stay coordinated during the delivery and effectively impart force to the ball at the finish. Timing Heel-to-toe footwork synchronizes with the swing cadence, is more consistent and allows the force generated by the swing to peak on each step. When a bowler becomes tense, a common reaction is to increase the pace of the footwork, a condition called "fast feet." Fast feet causes the ball to be late with respect to the footwork, and the bowler falls victim to various problems caused by a late ball. Fast feet are difficult for bowlers to sense, because their attention is usually focused on a visual target (what a bolwer looks at during the delivery). Balance Heel-to-toe footwork allows better contact of your feet with a solid surface (the approach) and keeps your center of gravity over the center of a stable base of support. Any side-to-side stepping pattern deviation influences your ability to stay balanced; the more normal your stepping pattern, the better balanced you are. Finish The way you walk to the foul line—the mechanics of your gait—has a great bearing upon your ability to put yourself in a high-leverage position (in which you can impart more rotation to the ball with your fingers). A relatively normal walking gait will prepare you for a superior finish position, which includes the slide, release and follow-through. A superior finish position allows you to hit your target more often and to get more pin action upon ball impact. Greater pin action results from ball projection (i.e., the ball goes further down the lane before it begins to roll and hook), which is maximized when the fingers lift the ball up and out and onto the lane surface while the hand is on the upswing. This movement is made easier from a bent-knee and upright-back postion. How to execute footwork Take your position on the approach for a normal setup position. Do not insert your fingers into the grip holes; rather, hold your ball with both hands at your midline, waist-level and touching your body. Keep the ball against your body throughout the following foot movements. Next, start counting your cadence. After establishing your rhythm, begin your first step forward on the “and” before “one,” so that the heel of your swingside foot touches down on the count of “one.” Keep walking in a heel-to-toe fashion, in rhythm with your cadence, holding your ball firmly at your midline. Touch down your sliding-foot heel on “two.” On “three,” touch down your swingside heel on the approach; it will be the anchor against which to push your balance-side (sliding) foot forward in the slide to the foul line. Immediately after count “three,” begin deeply bending your swingside knee. On “four,” touch down your sliding-foot sole and continue to push forward, using your swingside foot as the anchor. Keep your back upright and let your hips move down as your swingside foot remains anchored and your sliding foot moves foward, increasing the distance between your feet. Your recovery position should be similar to that used by a skier landing after a distance jump or by a fencer during a lunge. This posture is termed “sitting tall.” It is described as (a) your back is upright, with no more than 20 degrees of forward lean; (b) your sliding leg is bent approximately 90 degrees, with its foot positioned under your body’s center of gravity; (c) your swingside leg is extended back, almost straight, with the sole of this foot in the same place on the approach as when the slide began; and (d) your shoulders and hips are parallel with each other and perpendicular to the follow-through. Remember the meaning of the term “sitting tall.” Pushaway and takeaway Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success The pushaway puts your swing into motion. How to execute the pushaway A properly executed pushaway promotes (1) a free-pendulum swing, with more natural (unforced) ball speed, and (2) accuracy, by keeping the swing plane in line with your intended visual fixation point, or visual target. The proper technique for the pushaway is the act of pushing the ball with both hands into the desired plane of the swing at the predetermined height, in line with the swing shoulder and a desired visual fixation point. Seeing where your ball is at the end of your pushaway is as important as attaining the feel of a proper pushaway. You need to push away the ball accurately in line with a target. A ball placed reasonably high into the swing represents more potential energy than a ball placed lower. The lower your pushaway, the lower your backswing (if you do not hoist, or pull the ball up into the backswing) and the shorter the total swing time. The higher your pushaway, the higher your backswing (if you do not clip, or stop the backswing before it reaches the top of the backswing). A well-executed pushaway promotes accuracy by keeping the swing plane in line with your intended visual fixation point, or visual target. A misaligned swing tends to pull you off balance; more effort is needed to maintain control of your center of gravity. If you direct your pushaway too close to the front center of your body, you have to counteract this imbalance with a step to the outside. If your pushaway is directed too far to the outside, you have to compensate stepping to the inside. Start in your setup position. Mentally count your cadence, "and, one, two, three, four." On the "and" start your pushaway. Be sure to support the ball firmly with your balance hand during the pushaway. Prepare to move on an "and" count. Be in your extended setup position on the count of "one." To prevent injury to your elbow, keep it straight (or locked) as the bar drops into the swing. Otherwise, your bent elbow will be snapped into the straight position by the weight of the ball. The locking of both elbows should not involve any violent thrusting of the ball into the straight-out position. Locking is a low-stress stabilization of completely extended arms after a decisive, continuous movement of the ball from the setup position to the final pushaway destination. Your ball should be straight out in front of your bowling shoulder, with your shoulders forming a 90-degree angle on the count of "one." How to execute the takeaway The takeaway is the movement of the balance arm from a position of supporting the ball in the fully extended pushaway to a position out from the body, slightly down and slightly toward the back. The balance arm is held in this position throughout the delivery. When the balance arm is taken away in synch with the fall of the ball into the swing and is held in the proper position, it counterbalances some of the weight of the ball. More importantly, the balance arm stabilizes the pivot for the swing. Thus, an imaginary line—running from the swing shoulder through the other shoulder to the balance hand—may be pictured as an axis around which the swing rotates. In keeping your swing shoulder from dropping too low and both shoulders from rotating, your balance arm—if carefully timed, placed, and held in the proper position—helps to ensure against misdirected shots. Otherwise, rotating shoulders allow your swing to deviate from the ideal swing plane, causing a bumpout, a wraparound or a combination of both (called a looped swing). Swing like clockwork Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Use a smooth, pendulum motion on your arm swing. Some of the greatest bowlers in the history of bowling are Billy Welu, Dick Weber and Earl Anthony. The unhurried consistency of their swings is beautiful to watch; the results are even more beautiful. Just like the pendulum on a grandfather clock, your bowling arm must be a free pendulum during the delivery. You should use no muscular force to speed up or slow down the ball. Your ball must simply fall into the downswing, then back to the top of the backswing, then down, into the forward swing, drawn only by the force of gravity. Why is the pendulum swing important? A musician uses a metronome to establish a consistent rhythm, or cadence, for a musical performance. You can use the all-important free-pendulum swing to establish a consistent cadence. If you always allow your ball to swing as an unforced or uninhibited pendulum from the same