Thursday, February 24, 2011

Darrell Bradley's 23 Questions: Lynn Howell


Written by Darrell Bradley

Edmonton, AB – Open Zone Qualifying - It’s the 17th game (of 20) in one of the most competitive zones of the country and yours truly is nowhere near the top. I start to do some serious looking at the leader board. There is a major cluster of men fighting for only 9 spots. The top 6 are pretty much locked so that leaves 3 spots open with four games to go. There is at least 10 men all within striking distance, anything can happen……

“Yes, you betcha! Great shot!” I hear someone yelling from a couple of lanes over. Still not knowing who it was, I look over and see the “turkey cooker” appearing on the screen. Hmmm, I think to myself, who was that? Someone was heating up, then, I realize it’s him, the man that I have been looking up to for 15 years since I started in the Adult Tournaments. The man that has taken me under his wing soo many times, the man that has fought from the depths of agony, the man that shows no quit, the man who wills himself into the fight…. THE SOCK MAN COMETH!

Finishing game 17 with a 316, and following with 229, 295, 306 finish Lynn Howell has made his way to 7th spot, good enough to make the mixed team. After more coaching than playing experiences of late Lynn has made yet another team. The Sock Man Cometh, and deserves to be on any team, making this team stronger by reputation alone. (With a bowling style that requires a big slide, Lynn is the only bowler I know who sometimes wears a stock on his left foot to help him with his slide on sticky approaches).

This year is a special one, it marks Lynn’s 5th decade of making an Open team. Think about that, making an Open team for 5 straight decades. He has made the team in every decade since the 70’s. Either he is old, or damn good. I say both, ha ha, but really I say he is amazing. Lynn Howell is a Legend. The fist pumping, lip snarling, sock wearing, big sliding, short pudgy guy from Edmonton is one of the most known and respected bowlers in this Country. He has been travelling Canada since the 70’s and has made many friends all through this great sport of five pin bowling. Lynn is not shy and has probably had a conversation with 95% of the bowlers and spectators out there.

Lynn is an extremely proud man, especially of his son Christopher, daughter Stacey, and wife Sue of 31 years (whom of which about a 100% of us know wink, wink). His most recent accomplishment even brought Lynn to say he was proud of himself. Five decades. My guess is he will make it to seven or eight.

Lynn and I shared some time recently at an Edmonton Oiler Hockey game. There was lots of time to talk as the Oilers weren’t exactly lighting it up. From similar questions as my Eastern compadre please read on to see answers from the Sock Man, my mentor, the legend, Mr. Lynn Howell.

At what age did you start bowling?
7 I think

Did you play YBC? Yes

If "yes", do you remember what you average was in Bantam, Junior and Senior?
Last Year junior 192, Last Year Senior 252

How many league games do you currently play per week?
Just one league, 5 games, match play

What is the highest number of leagues you've ever played at one time?
3, Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 1975 – 1986

What is your current average?

What is/was your highest EVER league average?
270, 3 times

At what stage(s) of your development did your average drastically improve, and what lead to the significant change?
From the age of 17 – 19, maturity and the desire of wanting to be better

In your prime, did you normally practice each week? If "yes" approximately for how long?
No just league

Did you specifically practice before a big tournament? If so, what methods/drills do you use?
No, just a lot of positive mental thoughts

How many "sets" of balls do you own? 2, but only use one set, 47/8, 3lbs 6c soft acrylic

What is/was your favourite event to compete in, and why?
Probably the Autumn Open in Calgary at Thanksgiving because in the final round you can’t be eliminated and can always bounce back, but any high competition is great.

What is/was your favourite bowling centre(s), and why?
EDMONTON – Windsor, and Bonnie Doon
CALGARY – Chinook and Paradise Lanes

I always feel confident in these places and had many great accomplishments.

Which conditions/environments do you prefer? String or Freefall, Wood or Synthetic
That has never really affected any of my results

If you are throwing the ball consistently and are punching HEADPINS in bunches, how would you normally adjust?
I was stubborn and never really changed many things in my prime, I just kept throwing at the middle. Head pins are frustrating but are a part of our game, being afraid of punching is more damaging than actual punching, the idea is to put good fingers or rotation on the ball and if you don’t get a strike at least break up the middle and get a spare. Being afraid to throw a shot is a lack of confidence, and that will kill you.

If you needed 16 points in the tenth frame to win a match, what strategy would you use? In other words, would you throw normally or play thin/chisel? Explain.
First thing is positive thoughts, and then execution, never ever throw afraid.

What was the best or highest scoring "singles" that you were involved in?
450 3 times, one time in tournament and 2 times in league. 3 different bowling alleys, 2 String and 1 Freefall

What is your proudest moment in bowling?
So many great moments and accomplishments that stick out. Being a good teammate and all the respect from bowlers across the country is unbelievable. I have had the luxury of bowling with some of the best bowlers in this country on Edmonton teams and Alberta masters. Winning the 1995 tournament singles in the masters in Saskatoon sticks out, I was 17-4 in round robin play and averaged 298 for 4 days including a 600 double in the finals. Throwing 1235 triple in Kelowna in 1994, 30 strikes and four corners out of 34 balls. 450, 399, 386 and 318 average for 10 games. Making the Edmonton zone Open Team this year 2011, to make 5 decades of bowling in the Open, first year 1975 in Calgary.

Being a part of the Saskatchewan Youth Bowling School for approximately 20 years and working with the kids always make me feel good. I could go on forever, the game has been good to me.

What is your have a "most embarrassing" moment? (If any)
Any time I have lost my tempter and didn’t control it accordingly, after preaching good behaviour.

Personalized bowling balls have been around for just over 20 years now. Before that, players had to adjust not only to different lanes, but to the different sizes and types of house balls. While personal balls are good for the image of 5-Pin, I also think that they have levelled the field somewhat because players can use different balls for certain conditions. Would you agree with that assessment and do you think that they're good for the game?
I felt differently, I think personal balls have widened the gap in our game. I think the 235-240 average bowlers have some flaws that keep them at the level and the 250 and above bowlers now have more consistent equipment that has raised their game. The better bowlers are better thinkers not just bowlers and now can be even better with personalized equipment.

Growing up, what mentors or idols (if any) did you have? And how did they influence you?
I watched everyone to see what worked and why and watched how they handled themselves and what people had to say about them. Brian Goodhope, Dwight Anderson, Roy Cunningham, Stan Black, Clare Lakeman all from Alberta, Wayne Davies from Vancouver, Tom Paterson from Saskatoon, Doug Wood and Norm Shanas from Winnipeg.

Who are some of the rivals that you really respect? What about them makes them great?
I respected everyone, the minute you don’t respect them, they kicked your butt because you were not mentally ready, but I never feared anyone.

What current players do you enjoy watching, and why?
Anyone throwing the ball well is fun to watch. Bruce Morter for sure, I have had the pleasure of watching, competing with and against, and is the most dynamic player I have been associated with. He has raised the entire level of bowling in the Province of Alberta for the last 30 years.

Because of their different styles I like Dave Jorgensen, pure smoothness of Mike Bates and Greg Gigliuk, the emotion of Kevin Holdsworth and Matt Schultz and the pure talent of Geno Ziebarth, Brian Goodhope, Tom Paterson, Tom Stevenson, Mark Jackson, Doug Mosdell, Doug Wood, Wane Davies, Blair Pizzey, Mark Johnstone and many others. This game is always enjoyable to watch.

