Monday, January 17, 2011

What Does Accuracy Really Get You?

After a lot of thought as to what I’d write next for a blog, I came up with something I think is stressed at all levels, but not always for the right reasons. The following blog is on “accuracy”.

If you ask almost anyone in bowling what accuracy gets you, the answer will more than likely be one simple word; strikes. While no one in their right mind would argue that point I think some just as important aspects aren’t as quickly thrown into the mix. Right from an early age, bowlers are taught to hit the middle. You hear bowlers frequently tossing out percentages, the number of times they hit the middle and how many strikes were thrown. One important thing to remember is simply, hitting the middle doesn’t always result in a strike. Sure, as the saying goes, you can’t throw a strike if you don’t hit the middle. But what happens if you aren’t getting strikes?

I’d be a fool to tell you that every time I’ve hit the middle I’ve gotten a strike. No one out there is THAT accurate. Spareable, and on frequent occasions, unspareable shots will be left and your accuracy will be tested in a different way. These are all valuable shots that will separate a good bowler from a GREAT bowler. I’ve always maintained that a bowler that hit’s the middle 90% of the time, should be able to hit either corner pin 90% of the time. There is no viable excuse not to be. Hitting the middle and hitting the headpin both require the same accuracy. Hitting your spot while shooting at the corner pin should come just as easily as hitting your spot for the middle. Same goes for shooting at the 3pin. Of course, having the 3/2 up requires you to hit the 3pin on the side, but the ball should be striking the 3pin at the same percentage. From time to time I get asked why I don’t practice my corner pins in warm up for either league or a tournament. In truth, I am with every warm up ball I throw. I’m just not aiming at the corner pin.

While the cynic might read this and proclaim I’m telling everyone to no longer shoot their corners in warm up. That is not the case at all. In fact, I urge everyone to test their lines at their corners and measure their success rate at hitting the middle, the 3pins and their corners. If you have a problem with pinning, say, your left corner, maybe you should be trying a different line that mimics your shot at the headpin.

The most important weapon that accuracy gives me in my bowling arsenal is something that a lot of the big name bowlers have learned and utilized along their careers. Adjustments through accuracy. I remember bowling at a Masters’ tournament a few years ago and getting on a bit of a roll. One game in particular, had me start on the first 4 strikes only to bury a right corner in the 5th. After sparing the shot, I struck out to finish the game for a 418. Anyone on my lane would tell you that there was nothing different in my shot in the 5th compared to any of the other shots. It was in the left pocket just like several of my previous shots but with a single difference. Earlier in the day I was having trouble carrying that right corner. Most people would be satisfied with throwing that same shot, hoping the right corner would eventually give in and start falling. However, an accurate bowler would make a small adjustment until they find the right combination to carry that corner, without sacrificing hitting the pocket. My adjustment was simple. I shortened my backswing I would say no more than 6 inches and the right corner starting carrying. Needless to say, when my backswing was back 6 inches longer that 5th frame, I was pretty confident of the result before the ball left my hand.

Being accurate gives a bowler the freedom to experiment to enhance their game. Let’s be honest, the game feels pretty easy when throwing strikes by the truckload. It’s important to know what small adjustments will make the difference for you and without accuracy, you could be playing the guessing game.

Here are some of the adjustments I make personally to get back on a string of strikes:

If my ball is coming in too tight to the middle, I will switch from my normal 3 step approach to a 4 step approach. The extra step changes the timing of my arm swing slightly, making the release a fraction of a second later than previously, allowing my ball to roll more left than with a 3 step approach.

I may change the height at which I hold my ball at the beginning of my approach. changing the height simply changes the length of your pendulum swing.

I may change my backswing length. This accomplishes the same as holding the ball at a different height, except there is more potential to change the speed of the ball than holding the ball at a different height. (this is usually the first suggestion I’ll make to someone trying to find the pocket)

I may change my step sizes (generally the first step). This would be an adjustment for those who are not comfortable with changing the lengths of their armswing.

I stress that these are key adjustments I make strictly based on accuracy. All of these change my timing by a fraction. If you are punching 3pins constantly, chances are these adjustments won’t result in drastic changes in where your ball ends up. The important thing is that you find what works best for you, and what makes you the most comfortable. Now that you’ve finished reading this……let’s go hit the lanes and practice those corner pins!

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