position, you will have one consistent timing element around which to build your entire approach and delivery when you add your footwork. How to execute the pendulum swing From your extended pushaway position, you simply allow gravity to draw the ball down, up and back; you neither pull it down nor keep it from falling. Your elbow should be extended before the ball drops, your wrist should be straight and firm and your shoulder should act as a pivot or center point for the swing. Identify your specific cadence as follows: From your setup position, prepare to move on the "and," and push away to extend both arms by count "one." Then, let gravity start the ball's pendulum swing. Mentally count "two" as the ball passes your swingside leg. On "three" the ball should reach the top of your backswing. Lastly, on "four" your ball should be passing your swingside leg during the forward swing. Let the momentum continue until the ball gets shoulder level, then let the ball come back into your two-handed setup position. Play it safe Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Don't get pinched when you pick up your ball. The bowling environment presents two major dangers to the untrained bowler—falling down and being hit. Falling down can be minimized by Never apply powder or ashes to help you slide. making sure there are no foreign substances on your shoes or on the approach. Follow these guidelines: * Never apply powder or ashes to help you slide. * Always keep food and drinks out of the bowling area. * Never step beyond the foul line—you might track lane dressing onto the approach. * Never bowl in street shoes. * Always check the bottoms of your shoes before bowling if you have walked out of the settee area for any reason. * Watch out for being hit with, or hitting someone else with, a bowling ball. * Always look around you to see whether anyone is taking practice swings. * Be careful with your own practice swings; always know how much room you have for making your movements. A good idea is to take practice swings or slides only on the approach and in the direction of the pins. * Pick up your ball only on its sides, with both hands, and only after it has come to a stop on the ball return. You can avoid smashing your fingers if you look down at your ball as you pick it up with both hands. Finally, heed these two warnings (they seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how often they occur): * Never trigger the pinsetting machine to operate if someone is working on it. * Never roll a ball toward the pins if someone is working on the pinsetter or if the pins are not fully exposed and ready for the ball to be rolled. Open it up Chris Barnes, 1998 PBA Tour Rookie of the Year with Dan Herbst 1998 PBA rookie of the year Chris Barnes If you are a regular viewer of either the men’s or the women’s tour, you are quite accustomed to hearing talk of how players often attempt to "open up a lane." This refers to a bowler’s ability to create "more area." In other words, you can miss your target by a board or two while still having your shot reach the pocket with ample power to consistently strike. This is a skill that has taken on even greater importance in the modern game as scores have soared. If you aspire to compete at a high level, it is essential that you be able to keep up with the opposition when simply filling frames isn’t sufficient to have a chance to win. Quite often during tournaments with four or more games per block/squad, there comes a point when the lanes get broken down. Nowadays, with porous balls, the oil migrates so significantly and so quickly that even a three-game league format often sees the condition significantly altered during the course of the evening. This phenomenon is especially common for right-handed bowlers who are participating in an evening league. At that point, there remains some oil to the left of the track area and a hook spot to the right. There’s a more-defined break point. As the breakdown process commences, your shots may begin to drift a bit high. Playing a more direct line becomes an option during the (lane) transition phase. The easiest initial adjustment is to move your feet slightly inside (to the left for a right-handed bowler or to the right for a left-handed bowler), while maintaining the same target on the lane. Another possibility is to slightly increase your ball speed. At some point, the oil being carried down by a succession of shots will have caused the heads (the front portion of the lane) to dry up. As a result, your shots will begin to hook sooner. Not only will accuracy potentially be sacrificed, but even pocket hits are unlikely to be rewarded. Your shot will have expended so much energy working its way through the front third of the lane that it will be DOA (Dead on Arrival) by the time it reaches the pins. That will cause your ball to deflect to the right (or to the left if you’re a left-handed player). Expect a lot of weak 10-pin (righty) or 7-pin (lefty) leaves as well as the possibility of deflection splits such as the 5-7 or 8-10 (for right-handed bowlers) or the 5-10 or 7-9 (for left-handed players). A potential solution is to move your feet and your target inside. A higher number board becomes the target. Doing so, in theory, should generally allow you to roll through a fresher part of the lane. The exception to the rule occurs when there are several players on your pair who have been playing deeper inside than you. As the oil evaporates, (with some of it carrying down the lane), getting your strike ball to finish—that is, to continue to hook strongly on the backend—becomes much more problematic. Most bowlers who are able to really open up a lane do it with ball speed. It’s certainly my strategic preference. The primary exceptions are guys who simply overpower the conditions, such as Rudy "Revs" Kasimakis and Robert Smith. By decreasing your shot’s velocity, your ball will have more time to hook. The easiest way to accomplish this is to move closer to the foul line during the address position. Moving up on the approach forces your feet to take shorter and slower strides, which, in turn, should help shorten and slow down your armswing. Alternatively, hold the ball lower during the address position and/or use less of a pushaway. I find that modifying ball speed involves the least physical change. I’m a firm believer that the fewer things that you have to alter, the easier the transition. Employing any of the above adjustments should be sufficient to shave one-half to one-and-a-half miles per hour off your ball speed. That’s enough to increase hook by anywhere from three to 10 boards, depending on the type of ball you’re using, your style and the lane conditions. No matter what, it is essential that today’s player have a preferred way of playing the lane, coupled with a back-up plan. As a young bowler, I often had to wait for the condition to come to me. Now, I play more direct in the mornings when the oil is thicker while using a ball that rolls more evenly from the front to the back. During evening blocks when the lanes are hooking more, I will increase my ball speed and use a ball that is designed to go farther down the lane before going into a roll. The bottom line is that instead of fighting a condition, I’m trying to take full advantage of what it is giving to me. Some advanced players are able to change their ball’s tilt. The master at this approach is Pete Weber. Instead of his ball rolling end-over-end, Pete circles the shot so the ball’s axis point faces more toward him. This allows Pete’s ball to skid longer with the aim of producing a stronger backend reaction. All shots eventually roll out as there is only a finite amount of energy. Adding tilt increases that amount of energy. To do this, imagine your normal hand position has your thumb starting at the 11-o'clock position if you’re right-handed and 1-o'clock if you are left-handed. Your hand rotates during your downswing and immediately after your release so that the thumb has moved two "hours" in a counterclockwise (for a righty) or clockwise (lefty) direction . There are even team strategies to exploit the tendency of today’s balls to consume so much oil. Many advanced