What positives do you see with the current "state" of the game?
The coaching and the potential in all these good young bowlers.

What, if anything, really concerns you about our game?
The lack of concern some proprietors have for the higher average bowler and the amount of drinking alcohol with some of the younger bowlers.

Is there anything else we should know about you?
I love soccer just as much as bowling, and I am a real wimp with pets!

And finally, what advice would you give to a bowler who's looking to improve their game?
Don’t try to be perfect because you always dwell on the negative, instead be consistent, the best thinkers usually win not the best throwers. Understand your own game, get a routine so you can execute consistently and always, always give yourself positive reinforcing thoughts.

Career Highlights

· 450 Perfect Game, 3 times
· 1235 Triple
· 3182 for 10 games
· 21 Strikes in a Row
· 7 Cash Tournament Victories, and nearly $200,000 in career earnings
· Over 150 games of 400 or better
· Averaged 270 three times
· Been to 39 National Championships, 25 Tournament Masters and 14 Open Nationals
· 16 Nationals as a Player, 18 as a Coach, and 5 as Singles
· Medalled 28 out of 39 times including 17 Gold Medals
· Medalled in every province who has hosted a National tournament
· 1995 Gold Medal Masters Singles Champion where average 298 over 4 days
· Has started with 9 strikes in a row 12 times
· Made an Open team in 5 straight decades
· Selected as a one of Canada’s Top 100 Bowlers of All Time

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bowling Innovation - Jeff & Tom England

I decided that this week we would venture off our normal path for this site.  We've discussed a lot of key aspects involving our game, hopefully which is helping some people out there bettering their game.  This week I'd like to take the time to shift our attention to the proprietor side of things.  Anyone from southern Ontario or anyone having played the Oshawa Open recently would know that NEB's Funworld is exactly as advertised.  Over the last few years, I've called it the bowling alley with the amusement park attached.  The place is always packed and in a time where many centres are shutting down, places like this are a rare find.

What better resource to talk about bowling and where it'll stand in the future than the family behind NEB's Funworld?  I'm hoping that this is the first of many articles by the Englands in which they can shed some light on how they've made steps to be the frontrunners in bowling innovation.  I'd like to welcome to the site for the first time as contributors, Jeff and Tom England...

Innovating bowling in Canada.

Over the years bowling in Canada has had a lot of innovation, starting with Tommy Ryan whittling some 10-pin pins down, to create the game of 5-pin bowling. However the innovation didn't stop there, during the last 60 years we saw the rise and fall of free fall bowling machines. With string machines eventually dominating the marketplace. Automatic scoring has become a permanent fixture in most bowling alleys, and bumper bowling has allowed us to reach an even younger demographic. What I would like to talk about is the future of bowling in Canada and specifically what we're doing at Neb's Fun World to help the game of bowling in Canada stay current and cutting edge.

The string pin bowling machine has been great for proprietors over the years. They have dramatically reduced power consumption and have significantly reduced the amount of time and money spent on bowling machine maintenance. However even with all these advantages we needed to find another revenue stream to help keep our business alive and profitable. The solution, a convertible bowling machine that can set two different types of bowling. So instead of sending customers away because we don't offer their "game", we can now ask customers "what game would you like to play today?".

Creating this machine creates a number of challenges. The first being a convertible bowling machine has to handle a wide variety of bowling balls. So we needed to completely redesign all of our pits and create a new ball return system. To unite all these innovations we needed a new type of automatic scoring system. We found from our old system that switching between the games needed to be as simplistic as possible. Now when our employees turn on a lane from the front counter all they need to do is press a button to select 5 pin or 10 pin and the machine automatically sets the correct game.

We have had our new set up installed and operational for 6 months. If the early results are any indication it seems to be a success on all levels. Maintenance is the same, if not lower and customers love the options. We are finding that customers may bowl one game five pin then one game ten pin. We're also hearing customers say "hey we should come back and bowl 10 pin next time". Overall the results couldn't be better and hopefully they continue into the future.

Jeff & Tom England

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Steve Barker's 23 Questions With Brenda Walters

In this edition of "23 Questions", I had to pleasure to chat with and look at the career of Brenda Walters from Hamilton, Ontario.

Brenda finished her YBC career with a victory in the MBAO Bursary tournament, receiving a free year in the Masters. 21 years later, Brenda is still a stalwart on the tour, where she has amassed an amazing 15 Tournament wins! She has represented the MBAO at 17 Masters Nationals, 6 times as a Singles representative! In total, Brenda has 1Gold and 2 Bronze in the Singles, as well as 6 Team Gold, plus 2 more Silver and 1 Bronze with the Ladies team

She has also experienced incredible success at the O5PBA Open, where she will be competing for the 21st time this year. Brenda is a 4-time Ontario Singles Champion and has turned those into 3 National titles! She also has 4 Ladies Team wins in Ontario, which have resulted in 1 National Gold, and 2 Silvers.

In 2009, in front of hundreds of people, Brenda threw a perfect 450 game at the Ontario Open at Sherwood Centre in Hamilton.

She also has 4 TSN Pins Game appearances to her credit, and is an obvious member of the C5's "Century of Excellence" club. And when the O5PBA came out with their "Top 90" list 12 years ago, Brenda was ranked as Ontario's 9th best woman bowler. She's certainly leapfrogged a few people since!

Brenda thanks for doing this. How long did you bowl in the YBC?
11 years, I didn’t start playing until I was 8.

Do you recall what you averaged in each division?
I'm not sure about Bantam or Junior, but I think I was 215 in my final year of Senior.

Do you remember at what age your game REALLY improved?
My first year in adult leagues I averaged 250. I think I just started to focus a lot more.

And was there anyone then who helped you get there?
I had 1 coach throughout most of my Senior years in YBC who worked with me without trying to change my style. His name was Larry Bixby. He was someone who worked with your style to improve it, rather than make you change to fit the conventional style.

What is your current average? 253

What is the highest league average you've ever had? 268

You mentioned "conventional style" earlier. You are a right-handed bowler who throws off of your right foot. There are a number of other top players who also do this. Greg Peteraitis, Ron Coombs (left/left), Matt Innis, Dave Johnson and Connie D'Alessandro are just a few. Did this style come naturally to you, and did you have any coaches who ever tried to change you?
The style felt most comfortable for me. I did have one coach who tried to convince me to change. It was a few weeks before the 4 Steps Provincials. I was on the Junior Girls team and the regular coach couldn’t make a practice and asked someone else to fill in. The coach filling in didn’t like the bocce style and tried to get me to change during that practice.

Thankfully, you DIDN'T change!!
Now, to give our readers a look into your strategy on the lanes, what do you use for a target to line up your shot?
I use the arrows

Do you aim for a pocket, or just throw at the headpin?
I don’t aim for a specific pocket. I aim for a general area around the centre arrow. I have a 6-8 board area that if I hit it and finish the shot, I know I will hit the headpin in some form.

If you're experiencing a lot of HEADPINS, what is your first adjustment?
If I am picking a lot I usually try to make sure I am following through properly. If I get lazy with my follow through, the ball won’t move. I will also move left to right, and if nothing else works, I will change the type of ball I am throwing.

I'm glad that you mentioned that! Many people will start moving around the lane without fixing the cause of their problems. I think it's important to try to correct your shot BEFORE moving all over the place or you'll just struggle all day. You mentioned changing balls as a "last-ditch" adjustment. How many sets of balls do you have, and how many would you normally bring to a tournament?
I have a set of Scorpions that I have had for 20 years that I use 90% of the time. I also have a set of Paramounts and 1 Hard Roll that I use if I need to.