teams, especially in tournament competition, attempt to collectively break down the lane to their squad’s advantage. By playing the same part of the lane, they create extra area for themselves. While this helps early on, it becomes an even greater consideration by the second game. I’ve witnessed many teams that have really gone to the bank during game two of the American Bowling Congress Tournament by using this tactic to open up the lane. After earning 1998 PBA Rookie of the Year recognition, Chris Barnes ranked third last year in official earnings and title round appearances. Get your fill Mike Edwards, 19-year PBA Tour veteran with Dan Herbst Mike Edwards is one of bowling's best at filling frames. There’s an old aphorism that asserts that the more things change, the more that they stay the same. When I was growing up an essential ingredient for being a good bowler was one’s ability to fill frames. While the concept of playing “safe” with your strike ball and consistently converting spares isn’t prioritized the way that it once was, the world’s best players are still the ones who rarely beat themselves. To those who claim that filling frames is “a lost art,” I say that’s only true for second-rate players. At any level of the sport—from those of us in the pro ranks to once-a-week recreationally-oriented players—avoiding opens provides a player with a great edge. Formulating your strategy follows your having scouted the scoring environment. If possible, find out how most of the players fared during the final game of the preceding league and couple that with how you and your fellow bowlers seem to be doing during warm-ups. Even normally “generous” houses have occasions when the lanes aren’t particularly accommodating. There are other centers that, in bowling parlance, are “graveyards.” Whether it’s down to old pins, dead sidewalls and/or the oil pattern, the circumstances just are never conducive to putting up big numbers. Except during the televised title round, on the PBA Tour we change lane pairs following every game. Every so often I come across a pair where the issue is to merely survive. I know that some of those big guns who can out-strike me will be unwilling to compromise. They will try to over-power a pair that just isn’t going to yield. As a result, they sandwich their big games around a 155. Had they learned the art of being able to grind out a 190, the added pins could prove to be the difference between making or missing a cut. The most important factor toward maximizing the number of frames in which you mark is to be fundamentally sound. It all starts with a good base that includes a proper stance, hand position, armswing and consistent timing. All of that derives from ample practice married to good coaching. Another aspect is psychological—fully concentrating even for so-called “easy” spares and maintaining an even keel when what you thought was a perfect adjustment/delivery fails to produce a strike. Focus on one important ingredient. The bowler who thinks of four things at once will invariably suffer from what former star NFL kicker Matt Bahr labels “paralysis through analysis.” As soon as you ascertain that the conditions aren’t conducive to rolling a lot of strikes, you should play “defense.” The idea is to keep your ball in and around the pocket to avoid disastrous splits. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Get as much out of that game as you can by minimizing mistakes. Trying to do too much to the ball will only invite disaster. There is another danger. Not only could you suffer a bad score, but your efforts to do too much could see you getting away from your natural game. When the lanes subsequently change in your favor you will be so out of sync that you will be unable to recover. Try to keep your armswing on line as much as possible. Keep the same rhythm. Opt for a more direct line to the pocket. The rule of thumb is the lower the scores, the fewer boards you should cross. Just get your ball from Point A to Point B as consistently as you can. On such a condition, you may think that you’ve made a good shot but the ball just isn’t reacting as you would want it to. But as long as you are faced with a non-double wood spare I would advise you not to make an adjustment. I would only alter my strategy if I went through the beak or Brooklyn and/or was faced with a very difficult spare or a split. If you are a player who lives and dies with a big hook, hopefully you can trust your game enough to change balls. While using the same mechanics, employing a ball designed to go longer and straighter should allow you to cover fewer boards and, with that, minimize open frames. If at all possible, increase your ball speed while moving to the outside and using the first or second arrow as your target. Another warning: Don’t over-think. We have all seen players who make 1,001 changes. Every other frame they’re altering their wrist position, strike line, ball, amount of loft, speed and anything else that they can contemplate. Getting away from your A-game is always perilous. Subtle changes are far preferable to taking drastic steps. That’s especially true on difficult conditions. Staying out of trouble with your strike ball will only pay dividends if you consistently convert your spares. For most simple spares, it is better to flatten out your shot by keeping your wrist straight and the palm of your bowling hand “locked” behind the ball throughout the delivery. Hand the ball toward your target on your pushaway with all subsequent movements directed at your aiming point. Keep your eyes riveted on what you’re trying to hit until long after your ball has rolled beyond the arrows. When he’s not closing in on the $1 million career earnings plateau on the PBA Tour, Storm Staff Member/ABC Ambassador Mike Edwards serves as the teaching pro at Oklahoma City’s Heritage Lanes. He is the only bowler who is enshrined in the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. Choose your weapon Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Choosing the right ball can pay big dividends. Selecting a house ball The bowling establishment provides house balls for bowlers who do not own their own balls. The management of the establishment attempts to keep them arranged in ball racks in order of weight, from 6 to 16 pounds. The hole sizes and spans generally increase with increasing total ball weight. Select the proper ball fit Proper ball fit feels more comfortable, causes less fatigue of the hand and arm, and lessens the chance of injury through pulled muscles, tendinitis, blisters, deep calluses and so on. To see whether a ball fits your hand, use the following sequence: 1. Thumbhole size: First, insert your thumb into the thumbhole. While pressing one side of the thumb lightly to one side of the hole, slide the thumb in and out. If the other side of the thumb barely touches its side, the thumbhole size is appropriate. If the thumbhole is too loose or too tight, try another ball. 2. Correctness of span: After selecting a thumbhole that fits, select a ball with the proper span based on descriptions previously given for the conventional ball. Select the proper ball weight The weight of the ball you use should be appropriate for your physical makeup. You cannot effectively place a ball into your swing if it is too heavy. Further, your hand will not be able to hold the ball as it is falling into the downswing . On the other hand, you will often manhandle a ball that is too light; the weight of the ball is insufficient to signal you to let it swing by its own weight. Adult male beginner bowlers often choose balls in the 14 to 16 pound range, whereas adult females often choose balls in the 10 to 14 pound range. Youngsters often choose balls ranging from 6 to 14 pounds. Selecting a customized ball If you bowl more than a couple of times per month and want to become a better bowler, you must have a better ball fit and good footing. Go to a good pro shop to purchase your own ball and shoes. Call around and ask several of the best bowlers in your area for the name of a skillful ball driller. Here are some helpful considerations: * Try to buy a ball, bag and shoes together if possible, because your