We've gotten a few interesting answers to this, so I'll pick your brain…If you need 16 points in the tenth frame, do you throw your normal first ball, or play thin, trying to ensure you don't "pick"?
I remember having a talk with Greg Peteraitis in one of my first few years out of YBC. I spoke about how uncomfortable I was in trying to change anything if I needed to throw a strike in the 10th frame. I told him I also just throw the same shot I was throwing the rest of the game, but I usually ended up picking or being heavy with the shot. He told me, in that situation; to try to throw the same shot I had thrown the whole game, but just a little "harder". He said if I do that, I will probably end up throwing the same speed I had been throwing. He believes that, under pressure, even though we try not to change the shot, subconsciously we do take a little of the shot because we are afraid to pick. So by trying to throw harder, you end up not changing anything. I have always remembered that and to this day, I still do it.

Well, needless to say, I think it's worked out pretty well for you!

You've obviously played in, and won, gazillion tournaments. Do you like to know where you stand during an event, or do you ignore the scoreboard and just try to play your game?
I always play my game, because no matter what I do, it's not going to change anything, but I am a board watcher. I love to know where I stand.

Doesn't watching the boards affect you? And are you the same way during a match?
90% of the time I know exactly what is going on during a match. I know my match, I know totals…everything. If anything, it seems to keep me focused.

Brenda, your ball is not that fast, but definitely has a heavy roll to it. Do you find that you have a disadvantage on "strings" compared to the freefall days, or does accuracy and rotation still have an edge over the flame-throwers?
I tend to leave a lot of corners no matter what the conditions. I am okay with that because I am confident about my pinning most of the time. I love freefall though. I find it evens things out. Regardless of the type of lane, I just focus on making sure I hit the head pin on my first shot, and spare whatever is left.

You've represented Southern Ontario on twenty-five occasions between Masters and The Open, including winning ELEVEN National Gold Medals…Can you share some of your most memorable moments with us?
They are all special! However the two that stand out the most are my Open singles win in 2001 and my Masters Team win in 2008. Both were in Hamilton and it's pretty special to win a national title in your home town.

Do any of your MBAO tournament victories stand out as extra-special?
My very first Masters win was the Rose Festival at Bowlarama Welland. I played against Claudina Sula in the finals. She was one of my idols.

You've won the Ladies Open Provincial Singles Championship an incredible FOUR times! Do you think that your first win gave you a big advantage in subsequent stepladders?
I don’t think so. Playing in front of so many people is always nerve racking, no matter how many times you have done it.

And with 8 Open titles to your credit, plus a perfect game at the Open, what is your favourite centre?

I had a hunch. Are there any other centres that you really enjoy visiting?
NEB'S, or any freefall house

And take us through the 10th frame of your 450, what was it like in front of all those people?
I didn’t really notice how many people were behind the lanes until after I threw the first strike in 10. That’s when I noticed the change in noise level. It was an amazing feeling.

Are there any current players who have helped to influence your own game?
Quite a few have.  Connie Ward taught me its okay to adjust and to make sure you have backup lines to throw if things aren’t going well. Dianne Violini, just through her actions, has taught me to always be gracious in defeat as well as winner, and also that you don’t have to throw hard to be successful.

Which current players do you enjoy watching?
Connie Ward, Jeff Young, Jodi Craig, Erica Bortolin, Jim Head.

Brenda, those of us who know you understand that you are funny and witty, but on the lanes you are stoic and show very little outward emotion. Is this by design or just an extension of your personality?
It's just an extension of my personality.

Has anyone (that you know of, at least) ever taken your laid-back disposition the "wrong way"? Your body language rarely changes, even when you experience success. We know better, but I wonder if some could misconstrue it as "ho-hum" or that you "expect" to win?
I’m sure it has been taken the wrong way, but if people don’t take the time to know me and realize that it is not meant that way at all, there is nothing I can do to change their perception.

You've been able to travel the country and experience 5-Pin from coast-to-coast…What is your favourite thing about our game?
I would say meeting competitors from across Canada. Seeing the different styles and knowing that everyone, no matter what limitations you may have, can play this game at some level.

And are there major differences in conditions from province to province?
I think every province dresses their lanes differently. I find the lanes out west to be a lot faster than those we play in Ontario, with a few exceptions.

Does anything concern you about our game?
The dwindling numbers in YBC. That is the future of the game, and we need to change how the game is perceived and make it fun again.

Are there any specific changes you'd like to see?
I know that it is easier said than done, but more promotion and getting more kids involved.

And finally, what piece of advice might you give to a younger or inexperienced bowler who wants to improve their game?
Practice. Make sure you find someone who you trust as a coach and ask them to work with you. And be willing to listen to what they say.

Well said, Brenda.
We thank you for your time!

Monday, February 14, 2011

March Madness - Tom Paterson

Ever had one of those times where you are just ‘that close’ to getting on a roll, or scoring well. You are coming up with kind of a Heinz 57 series of games, a bit of this and a bit of that, sprinkled by a few more missed spares than usual. Well… you are most certainly not alone, and yes like everything else there is a reason for it. We could blame tiredness, fatigue, a long day at work. But…lets go with the scenario that you had prepped well for the event, were well rested and essentially ready to do your best. So what happened?


You get on a small roll ( a couple of strikes) or possibly enter the 10th with strikes in frames 8 and 9. And…then….as easily as you got on this mini roll, you fall off. Consider this…many times we let being determined, grinding it out, being driven, intense, etc pry us away from simply trusting our shot. We want to put just that extra little something on the shot because we want this strike so bad we can taste it; when really all we need to do is simply let go and trust it. As Nike says: ‘Just Do It’.

How do you get to trust when you are all wrapped up in determination, grinding it out etc? You decelerate your mind. To decelerate your mind essentially you want to slow down the pace of which you are seeing the event unfold. For example; when we are struggling and begin to project that the end is near, we sometimes begin to do the math in terms of what is needed to get where we want to be. IF this is in a qualifying round it may be that with 5 games to go you figure you are 200 out and must have a big game, or maybe several above average games. Along with this we press and create an unrealistic, not necessarily accurate timeline. (i.e.) I must get this start now because time is running out. On a game by game basis this can be likened to being 50 down with 5 frames to go, or feeling because you are 30 down after 3 frames you must push harder, essentially you are feeling the clock run out – when in fact you still have ‘X’ games or frames.

To begin the deceleration:

1. Gain a new perspective – time is on my side – one ball at a time

2. Ignore the score, ignore the opposition – keep your head down. This will allow you to circumvent some of the typical distractions that enter the mind when you are watching other stuff (opposition, score).

3. Do an inventory check – what is the one thing I can do well – and focus on doing that one thing. This is meant to unclutter your mind.

4. Find a quiet place and Breathe – yes breathe deeply, slowly, evenly. Deep breaths put more oxygen into your blood stream and thus give yourself more energy to play, and…at the same time relax yourself. That quiet place may be a small cove between the concourse area, a corner of the bowling center. – Or…simply go for a walk – slowly purposefully with your head down – breathing.

Monitor Self talk

Self talk refers to all those moments when you literally talk to yourself. Oft times it goes unnoticed. And…sometimes athletes get the mistaken notion that challenging themselves to do better is always good. While it is good to challenge oneself, how and what we say to ourselves is vital. In the scenario listed above the word ‘now’ and the phrase ‘push harder’ can be part of the core problem. These words evoke ultimatums and as frequently are inaccurate. Consistently playing better when faced with ultimatums is much more difficult because it gets our emotions tilted towards that pressing ‘have to’ mentality. It would be better to phrase what you want in an objective manner, without the same potency. For example one self talk option may be “ I am 200 down, I am pressing, I feel tight, let’s just cool the jets, relax, refocus on the process. What can I do to help give myself the best opportunity to be successful”? I’ll refocus my energies on the things I can control. Patience, take my time, lift, rotate, hold my follow through,

The conversation I have just had with myself gives me the opportunity to bring my mind back to focusing on what I can control. AND I also do so without judgment. We could spend more time on Self talk but…I want to leave it for another time. Now let’s look at what we can do prior to the event to help set up productive responses to the competitive environment. IF…you are interested in pursuing this and would like to adopt me as your mental training coach drop me a note and we can keep in touch.

The Pre-tournament preparation – To Prepare or Not To Prepare

It is important to remember that the more you invest in the work to win something, the more it hurts when failure comes your way. Conversely IF one does not put in the preparation failure becomes a distinct probability.

IF…the challenge or expectation you have placed on yourself is incongruent with the work ethic you provided in preparing for the event – you set yourself up for failure more than success. I can retell many a story of this. Most characteristically the bowlers that decide to enter something and then proceed to come in and practice one or two weeks before the event, but nothing before. Often times these same bowlers may possibly start out well, due to a false sense of confidence – BUT – ONCE REALITY SETS IN either by way of consistency or increasing pressure on themselves to perform they regress to old inproductive habits and lose their initial confidence.

I am sure you agree it is important to prepare your mind for the various hurdles that you may encounter, and as importantly identify the game plan you will employ to conquer ‘said’ hurdle. One of the things all players need to do is recognize and accept the difference between having the will to win, and believing “I will win”. The two are much different. The first recognizes supports and reinforces your desire, drive and determination to do the stuff in preparation and in tournament that will give you the best opportunity – to win. The other “I will win”, is full of ultimatums and nudges you in the direction of paying more attention to all those factors outside of your control.

What may seem on the surface an ironic perspective, I have found it to be invaluable in all my wins to have accepted that I may not win what I am setting out to do AND…with it the deepest feelings loss evokes. The acceptance of the possibility of loss has given me two edges in my preparation. One, the skill set to recognize when I begin to develop the tightness and overzealous interest to control everything – therefore have the presence of mind to act on it in a productive fashion. Two, the commitment and self discipline to do everything I can to be ready.

Your Practice

Make your preparation more about process than score, and continue this frame of mind throughout practice, league, and tournament play. Typically a split of 60% process and 40% result makes sense. This means that some practices may never even involve score. It may mean that you dedicate more time working on spare conversions, taking your time, your pre-shot routine, or… simply working on ‘holding your follow through’. By the way…if there is one physical skill that will make the biggest difference it is ‘HOLD YOUR FOLLOW THROUGH’

When you do decide to enter into a scoring/results type of practice do so fully committed. See it as a test, or an experiment, or like doing a systems check. AND…when you do begin the scoring or matches against an opposing player don’t try out something NEW…keep to what you have been working on in practice. This is what you are testing out. It makes absolutely no sense to throw in a new line, or new grip, etc into a competitive scenario unless you have practiced this in the practice setting first. WHY? Because if it is successful we tend to hang our hat on it and think hey…this is the magic elixir I have been looking for, when in fact it really was just a temporary relief that has no significant data to lead you to trust it in the ‘real thing’.

This might be a good time to mention that in your practice pride yourself in being willing to experiment. Test out new ideas, see how it works, how comfortable you are with “X” change. If it is not working you can always go back to what was there before.

And…finally…consult. Find someone you can work with. – a coach. Two heads are better than one. Be open to their ideas but know that you always have the power and right to make the choice of what you test, adopt, trash, or believe. And…drop me a note via Email IF you’d like to connect online for coaching.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Steve Barker's 23 Questions: Jim Head

Before we get into my conversation with Jim, I want to give a quick update on this segment. Jeff and I have asked for, and received a plethora of suggestions for bowlers that you'd like to learn more about. Our challenge was to expand our focus to include bowlers from all over the country, but still be able to offer a "personal touch" to the line of a questioning. Well, help is on the way, as Darrell Bradley is going to collaborate with us, and he is going to work on this feature by interviewing players in the Western part of the country. We welcome his contribution and look forward to reading his interviews. We continue to appreciate feedback from all parts of the country, and will be featuring bowlers from Coast to Coast as soon as we can.

For now, we turn our attention to one of the most respected, successful and dedicated people in Ontario, and in Canada, in Jim Head.

Jim's commitment to the sport started back in YBC, where in 14 years he did not miss a single week of bowling, even when he broke his foot!

Jim joined the Masters in 1992, and has amassed 9 Tournament wins on the Ontario Tour. He has represented the MBAO at 7 Nationals, winning Team Gold twice, Team Silver twice and Team Bronze once. He also won a Bronze in Singles competition in Saskatoon.

He is also a 4-time Zone Champion in the Open, and has qualified for Provincials a total of 17 times, including 12 years in a row! Jim is a 3-time winner at the Ontario Open, and in 2004 his Men's team won National Gold in Gatineau, setting 4 scoring records in the process.

Jim has dominated the Ontario YABA tour, winning 21 times! He also serves on the YABA rules committee. His two TSN Pins Game appearances include a Quarter-Final finish in 1997.

Jim has several other tournament victories to his credit, and in 2001 he finished 2nd in the Jubilee Ford/Great West Breweries King George Open in Saskatoon that saw him bowl a remarkable 33 games on the Sunday!!

In 2007, Jim went on an incredible run by winning SIX CONSECUTIVE TOURNAMENTS!! From January to March, he won two Master events, two YABA Singles events and cash events in Uxbridge and Cornwall!

Jim's high scores include a 435 single, 1069 triple and an 1802 five game set.
A YBC volunteer, Jim also attends the O5PBA Bowling School as a "PRO" and also stresses the importance of "pinning" by sponsoring a Spare Percentage Award at the school.

So Jim, 14 years in the YBC…Do you remember what your average would have been in Bantam, Junior and Senior?
I'm not sure about Bantam and Junior, but I think I finished Seniors around the 250 mark.
Unfortunately, the records of my YBC probably went up in smoke when Village Bowl burned down in 1984.

At what point did your game really take off and to what can you attribute that?
The first year I made the Ontario Open (Blue Light, back then) was the first year I averaged over 260. It was either ‘88 or ‘89. Having seen the top bowlers in the Province, I worked extra hard throughout both the season and the summer to improve my game. After the Open experience, my game made a fairly steady progression.

As a point of reference, what do you use for a target?
I use the arrows exclusively now. However, when I was younger, 15 or 16, I couldn’t see the arrows, as I had not had my eyes tested and I definitely needed glasses, so I used to look at the foul line. I played off the line into my early twenties and eventually asked Dave Johnson for help in getting me back to the arrows.

How many leagues do you play?
This year, I’m only bowling one league at Hopedale bowl. It’s a mixed fun league and I have the added benefit of bowling with my father.