shoes are an important element in providing stability for good leverage (lift that causes rotation) to be imparted to the ball. Furthermore, a bowler serious enough to own a ball should not have to dole out money continually for rented shoes. The necessity for a bag is also obvious, since other accessories are usually carried in it. * Do not immerse your hands in water for at least two hours before you have your ball fitted. If you do, there is a possibility that the grip holes will be fitted too large. * Exercise your hand before having the ball fitted. Relax your hand, stretching your grip to what it will be after a few practice shots and giving you a better chance for a more accurate span measurement. Otherwise, your span may be fitted too short. * Tell the pro shop operator if your hands are in frequent contact with slippery or drying solvents or if you have any problems, such as arthritis, that lessen your ability to grip. These factors may necessitate modifications in the fit and the ball weight. Selecting a used bowling ball A used bowling ball can be a good buy because it is cheaper than a new one. There are plenty of used bowling balls available. Many pro shops offer used balls, and members of the PBA and LPB tour have good used balls for sale. Teammates often trade balls. All these are sources of better quality used balls. Pawn shops and garage sales often sell used balls, too, but be cautious—many balls found in these places prove to be damaged, due to improper storage. If you are considering buying a used ball, check the cover for deep cracks or abrasions. Check to see whether the cover of the ball is solidly bonded to the core. If the ball has a badly damaged cover or if the ball sounds nonuniform or hollow when you tap it with a blunt object, pass it up. If you do find an acceptable used ball, take it to a pro shop for the appropriate fit. In most cases, the driller will have to plug and redrill all of the holes with your own customized grip. Spare parts Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Focusing on your target will pave the way for spare pick-ups. How important are spares? Think of it this way: if you made strikes in all of the odd-numbered frames in a game and missed a single pin spare in all of the even-numbered frames, you could not bowl 200 even though you struck half of the time! Your score would be 140! If you never made a strike in a game but picked up a single-pin spare in every frame, your score would be 190. Why is spare targeting important? In order to be a well-rounded bowler, you must be able to pick up any reasonable spare leave you may encounter. You must put as much thought and effort into picking up spares as you put into making strikes. Regardless of the type of competition, if you patiently and persistently convert your spares, you can avoid really low games and stay in the running until you begin to strike more frequently. Spare leaves provide an element of variety, and you should think of them as opportunities to become more accurate and versatile. If you set your mind this way and are willing to remember some simple rules and numbers, you will become a superior spare bowler. How to execute spares: Targeting There are approximately 250 common spare leaves you can encounter, but this number becomes manageable when you realize that there are only a few angles from which all of them may be converted. Once you have properly aligned your straight or hook ball for a strike, the adjustments you must make for spare targeting are of the same proportion and direction. In other words, it matters little whether you roll a straight ball or a hook ball; the adjustments for spares are similar. You can make some spares, called pocket spares, by shooting your strike target line, in which case no adjustment is necessary. Other leaves may best be converted by moving your feet to another setup location; still others may best be made by moving your target point (and, thus, your visual target) and your feet. In this step, you will again use the second arrow as your strike target. However, when you bowl on your own in a game situation, you may have to use a totally different strike target point—for example, the first arrow, the third arrow, a board between arrows or even one of the small dots between the foul fine and the artows. Regardless of what your target point is, you will be using some target line for your strike ball. Spare principles Learn the following principles thoroughly. They will make you a better spare bowler by allowing you to play spares through intelligent planning, thus increasing the probability of your spare conversion before you roll your ball. While reading these principles, look at a diagram, a picture or an actual full rack of pins and try to identify the pins being discussed. 1. If your spare leave is to the inside, move your setup location to the outside; if the leave is outside, move your setup to the inside. 2. Always choose a spare impact point that allows your ball to hit the pin closest to you first. 3. Always walk toward your spare leave target; walk parallel with your spare target line. 4. Always choose a spare impact point that allows your ball to contact the most pins. This practice minimizes the chance of hitting only the front pins while missing the ones farther back (chopping). Unless you are attempting to convert a split, do not depend on your ball to carom, or bounce, pins into other pins to make spares. 5. Always first translate your spare leave into a simple one before deciding on how to shoot it. The pin leave to which it is translated may not even be part of the actual combination of pins in the leave; the translation can be a psychologically less difficult leave. For example, the 3-10 split can be translated as the much easier 6-pin shot because the ball will contact both the 3 pin and the 10 pin by rolling down the board upon which the 6 pin rests. Likewise, the 5-10 split translates as a 2-pin shot, the 2-4-5-8 as an 8-pin shot, the 4-10 split as a 7-pin shot, and so on. 6. After you have translated your spare leave, fit it to one of the seven spare target lines, then make appropriate adjustments of your target line and setup location from your original strike target line. Get in the strike zone Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Find the right path for your strike ball and you'll be unstoppable! How to execute strike targeting Strike targeting follows a systematic series of actions, which have been numbered here for you. The first two actions need to be Strike targeting follows a systematic series of actions performed only until you have committed the details to memory. Notice that the remaining actions (3 through 10) are part of a target-line adjustment cycle. Use this cycle often to make changes in your hook-ball path in response to changing lane conditions. Follow these actions in order. 1. Learn the lane targets. The target-line system utilizes certain markers placed on the lane surface. Regardless of which hand you bowl with, always try to refer to approach and lane boards by number. There are 39 boards in a lane, each slightly over one inch wide. Identify these boards by counting them from the outside gutter in the direction of the inside gutter. 2. Determine your placement distance. Before you begin learning how to use targets, you must determine the size of your placement distance (PD). This measure is the distance in boards between your sliding foot (generally its inside edge) and the point of contact of your ball at or near the foul line. The PD also reflects the horizontal distance between your body's center of gravity and the center of your ball. The average PD range is six to eight boards. 3. Choose a target point. The place where you desire your ball to roll by the arrows is your target point. Let's assume that this target point is your visual target. For now, look at the second arrow from the outside, located on the 10th board. 4. Choose your ball's touchdown point. The point you choose reflects the angle at which you desire to roll your ball over your target point. 5. Project an imaginary extension. Visualize an extension of your target line back to the area of the approach at which you take your setup. 6. Take your setup at the appropriate location with respect to your target line. Position both feet so that they are parallel to each other and to your target line. 7. Fix your eyes on your visual target. Keeping your eyes fixed on a well-defined visual target is valuable in stabilizing your head, neck, and back to keep them from moving during your delivery. Further, the act of fixing your gaze on a visual target draws your body toward the target during your approach. The visual target is a "lure." Your visual target may not be the same as your target point; you may have to look at a visual target to the inside or outside of the target point in order to roll your ball over the target point itself. 8. Execute your shot properly. Get into the habit of evaluating the quality of your execution before you ask, "What did my ball do?" 9. Analyze your shot. Make sure that you watch your ball proceed down the lane, observing where your ball passed the arrows and where it contacted the pins. Also, look down at your sliding foot to see on what board your slide stopped. Your straight ball should proceed along a path from your hand, over the target point, and straight to the strike pocket at the 17th board. Your hook ball should proceed straight along a path from your hand, over your target point, to the break point. From the break point, the ball should move toward the strike pocket at the 17th board. 10. Correct your shot appropriately. Take the following courses of action when making either straight-or hook-ball adjustments: * If you executed properly, if your ball passed over the correct board at the arrows and if it went on to contact the pins at the strike pocket (at the 17th board from the outside channel), roll another properly executed shot along the same targetline. * If you did not execute properly, regardless of whether your ball passed over the correct board at the arrows or contacted the pins at the strike pocket, do not make any adjustments to your target line until you have corrected your execution. * If you executed properly and your ball passed over the correct board at the arrows, but did not contact the pins at the strike pocket, verify the correctness of and make adjustments to your target line by repeating actions 4 through 9. Remember, if you cannot remember where your ball rolled, you did not see it! Straight balls and hook balls Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success A straight ball can keep you in control when lane conditions get tough. Why are straight and hook balls important? A straight ball is valuable for a beginner to learn accuracy and for any bowler who finds the hook ball unreliable on a difficult lane condition. In such a case, the straight ball may be significantly easier to control for strikes and spares than a hook. A hook ball is the best strike ball because it knocks down, or carries, 10 pins more effectively; therefore, it is preferred by professional bowlers. Although the hook ball is more sensitive to variations in lane conditions than the straight ball, the greater power of the hook ball compensates for such a disadvantage, particularly on less difficult lane conditions. The hook ball carries pins better because it has a steeper angle of attack into the pocket. The angle of attack is formed by two imaginary lines: one drawn straight down the 17th board (1-3 pocket for right-handed bowlers; 1-2 pocket for left-handed bowlers) and the other drawn in line with the direction in which the ball is rolling when it hits the pocket. The straight ball's angle of attack can be no greater than that formed by a line drawn down the 17th board and one from the outer edge of the lane at the foul line to the strike pocket. The hook affords a steeper angle because it rolls into the pocket from the point it begins to hook—the break point. Another reason the hook ball has greater carrying power than the straight ball is that it makes pins tilt and spin more. Although a straight ball rolling through a rack of pins imparts some rotation to the pins which it contacts, greater pin action results from a hook ball with a tilted axis of rotation. This axis is a line passing through the center of the ball and through the center of a plane formed by the ball track. The axis tilt of a bowler's ball depends on the angle of his or her hand to the lane at the release. A ball with a tilted axis with respect to the lane actually makes the pins tilt and spin when it contacts them, sending them careening through the air. The pin's own axis gyrates; a pin flying in this manner sweeps through a larger area of a plane parallel with the lane, which increases its chance of hitting other pins. Choosing between straight and hook balls Use a hook ball for strikes whenever possible, and use the more reliable straight ball for most spares. On a completely uniform lane condition—a rare situation with equal friction over the entire lane surface—you can make spares with equal efficiency using the hook ball. To understand the reason for this choice, you should understand a little something about lane conditions. A wooden lane is usually covered with a urethane coating (lane finish), which is protected from ball abrasion by a daily application of oil. Ball reaction is remarkably dependent on the amount and location of the dressing on the lane and the state of repair of the lane finish. If a lane condition is hooking (slow, high-friction), stick (fast, low-friction) or spotty (a mixture of high and low-friction areas), a hook ball may act unpredictably, with strikes occurring less frequently and splits and multiple-pin spare leaves (pins left standing) increasing in frequency. In such a case, switching to a straight ball—playing it safe—would allow better control and consistency. In summary, the hook ball is preferred on well-maintained lane conditions, whereas the straight ball is more reliable on difficult lane conditions. There are two major reasons why a straight ball may be more reliable on difficult lane conditions. First, in a properly rolled straight ball, lift is applied by the fingers in line with the desired ball path; this action tends to dynamically stabilize the ball in the direction it is rolling. Second, because the straight-ball delivery requires the hand to stay behind the ball (therefore closer to the body), more of the body's momentum can be transferred to the ball at the release. This gives the ball more forward speed and makes it more resistant to deviation by lane surface irregularities. However, to maximize pin carry, a straight ball must begin to roll soon after touchdown on the lane surface; it should not be skidding, a dynamic that makes the ball easier to deflect upon impact with a pin. Getting kids ready to play Lisa Wagner, winner of 32 PWBA events How has Lisa Wagner won 32 career titles? By sticking to the basics. In all sports, youngsters tend to want to emulate the most spectacular of athletes. Human nature draws us to basketball players who perform spectacular dunks over those who merely hit jump shots, avoid turnovers and play solid defense. We’re all more impressed by batters who launch tape-measure home runs over a .320 singles hitter. So, too, with bowling. Kids all want to crank the shell off the ball and see their huge hook shot explode into the pocket and send 10 pins flying into the pit. The problem with that style is it’s a high reward/high risk approach. There needs to be a tradeoff between power and accuracy so that enough of each ingredient is consistently produced in order for a bowler to make the most out of his or her potential. Although it’s not as glamorous, I implore younger players to focus their energies on developing a fundamentally sound game before they even experiment with the power game. Ideally, you have a coach who works with you and is not only knowledgeable about the intricacies of bowling, but also about your game. That coach should stress fundamentals. Even today, I still go back to Tommy Evans. He first worked with me when I was a teenager. While helping to add in things that are necessary to thrive with today’s high-powered balls (such as a slight projection to the right of my armswing), he still stresses the