What is the most number of leagues that you've ever played?
For a number of years, I used to play four (4) leagues per week; Georgetown on Monday, Streetsville on Tuesday, Rexdale on Wednesday and Hopedale on Thursday. When you add in YABA, Masters, and other independent tournaments, it led to some long stretches in various bowling centres.

And what are you averaging this year?
I’m not really sure as I don’t look at the stats sheet, but I think I’m closing in on 250, but I struggled badly at the beginning of the year.

What is the highest you've ever averaged for a season?
283 at Bathurst Bowlerama.

With your league and all of your tournaments, how much practicing are you able to do each week?
When I was bowling the four leagues per week, I didn’t have much of a chance to go practice, as I was bowling almost every day. However, when I first started bowling competitively I would practice after coaching the YBC and also go out before a tournament to fine tune my game. Now, I use my time after YBC each week to practice, but I imagine that once it gets closer to Easter, I’ll be hitting the lanes a little harder.

Do you have specific things you work on in practice? And you mentioned Easter, so do you practice specifically for upcoming events such as the Open?
When I practice, I normally concentrate on my mechanics, i.e. footwork, arm swing, release, and on hitting my spot, or pinning. I also play a couple of rounds of Mark 10, as it helps to build my confidence when shooting corners. As for practicing for specific events, the only time I’ve done that was for the TSN in 1997. Fortunately, or not, the TV round was held in Aurora, Ontario, so I had the opportunity to practice on the lanes we’d be using on the show.

Now Jim, correct me if I'm wrong, but you usually throw a pretty hard rolling shot "right up the gut". Do you aim for a pocket, or throw right at it?
Well, Steve, you are correct some of the time. (Steve notes, "Hey, that's more than normal"!!) Thankfully due to my age, I grew up on freefall machines, wooden pins, and wooden lanes with a lacquer finish. Then I saw the general switch in the industry to strings, plastic pins and eventually plastic lanes. Due to the changing conditions of the game, I have a few clubs in my bag. I’ve had success in throwing from both the left and right side of the lane. Also I can greatly vary my speed without sacrificing accuracy. However, for the most part, my normal shot is a good speed, small back-up ball straight up the gut. As for aiming for a pocket, Brain Kaye asked me the same thing the first time he ever coached me for the Open. The answer is no, I don’t aim for a pocket. I start with my right foot very near, or sometimes on the centre dot of the approach and aim for the centre arrow. That nearly straight angle with a small back-up allows me to hit either pocket with power and effect.

And would your strategy change if you knew you needed 16 in the 10th frame to win a match?
Well, first off, I probably wouldn’t know I needed 16 pins to win unless someone told me, but if I did know, I’d try to put that fact out of my head and throw my normal shot. The idea of chiseling or throwing light on the headpin runs counter to my philosophy of throwing the best ball I can every time I step onto the lane.

If you're running into HEADPIN trouble, how do you usually adjust?
Normally, I move up or back depending on the ball movement resulting in the picking of the headpin. If I’m still picking, I’ll move my spot a little farther down the alley beyond the arrows, normally to the break between the hardwood and softwood. If that still doesn’t fix the problem, I will try one of the other lines that I’ve developed.

You've obviously had success in all sorts of different tournaments…Do you look at the scoreboard in the middle of a tournament to see where you rank?
No, I never look at a scoreboard until the tournament is over. Early in my YBC days, I used to be a scoreboard watcher, and inevitably I would struggle in the last game or two. Finally my dad said, “Why look at the scoreboard, you can’t affect anyone else’s game, just go and bowl your game.” I’ve never looked since. It has led to a couple of nice surprises over the years.

And is there a specific reason why you don't peek at the score in the middle of a match?
Yes. I know whether or not I’m bowling well. In reality, I’m only bowling against myself, so if I bowl my best, I give myself the best chance to win.

What is your favourite event to play?
Anything on the National stage, as it is at least for me an extreme honour to represent my home Province. Locally, however, I would have to say that the Pro Gauntlet at the O5 Bowling School is my favourite event. I get to meet and compete against the future of the game. Also, I can do things that I would never, ever do in a tournament, such as trash talk, etc. All in good fun, of course. Of course!

Of all of your wins, does one stand out as the most gratifying?
Wow, tough question. Certain events stand out in my mind. My first Ontario Master’s win, 2004 Canadian Open Championships in Gatineau, Quebec, where we as the Men’s Team won gold and set 4 National records, and of course Uxbridge Yamaha Open due to the substantial prize. However, two events stand a little higher than the others, and one was not a win, but a second place finish. My first year at the KG Jubilee Ford/Brewhouse Open in Saskatoon, I went up both sides of the ladder of the knockout. That would be 11 three game total pin fall matches, or a whopping 33 games in 12 hours. I finished second to Len Anseth from Saskatchewan. The other would be the 2004 Sherwood Challenge. Not only was the cash prize appreciated, but it was also my fifth Ontario Master’s win and that earned me my big diamond, for my Master’s ring. It was also the only tournament I ever played where I cried. After the finish, I phoned home to tell my folks that I had won, and the pride and joy in their voices were just too much for me.

Can you explain your incredible run of 6 consecutive wins in the Winter of '07?
I guess the only way to explain it would be focus. I was extremely motivated to win the New Year’s Classic as my partners, Kelly Martin and John Greenlee had never won a Master’s event. That was the beginning of the run. The rest of the tournaments just fell into place as I was extremely confident in the shot I was throwing and I was able to get “in the zone” quickly and stay there. Remember that three of the six wins (Oshawa, Cambridge and Uxbridge) occurred on consecutive weekends, so it was like a snowball rolling down hill. I didn’t really realize I was on the streak until people started talking to me about it. I went into each event fresh, confident and focused on my game.

Do you find the pressure different, whether you are playing for money or for prestige?
No, in my mind there isn’t a difference. The prize, whether it be large cash amounts or prestige is something that happens after the tournament. If I were to start thinking about what happens after the event, I wouldn’t be concentrating on throwing my shot. My game plan is fairly simple, throw one good ball! By focusing on that I remove the pressure that could come from the prize, whatever it may be.

In 1988, you lost the sight in your left eye, and had three subsequent cataract surgeries. Could you tell our readers about your first game back after each of the surgeries?
After assuring my doctor that I bowled 5 pin and the weight of the ball was under 4 pounds, I was able to return after each surgery quickly. Each of the first games back was a 400+ game.

That's amazing? Do you think there is a reason, or just a strange coincidence?
Where the cataracts formed, they caused a fair amount of pain and distraction. Without the pain, it was a lot easier to focus on the shot. I think not being able to bowl for a couple of weeks also had something to do with it. I was hungry to get back on the hardwood.

You recently coached a team at the Youth Challenge Provincials. How did you find that experience? Do you find it hard to step back and coach? When the competitive juices get going, don't you want to get out there?
I really enjoyed my experience at the Youth Challenge. I’ve certainly gained a greater respect for all the coaches out there who volunteer their time and energy, both mental and physical, for the sake of a team. Having a Mixed Team, I was able to cheer like a madman, which apparently surprised a number of people. Stepping back as a coach wasn’t a problem, but there were a couple of times when I really wanted to go up and throw with my kids.

And do you think you relate well with younger players? Do you have to adjust your thinking from, say, playing on an Open team?
A lot of younger players seem to be intimidated by me, maybe it’s the moustache. I think that once my bowlers got to know me personally, rather than just hearing about me from others, I think we related well to each other. Of course I had to temper my choice of words with a youth team, but not my general philosophy of team play. Help make them comfortable and calm on the lane and have them focus on the ball in hand.

Personally, one of the things that I think makes you so successful, and so difficult to beat (as my record would attest), is your rabid determination to never quit or let bad breaks or distractions bother you. Is this something you work on, or does it come naturally? Or is it simply what you have to do to be a winner?
I’m no statistician, so I don’t know what my record is against you. I’m sure you’ll let me know. (Steve: It's ummm, pretty good!) No, I don’t normally give up, for a number of reasons. Usually, I’m so intent on throwing the ball the best that I can, I don’t realize that I’m behind in a match or that it’s close. Also, it is my belief that every ball is practice for the next one, so every ball is important. As for bad breaks, they happen, “Welcome to 5 Pin.” If the bad break is a result of a mistake, don’t make the same mistake twice. I’ve really worked on my mental game. When I would go out and practice, I’d always ask to be put beside open bowling so that I could train myself to focus and block out all distractions. I remember someone commenting on Canadian when it was around that I was a very patient bowler. I can wait for a tangle to be fixed, the 50-50 draw, and a score correction and still go and throw a pocket shot. All those distractions happen in the pit. When I step on the approach, there is nothing else that exists in the world other than me, the spot, and the ball. When I’m really “in the zone” and locking in on my spot, everything else fades to black. It’s as if I’m bowling in the dark, and there is a spot light on the arrow.

We certainly enjoyed your outlook on Unique Styles from your earlier article, and I made it this far without mentioning your unique approach, but have you ever had issues with people distracting you coming up the lane beside you, because they forgot about your "hesitation"?
Not if they come up on the left, can’t see over there. It did happen quite a bit when I first started bowling tournaments competitively. Now, I guess word has gotten out amongst the bowling community, but it does still happen now and again. Sometimes people just forget about my pause, and there are players out there that haven’t seen me bowl.

And you're high game of 435, I must ask…First 11 or last 11?
Last 11. Left corner spare, then took it off the sheet. The ball that hung the corner was better than at least 3 of the shots I struck with later. Such is life.

Totally disregarding the thought of offending anyone you wouldn't mention, are there any players today who you look up to or just love to watch?
I was very fortunate to grow up watching the likes of Brian Kaye, John Mattioli and Claudina Lista (Sula). To see John out on the lanes still competing into his late 70’s is amazing. Dianne Violini and Bruce Morter, both of Alberta with their decades long runs of consecutive Nationals boggles my mind. Helene Godmaire and Luc Duguay both of Quebec, are both fierce competitors with awesome shots. However, the one player that I used to just love to watch is Steve Greensides when he was at his peak. Steve had a simple, smooth delivery that was effective anywhere. To top it all of he was extraordinarily gracious in victory or in defeat, a true sportsman.

From your vast experience as a player and volunteer, can you think of any improvements or changes we could make to make 5-Pin better?
Personally, I think the greatest problems in our game arise from the fractured and divided nature of the sport. If we could somehow create a cohesive single governing body for 5 Pin that would represent the interests of both the proprietors and the bowlers, I think we could have a much stronger game. Now our effectiveness is limited as we cannot rally our entire membership for the purpose of improving 5 Pin. Our game stretches across Canada, from sea to sea, to sea, and I believe that a single governing body could promote 5 Pin to the forefront in the mindset of the general population. However, until that body is created, we all have to work at the local level to help our game grow.

Jim, I couldn't agree more! Plus, if a National sponsor came along today, with so many governing bodies in the game, where would they go with their money and what could they get out of it? I don't know how they'd do it, but I'm sure that one National body with a main website that trickles down to the provinces would be so much more appealing to sponsors and could better promote our game.

And finally, as a popular PRO that students love interacting with at our Bowling School, what piece of advice would you offer to a player who wants to improve their game?
Simple, get out on the lanes and work on your game. Stats, scores, and averages are useful tools, but they are not the be all and end all of bowling. Break the game down to its simplest form, throwing a ball. When a bowler is on the lane, or preparing to throw their shot, they should ask themselves the question, “What’s the best I can do with the ball in my hand?” First ball, answer is strike, second ball answer should be spare (allowing for Headpins, Splits, and Aces), third ball answer is 15. If the bowler applies this to their practice, they develop consistency, and consistency leads to success. Throw one good ball and the stats and scores will happen. But above all, have fun, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll never succeed. However, don’t allow your success to be the only measure of your fun. You can have fun, bowl well, and still lose. You can’t win them all, I know, I’ve tried.

Well, thanks Jim for taking the time and for offering such candid insight. We appreciate it!
Thank you Steve for the opportunity.

Again folks, keep those ideas and comments rolling in. Look for future contributions from Darrell Bradley. Next time on "23 Questions", we will feature Brenda Walters.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This week, I'd like to turn attention to a certain role on team play.  Whether we're bowling in tournaments, or in a weekly league, chances are you are part of a team.  Those with tournament experience can tell you that each position on a team plays their own significant role to the overall success.  This blog will study a role that I'm most familiar with: the lead off position.

In my mind, it takes a certain person to play lead off on a team, just the same as it takes a certain person to play the anchor position.  I've had the honour of watching a lot of good teams at both the Provincial and National level compete and, at least in the Mens division, and I've noticed one type of bowler having great success bowling first.

Here are what I feel are important traits to being a successful leadoff bowler.
  • High enegy
You want your team to carry a lot of positive energy.  You've always heard the term "putting your best foot forward" and this holds true in bowling.  When I refer to "best foot forward" I'm not stating that your best, strongest player is your leadoff bowler but simply, a person the team believes in, that can carry momentum down the ladder.  This is an emotional player, and one that easily gets fired up when they start throwing a couple strikes in a row.

  • High Percentage Hitter
While it's important to have a player that gets everyone pumped up, it's of little use if they can't hit the middle consistantly.  We all know that it takes hitting the middle to throw strikes, so obviously you need to have a player up top that can hit the pocket in order to string strikes.  I feel this is also important to give the other players on the team a good look at pin action and ball movement.  A consistant player can give the other players quick reads as to what is going on down the lane when you've moved to a different pair of lanes to start a new game.

  • Mental Toughness
Anyone who's played The Open can tell you that head games will be played.  I can honestly say I do frequently without saying a word to opponents or being disrespectful.  The simple fact is this; if you get up on the lane first as a lead off bowler, and give the other team something to look at, you'll make them think.  There are a couple reasons for doing this. 

1. There's something psychological about having the other team standing around waiting for your team to finish.  The thought is, that if the other team is waiting for you to finish, they must have thrown less balls and therefore must've played that frame better.  (We all know in hindsight that this theory has holes in it everywhere, but it continues to be how players think)  If the lead off bowler gets on the lane first and throws a strike for you, now your second bowler is bowling beside the leadoff.  They're already a full bowler behind!  This also leads us into the second thing.

2.  The counters will always count.  Nowadays on computerized scoring, the team total will be shown at the bottom of the computer screen.  I've always thought of this as a dangerous pitfall for the bowler that pays too much attention.  Using a simple example, I'll show you how running through your order can play tricks on a team.  Imagine this: Your 5 man team has just completed the 5th frame.  Bowler 1 has 98, bowler 2 has 105, bowler 3 has 87, bowler 4 has 100 and bowler 5 has 110.  The other team has the following scores; Bowler 1 is 75, bowler 2 has 115, bowler 3 has 107, bowler 4 has 96 and bowler 5 has 107.  Your team goes up in the 6th frame, and your lead off bowler is on the lane first and throws a strike.  The lead off bowler on the other team is not prepared, and is slower to the lane.  He eventually throws a strike, but after your second bowler already threw a strike as well.  Your third bowler then also throws a strike.  Looking at the team totals as their second bowler steps onto the lane looks like this:  Your team 545, their team 515.  The truth is, depending on what the next 2 bowlers on the other team do, the 2 teams are technically tied.  If there are members on the other team that like to continuously look at the score (and most teams generally have at least one) then they're already feeling the need to play catch up.  It's hard to wager where your team stands if the two teams haven't played the same amount of frames.