same things that we worked on decades ago. Another benefit of having a long-standing relationship with a coach is that individual’s ability to spot even the most minute of changes in your delivery. Coach Evans can stand behind me and pick things out that I never imagined were causing problems. Unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury. Many players have to self- coach. If that’s your situation, the more simple your game, the easier it will be to identify and fix any flaw that might arise. I recommend having a friend tape you with a video camera when you are bowling well. The best camera angle is to be positioned behind you. When you hit a slump, use the slow motion button on your VCR to compare and contrast your form from when things were going well. I was fortunate to first bowl at age six. My parents were a part of the junior bowling system. I can remember getting ready as a youngster for league play, and, for the first two weeks, them working with me on my timing during a four-step delivery. With each stride they would remind me where my arm should be positioned. I can still hear them saying, “Out, down, back, forward.” Achieving good timing at an early age helped develop my muscle memory. Even today, if my arm is slightly out of sync with my feet, I am able to subconsciously adjust so as to still be properly balanced at the point of release. I was taught to let the ball swing naturally from my shoulder while only using a minimum amount of muscle to guide it. That is definitely a major reason why I have been able to win as often and for as long a period of time as I have. No matter what the lane condition, I feel confident in my ability to make a simple change so that I can overcome the challenge while still being able to consistently repeat that same set of movements. It’s far tougher to adapt quickly if your delivery includes a lot of superfluous motions. That type of player is like a fish out of water as soon as he or she hits a pair of lanes that aren’t compatible with his or her assets. One of the most under-appreciated aspects of fundamental soundness is the quality of your footwork. My heels contact the lane before my toes. Moreover, I walk in a relatively straight line at my target. Perhaps my most important stride is the one that precedes the slide. It’s known as the power step, and it’s essential for maximizing the strength from your legs and achieving a powerful roll on the ball. Because I’m right-handed, my power step is with my right foot. I make certain that the stride is within the plane of my right shoulder, keeping my legs underneath me. My knee is bent slightly. I try to keep that step relatively compact. My slide also remains in line with my body. It, however, is fairly long. My knee is bent but my waist remains straight so that my body has been gradually lowered to help impart a natural “lift” on my release. The ball then lands on the lane a few feet beyond the foul line, much like an airplane lands on a runway. While I’d like to think that all of my suggestions are well taken, there’s no substitute for visualization. Seeing is believing, and more importantly, seeing allows you to develop proper techniques. I would urge any young player who is serious about improving to watch both the PBA and the PWBA telecasts as often as possible and tape them. Study a player whose style is similar to your own in both natural speed and in slow motion. On the ladies’ circuit, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard has a great fundamental game. She proves that one doesn’t have to be big and strong in order to succeed. Anne Marie Duggan, when she’s bowling well, is also worthy of emulation. Michelle Feldman is the role model for female power players; she gets as much on the ball as almost any of the men. Norm Duke’s game is so simple that he is able to be one of the most versatile players in the sport’s history. David Ozio’s delivery is as uncluttered as anyone’s, while Pete Weber is a perfect example of a player who waits on the ball by having his sliding foot arrive at the line a split-second ahead of his armswing. Having captured 32 career titles, PWBA superstar Lisa Wagner owns the most Tour triumphs in the history of women’s professional bowling. Stay in control with concentration Mike Aulby, winner of 26 PBA events with Dan Herbst The secret of Mike Aulby's success is his mental game. When fans ask me my “secret” to having been able to compete so successfully on the PBA Tour for over 20 years, I have to credit my mental game as my greatest asset. The ability to maintain concentration for several hours can be acquired. You will know that you have achieved that state when you have bowled six games in three hours, but it only feels like it was 30 minutes (on the other hand, when I’m struggling, I can recall just about every shot). Step one is to arrive at the center mentally "fresh." I have often wished that there was a switch that each of us could turn on and off that would put us in the right frame of mind before going to the lanes. Your brain needs to be clear of distractions, such as life’s everyday problems. If possible, arrive early enough to observe players in the league that precedes you. Observe which parts of the lanes are playable and whether there’s an out of bounds. Bowlers who are frantically doing things at the last minute won’t be relaxed. If you’re hurrying to put on your shoes while your teammates have already begun rolling warm-up shots, you’ll find that your fluidity is likely to be lost. Before you know it, everything seems rushed, including your footwork, with your timing and balance suffering. Another key lies in being prepared. Have all of your equipment ready to go well before rolling that first warm-up shot in practice. A change in the weather could alter your hand’s size. Check all of the bowling balls that you anticipate using. Insert or remove tape as needed. Make certain that the laces on your bowling shoes aren’t frayed. Confirm that no foreign substances can be found on the bottoms of the shoes. Doing so will put your mind at ease so that you can allocate all of your concentration toward making good shots and hitting your target. Preparation also includes your body. A comprehensive stretching routine follows. My regimen includes loosening up my arms, wrists, back and legs. Doing so allows me to achieve peak performance. Several years ago I began working with Eva Hamilton, a specialist in sports psychology (she’s also the spouse of PBA champion, Bruce). I endured a 300-question exam which produced a profile of my personality and identified areas in need of improvement. Amongst the findings was a tendency for my mind to wander during long blocks. Her solution was to incorporate self-talk into my pre-shot routine. Now, before I wipe off my ball, step onto the approach and blow into the thumb hole, I always prompt myself with the same keys. First, I tell myself, “heel, toe; heel, toe.” That reminder alludes to my footwork. Landing on my heel first helps me keep my weight back to obtain better leverage at the point of release. Then I tell myself, “watch the target until the ball passes it.” That helps me to stay down at the line and to provide good direction on my follow through. As helpful as it is to emphasize to yourself on a shot-by-shot basis the one or two most significant physical aspects of your game, there is another purpose. Saying the identical thing to myself before every delivery it makes every shot seem the same. Thus, your mind perceives no difference when your ability to produce a 10th-frame strike will determine whether your team wins or loses from when you are covering the five-pin in the third frame. I can attest that this has been an enormous benefit both to handling (and overcoming) pressure in addition to maintaining a high level of concentration over a prolonged period of time. The latter is no small consideration, given that during the match-play segment of a PBA tournament, I must roll eight head-to-head games over a three-and-a-half hour time span. Even in your league play, it can take up to three hours for five-player teams to bowl three games. It is okay if you are chatting with your friends between