  • Being An Intimidator While Not Being Intimidated
When you bowl in the lead off position, you can't be afraid to lose to someone.  I've played some amazing players bowling in the lead off position and one important thing has come into play time and time again.  You cannot show weakness or frustration.  Lead off bowlers play with a killer instinct so you must have one too.  If you struggle at the start of a game, you can't show that it's getting to you.  Once you show frustration, it can flow downhill to the rest of the team, letting the wind out of your sails.  If you throw a big shot, let it be known you mean business (in a respectful manner) and make the other team notice.  (I'll admit I use this theory qualifying from time to time when I know that other qualifiers close to me in the standings are on nearby lanes)  Showing positive aggression via fistpumps (Ron Sandnes still has the best fistpump I've ever seen), fired up high fives and of course, leading cheers for the next bowler, can really bump your team up another level, while having the other team pay more attention to what you're doing than what they're doing.

I will tell you to exercise caution though.  I can clearly recall bowling against a team where the lead off bowler would slide over to my lane and pump his fist right at me.  I let the first one slide, but when it happened again the next frame, it was game on.  Which leads into...

  • Playing Motivated
Anyone that knows me personally could tell you, I HATE losing.  Whether it be at bowling, or who can tie shoes faster, I want to finish first.  This trait allows me to always play motivated. (and most of the time drives my team crazy)  I have always been motiviated by past losses, both personal and teamwise, and will never give up on a challenge.  I know I'm a fighter and this works well in regards to being a successful lead off bowler.  I know that if a bowler on the other team does something I don't agree with, or shows a weakness, I will go into attack mode and be further motivated.

In closing, it's important in your team's preparation for any tournament to know where the bowlers feel comfortable, and where everyone's personality fits into the lineup.  Everyone must buy into the team concept and know that every position on a team has equal importance.  I have never seen 1 or 2 bowlers take on an entire team of 5 by themselves.  It takes all 5 players to get the big points at the bottom for totals.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Steve barker's "23 Questions" with Connie Ward!

In our second edition of this segment, we get to meet and learn from one of the most talented and dedicated players that our game has ever seen. Connie Ward's incredible bowling career has traversed her YBC years into adulthood, crisscrossed into 10-Pin, and then back to 5-Pin, with the occasional trip south for some Duckpin. And she has been dominant at all three!

Connie's incredible YBC career featured 6 National "4-Steps to Stardom" Singles titles, having won TWICE in each division! She also won the MBAO Bursary tournament and went on to win 9 Masters events, 2 Aggregate titles and is a 5-time MBA Ladies team National Champion.

In the Open, Connie is a 3-time Ontario Singles Champ (including her win last year), and a 6-time Ontario Ladies Team Champion! Three of those teams also won National Gold!

To top it off, she has bowled 3 Perfect games in 5-Pin, and has television appearances on both CBC and the TSN Pins Game. Connie also dedicates a tremendous amount of time and effort in directing the curriculum at the O5PBA Bowling School.

Incredibly, Connie accomplished all of this while giving up 5-Pin for about 6 years between 1994 and 2000! During that time, her dabbling into the game of 10-Pin saw her excel to the point of making Team Canada in 1992-1993!! She won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at FIQ American Zone Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico in '93.
Connie also won a Ladies Doubles Title at the WIBC Championships in Reno, Nevada.
She also spent some time on the Ladies Pro Tour, and just like in 5-Pin, she remarkably has appeared on the TSN Pins Game (10-Pin this time) and has 3 Perfect 300 games!!

Following her excellent success in 10-Pin, Connie rededicated herself exclusively to the game of 5-Pin….for a little while, anyway. A couple of years ago she joined some other 5-pinners on a road trip to the States to give Duckpin a try. Needless to say, it went well!! In 2008, Connie won the "WNDA" (Women's National Duckpin Association) "Rookie of the Year" AND "Bowler of the Year".
In a very short time, Connie won 3 WNDA tournaments and in 2010, was inducted into the WNDA "Hall-of -Fame"!!

My chat with the remarkably multi-talented, funny and down-to-earth Connie Ward…

Connie, your record of winning two National 4-Steps Singles titles in each of Bantam, Junior and Senior is amazing! For perspective, do you recall what your average would have been in your last year in each division?
Bantam- 200, Junior- 230, Senior- 250.

Did you have any coaches back then who really made a positive influence in your career? And in what ways did they really help?
My mom and dad were the main coaches in my career. They taught me patience, perseverance and to always give 110% and have the “killer instinct”.

You also went on to excel at 10-pin as well. At what age did you start playing "big ball"?
The first league I joined, I believe I was 27.

How many steps do you take for your 5-Pin approach, and do you change it at all for your 10-pin shot?
I take 4 steps in 5-pin and 5 steps in 10-pin, so I do move back on the approach for the 10-pin game.

What target(s) do you use for your 5-Pin shot?
Arrows and dots…just beyond the foul line and sometimes even the foul line if there is a lot of glare on the lanes.

You've always been extremely versatile as far as adjusting your line, speed, ball rotation, etc…Did your experience in 10-Pin help you to read lanes and adjust, or "shape your shot" for 5-Pin? Or has it always come naturally?
10-pin has helped with my duckpin game more so than the 5-pin game. I have always experimented with lots of different lines/speed etc. You can never have too many “games” in your portfolio.

Your first Perfect Game came in 5-Pin, did that experience help when it came down to the last few shots in your first 10-Pin "300 Game"?
Yes and no, I was still nervous as hell!!! LOL

Incredibly, you've also appeared on TV playing both sports. Did your experience in one help you in the other, or does it just feel like 2 completely different games?
The mental game is the same but on the lanes it is a different thinking and reading game. In 10-pin you have to have the ability to read the lanes, watch the ball reaction more than in 5-pin. The lanes also change more in 10-pin and quickly.

It'd be an understatement to say that you picked up the Duckpin game rather quickly. How much (if any) did your experience in 10-Pin help in terms of knowing angles and making spare shots?
Both 5-pin and 10-pin helped. Both games helped with spare shooting. 10-pin for the angles and multiple pin spares and 5-pin for the single pins as you need to be accurate. Small ball, small pin. Not much room for error.

Many Canadians have gone south and experienced success at Duckpin…How have the Americans handled 5-Pinners coming down and taking over their game?
They have been very welcoming, both on the men's and women's tours. I wouldn’t say that we are taking over the game at all though. There is so much to learn and these players are very good at their sport. I know myself I am just happy to be able to compete along side of them.
I have heard that. Mike Herbert, for instance mentioned that they have been helpful in offering advice in shooting spares and such. I would hope that it'd be the same if they came up here to give "5" a try.

You'd been a Canadian Champ several times by the time you became a member of "Team Canada". How different (if at all) did it feel to actually wear the "flag" on your back?
I’m not going to lie, it was totally amazing! Now I know what it’s like for the Olympic athletes to carry that flag and represent your country. It’s just awesome!