shots and your mind wanders from the task at hand. The key, I’ve found, is to re-focus as the teammate ahead of you in the line-up steps onto the approach. Another ingredient is maintaining as much of an even-keel response as possible. In every sport, there is some element of luck. While good fortune tends to even out over time, it is hard to swallow when you bury your ball in the pocket only to be denied by a ringing 10-pin (or a 7-pin for us lefties) while your opponent’s nose hit somehow clears the deck. But getting mad does you absolutely no good. Ditto about beating yourself up for making a poor shot. Once that ball leaves your hand, it is history. Besides, I have yet to see a pin fall out of fear of a bowler’s temper tantrum. The more time that you spend being angry at a perceived “injustice,” the less time you are concentrating on what you must do to execute properly on your forthcoming delivery. The only shot worthy of your attention is the one that you’re about to throw. The quicker you take the above advice to heart, the sooner you’ll improve. A great case study is Jason Couch. Last year, Jason captured the pro tour’s marquee event, the Brunswick World Tournament of Champions, while his 225.2 average and $220,990 in official earnings were second only to Parker Bohn III. That’s a far cry from how he performed when he first hit the Tour in the early 1990’s. Always possessing a powerful strike ball, Jason felt that every single shot should carry. When he failed to strike he’d get madder than a hornet on a hot day. Since learning not to lose his composure, he has become one of the world’s most accomplished players. Many bowlers, especially amateurs, become perturbed when distracted. There will be times that pins fall out of an adjacent rack or some inconsiderate person cuts you off or is excessively noisy. When that happens, put your ball down, step off of the approach and fully reload. There is one final element: perspective. Remember, bowling is a game. Even at my level, I find that I perform better when I’m having fun. It’s a shame when people lose sight of the sheer enjoyment of participating in this great sport. PBA Hall of Famer and 26-time champion Mike Aulby is the only man in PBA history to be honored as a Rookie of the Year (1979) and subsequently as a Player of the Year (1985, 1995). Use your head to get ahead Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Why is mental discipline important? Good bowling is nothing more than making the best shot that you can and correcting any errors on your very next shot. It is a program of constant troubleshooting and maintenance; it requires intense and constant (Bowling) requires intense and constant concentration. concentration. Unless you can sustain concentration for extended periods of time, ever-present stressors will always bother you consciously and unconsciously, interfering with execution of your delivery and lowering your scores. Stressors cause excessive muscular tension, making your movements tentative and altering the timing relationships of body parts during your delivery. Applied leverage and the direction of your ball path usually become inconsistent. Proper use of mental skills will help you perform better by enhancing concentration during practice and making you more resistant to pressure during competition. The better your mental skills, the more satisfaction you will derive from all types of bowling. You will be taking charge of your performance rather than passively or negatively reacting to the environment. Even though you may not aspire to be a professional bowler, it is vital to your progress, if you pursue bowling as a meaningful activity, that you learn how to apply mental skills early in your development. You can improve your concentration by developing three important mental skills: anxiety reduction, positive self-statements and mental imagery. Anxiety reduction The first mental skill you should use faithfully is anxiety reduction to help control any nervousness. Three elements are involved in reducing anxiety: 1. Become aware of all factors that produce muscular tension and other forms of stress in you. Be honest in your self-evaluation. Write down as many specific upsetting persons, events, negative thoughts and situations as possible. Have a frequent bowling partner help you discover more; others can see you reacting negatively even when you are not aware of your reaction. 2. Apply a progressive relaxation technique. When you develop relaxation skills, you become aware of muscular tension as it develops. You will then be able to relax your muscles at will. 3. Combine progressive muscle relaxation with specific stressors. This process, called coping, will deactivate your tension-producing response to these stressors. A useful technique is to make an audio tape in which you briefly present each stressful situation to yourself in your own voice. Each presentation can be followed by a pause to allow you to consciously relax any muscles that may be tensing. If you repeat this procedure often enough, you will relax automatically when the stressful situations occur in real life. Positive self-statements A second mental skill you should use all the time is making positive self-statements. You should make a list of short statements about yourself and your performance, positive in tone, to repeat to yourself during competition. Never say anything negative or demeaning to yourself; always encourage yourself. These positive ideas will replace and exclude any negative thoughts. Mental practice A third mental skill you should use is mental imagery, also known as mental practice or mental rehearsal. Mental practice involves creating an ideal experience in your "mind's eye"—you picture yourself taking your setup and approach and delivering your ball to achieve a perfect result. The imaging process actually organizes your muscles to respond correctly, by imprinting a performance standard in your neuromuscular system. By using mental practice, you effectively run your movement plan without actually bowling. If you use mental practice on a regular basis, you can program proper technique and correct problems and mistakes instead of hoping that such things will "work themselves out"—which they will not! Many top sport stars make consistent use of imagery to maintain superior performance. You may use imagery to help ingrain smooth and flawless bowling movements into your performance techniques. If your physical performance is flawed with poor equipment or technique, your movement plan cannot run properly, and there is no point in trying to attain mental control over it. Your subconscious mind cannot be convinced that you are prepared. You may be tempted to blame a lack of some mental skill, such as concentration, for a bad shot, when it was really caused by a loose thumbhole or a badly worn sliding sole. Ensure that your bowling ball and shoes fit well so that they do not interfere with your technique. Also, drill extensively on the correct movements; overlearn them until you have complete confidence in your ability to perform well-executed shots. Be physically ready first, be mentally ready next, and win! Become mentally tough Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success The best and most successful professional bowlers seem to be in a "trance" when they are in competiton. They may or may not be cordial, and they seem to shun unnecessary contact in favor of staying focused. Just look into the eyes of Walter Ray Williams, Jr. when he is "in the hunt" on the Professional Bowlers Tour television program. His mind is focused and his aim is deadly! A Mental Toughness Routine creates and maintains concentration Because a Mental Toughness Routine requires relative silence and isolation, it may appear to be a way to intimidate an opponent; however, it is neither arrogance nor unfriendliness. It is simply a way of creating and maintaining a proper environment for sustained concentration during competition, and must involve the following disciplines: * Maintaining mental control during and between games. Talking only if it is absolutely necessary, do not initiate or cultivate conversation, and do not encourage eye contact. * Never watching anyone bowl. To do so could interfere with your own movement plan, for example, making you speed up your approach or muscle the ball because the person you are watching is doing so! The Mental Toughness Routine is organized into the following phases: Relief time The preshot portion of your routine takes place in the period of time between shots (usually two to five minutes) as well as the period between games of a bowling session. Spend this time wisely, using it to plan physical adjustments to lane conditions, to make modifications to your bowling ball and so on. Sit down and stay calm, isolating yourself from potential interferences. If you are a doubles or a team player, use limited conversation—only to encourage or help a teammate as necessary. Simply confine such talk to your relief time. If you are having difficulty, your teammates will understand if you isolate yourself from them for additional mental imagery and planning during your relief time. Mental planning Remain seated and focus your thoughts deeply, spending at least 20 seconds preparing yourself before standing up for your next shot (before spare balls or between shots in the 10th frame, you do not have to sit down). During this time, do not keep score or engage in any conversation. Consciously relax your muscles and conduct mental imagery and positive self-talk. If you are having a problem achieving good concentration, or if you are bowling on a particularly difficult lane condition, you may expand the mental planning phase to fill the entire time between shots, effectively replacing your relief time. Be aware, however, that you can become mentally fatigued if you do not give yourself sufficient relief time for tension reduction. Lane clearance Take the next-up position, holding your ball in your balance arm to minimize strain on your bowling arm. Look at your intended setup location on the approach while you make either different or the same positive self-statements you made during the mental planning phase. Do not let your eyes dwell on the other bowlers. Simply imagine yourself properly executing the shot (while you simply glance for clearance on either side). Setup Right before you initiate movement, add a deep, relaxing breath to your usual setup routine. Make a last, positive self-statement and immediately initiate movement. Automatic pilot execution During practice it may be necessary to focus your attention on your hand, your foot or the timing between body parts. However, during competition, the fewer things you monitor consciously, the better. On each shot, always be mindful of your cadence, the coordination between your pushaway and your first step, and the destination of your pushaway, while your gaze is fixed on your visual target. During competition, you should generally be on automatic pilot. However, in the case of unpredictable lane conditions or slippery or sticky approaches, you may have to carry out additional conscious monitoring of your body parts to ensure some consistency (or even your physical safety). Analysis Immediately after you have made your shot, objectively analyze it for accuracy, quality of execution and your mental state. Because performers tend to be very critical of themselves after a poor shot, keeping the mind busy with objective analysis helps to exclude negative feelings. You must be very analytical for a short period of time. Then you should enter the refief-time phase, using the analysis information and deciding on the strategy for your next shot. Quickly clear your mind and enter the mental planning phase. Score with goals Robert H. Strickland Bowling: Steps to Success Why is goal-oriented practice important? Although practice alone does not guarantee improvement, you can be assured that performance will not improve without it. Intelligent practice is goal-oriented practice. Through appropriate goal setting and practicing of Intelligent practice is goal-oriented practice. attainable goals, you take control of your own development, becoming more self-reliant, gaining confidence in your ability and cultivating a healthy attitude toward the sport. If you practice correctly (reaching reasonable goals) your performance will improve; if you practice incorrectly, either without goals or with unreasonable goals, your performance will worsen. Improvement in performance will probably not occur at a consistent, steady pace. Your progress will be marked by performance level plateaus, during which you may experience little improvement or even a lowering of your scores. Plateaus are not all bad. However, they may indicate that new movement patterns are being integrated within your neuromuscular system and becoming automatic. Be patient with yourself and practice intelligently; you will see progress! How to set goals For goals to be effective in directing your behavior toward their attainment, they must satisfy certain requirements. First, goals should be challenging but realistically attainable, that is, reasonable. Goals should be stated or set in such a manner that builds in probable success. You may adjust your goals down (make them easier) if necessary, or up (make them more difficult) at an appropriate time in your training. It is more beneficial to your progress to be successful in reaching easy goals than to fail at reaching difficult ones. Little victories build your confidence, helping you to think of yourself as a winner—even before you have actually won in competition. Second, performance goals are more effective in improving skill than outcome goals. A performance goal involves the quality of execution or some intermediate accomplishment. For example, getting two strikes within five frames is a performance goal; five frames are under your direct control and the goal has built-in success. Winning a tournament, however, is an outcome goal; it is not completely under your direct control. Performance-oriented players those who set performance goals-are more successful in attaining their goals than outcome-oriented players. Outcome-oriented players usually do not attain their goals, because outcome goals are loaded with built-in frustration. If you set your sights on good performance, though, satisfaction and a feeling of achievement are frequent, helping you improve rapidly. The following chart summarizes the characteristics of these two types of players: Performance-oriented player * Sets performance goals * Concerned with execution * Goals within control * Handles pressure well * More motivated * Eager goal-setter * Often successful * Judges self in terms of own successes Outcome-oriented player * Sets outcome goals * Concerned with winning * Goals beyond control * Too anxious under pressure * Less motivated * May reject goal setting * Less often successful * Judges self in terms of peer comparisons Finally, you should set only positive goals in an active voice. For example, statements such as "I will make my next three spares," or "I can align properly to hit the pocket" are more specific, encouraging and attainable than "I will not miss spares," or "I will not miss the pocket today." Short-range goals You should use short-range goals as "stepping stones" to the attainment of long-range goals. For instance, the probability is very low that someone who has never piloted a plane before can take off, fly and safely land on the first attempt. However, if that person is instructed in the first technique involved, then the second, then the third, and so on, the probability of making a safe, successful solo flight increases greatly. Long-range goals A long-range goal such as bowling a 300 game requires a series of short-range goals, each one being to get a strike. Each short-range goal of getting a strike itself requires other short-range goals leading to its attainment: executing the setup, the approach and the release properly. Proper execution leads to strikes; strikes lead to 300 games. Specific goals and strategies are needed for attainment of a specific goal. Any specific goal is more effective in bringing about improvement than is a general, nonspecific one, like doing one's best or bowling well in a certain week.

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