Until you'd made "Team Canada", you played both 5-Pin and 10-Pin regularly. Did either game suffer playing both, and was it hard to switch back and forth from one night to the next?
The first couple of shots in practice were tough sometimes but I learned to adjust quickly. I just found that after making Team Canada the schedule allowed for less time for 5-pin so I decided to concentrate on one versus trying to juggle both games.

You took a 6-year hiatus from 5-Pin when you joined "Team Canada". Once you returned to 5-Pin, how much time (if any) did it take to get your game back?
Believe it or not almost 2 years from the time I started back. I was not physically ready to bowl more than league for that time.

What was it like to play on the Ladies' 10-Pin Pro Tour?
Great, even though I didn’t do very well. It’s a tough life. Different city every week, finding your own way there and having to be at the top of your game on a different lane condition from week to week. It’s not easy at all and I tip my hat to all the Pro players out there.

In terms of time, dedication, etc, how different is the Pro Tour? And because it's a job, is it more serious?
It is more serious on the lanes for sure but off the lanes they are just normal athletes. There is training, practicing, and equipment to take care of, or get ready for the next tour stop. Sometimes it is hard to find the time to practice when you are travelling 18 hours to the next tournament and you only have 2 days to get there.

In 10-Pin, the goal for a right-hander is to hit the "1-3" pocket. Do you shoot for a pocket in 5-Pin?
It depends on which line I am playing! LOL. If I am standing to the left of centre and throwing a backup I aim for the left pocket. If I am standing in the same spot and throwing a hook I am for the right pocket. If I am standing to the right of centre, hook or back up I am aiming for the right pocket. (Confused yet??)

If you're punching headpins in succession, what is your first adjustment?
Move back 2 inches on the approach.

If you need 16 in the tenth frame, would you "play thinner" or "go after it"?
I always go for it. I have tried to “chisel” the shot and I always end up missing. So I throw the same shot I would on any other first ball.

You've had success as both a Singles competitor and playing on a Team. Which do you prefer, and why?
Team, as it is more fun and there are people there to support you right in the “pit” with you, helping you if you are struggling (score) and otherwise. In Singles there are supporters there but you are on the lanes alone with no one to help you out score-wise.

What is your favourite 5-Pin event?
The Open.

Who (if anyone) has really influenced your "adult" 5-Pin career?
My parents years ago, but players would be John Willock and Claudina Lista. I learned a lot from just watching them.
And definitely two of the classiest and most gracious people I've encountered as well!

Any current players you really enjoy watching? (And why?)
Brenda Walters hardly ever misses the headpin and no matter what condition is out there she will find a way to score well.
There are a few men that I enjoy watching, mostly because of the same reason as Brenda, they always find a way to score even on tough conditions, and they throw a LOT of strikes. They are Jeff Young, Martin Talbot and Wade Thompson.

Amongst all of your 5-Pin accomplishments, do any stand out as your proudest?
They all hold a significant place but my first perfect game in league in 1986. My dad was bowling on the same team as me when I threw it.

And overall, what would be the proudest of your entire career?
Winning my first National Championship at 10 years old. I never thought I could do it.

Do you have any embarrassing moments to pass along?
My first and only appearance on the CBC Championship Series, I threw a 168 game on TV.

I can probably guess, but what's it like to be a "Hall-of'-Famer"?
Amazing, again I never thought I would ever do it in a sport that I just started to play. It’s a great but humbling accomplishment.

Now we'll put you on the spot. Everyone will say that their sport is the hardest. You have the unique perspective of having played 5, 10 AND Duck at the highest level. Which game is the most difficult to be really good at?
They all have their moments! I think that duckpin is the hardest. Even when you throw a pocket shot you aren’t guaranteed a strike. Spares are tough, you have to read the lanes and see what is happening with the pins as well. It’s no wonder no one has ever thrown a perfect game….it’s tough!

You obviously get to spend a lot of time with younger bowlers at the O5PBA Bowling School. What advice would you give to a younger bowler who wants to improve?
Practice and practice effectively. If it’s possibly try and get someone to tape you and then go over the tape with your coach. Seeing it is easier to explain and fix.

And finally, have you noticed anything in the way that Duckpin or
Tenpin operates that would be useful or enhance our game?
They are more organized on the duckpin tours, have uniform regulations as well as fines for being late for squad check in and even for errors on your scorecard. I think that some of these could be implemented into the 5-pin world.

For all the ladies tour stops they announce all the bowlers and play the national anthems before every qualifying squad. It’s very professional.

On behalf of the readers, I'd like to thank both Connie and Fraser for their thoughts and their time in providing great insight into our game. Our goal with this segment is not only to profile and showcase our game's great players, but to also use their knowledge and experience to help other bowlers, regardless of their age or ability.

And isn't that the great thing about our game, that we can access and meet our idols and mentors? I mean, in what other sport would you see upwards of fifty of the game's finest teachers and players give up summer vacation time to help out dozens of teenagers, as they do each year at our O5PBA Bowling School?

Many of us have been fortunate enough to play with, and against, the people we've always looked up to. I still can't believe that, as a teenager drafting his first "major league" team, my first two picks were Nick Pagniello and Chuck Park!! Legends! On top of that, Fraser refers to me "Stevie" and Donny Betts calls me "Bark"! Can't beat that!!

Oh yeah, you may be wondering why this is called "23 Questions" when, in two interviews, neither one had 23 questions?? Well, we had to call it something and "23" is my favourite number. Ryne Sandberg and Don Mattingly both wore it. Growing up, they were my baseball heroes. I never got to meet THEM!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is bowling boring? Take a look in the mirror before you answer

My apologies to everyone for putting this up a day late.  I have been working hard to make sure that there are updates every Monday and Thursday so I do intend to keep that schedule going.  I am planning on changing the look of the site by the end of the week so that there will be more content, and it will be easier to navigate through.  Thursday, we will have another edition of 23 Questions, With Steve Barker.  This week Barker talks to triple bowling star, Connie Ward.  Make sure you stop in to check that out.

This week's blog belongs to Wes Payne, the person who gave me the idea for this site.  I've had the privelage to both bowl against Wes at a Masters' Nationals, and with him at a Masters' Nationals.  To say he's the complete teammate would be an understatement.  Smooth consistant ball, great mental game, positive teammate, and great all around guy.  He's definitely one of those players that you appreciate bowling with.  Wes' blog is on the image of bowling, and who's responsible for creating, maintaining and changing that image.  Enjoy!

Is bowling boring? Take a look in the mirror before you answer

Many people would argue that bowling is boring. Now of course I would disagree, but for a long time I’ve struggled with the fact that in theory, they’re right. Bowling has no variety. I’ve thrown the same stupid ball at the same stupid pins more than 100,000 times. It’s a game that never changes! Either you throw the ball you hoped for, or you don’t. I guess bowling really is boring.

But no, I keep coming back. There is something about this game that is appealing. There is something about it that makes the same old alley and pins look new and exciting every time I go. Do you know what it is? I think I’m finally starting to figure it out.

Bowling is rewarding. It provides instant gratification. Everybody, be it the seasoned veteran or the once a year bowler enjoys getting a strike. And everyone is capable of it.

There is a feeling of success every time we get a strike. If we continue to succeed, we begin to feel more confident. With more confidence, we bowl better and see more success. It’s a positive cycle.
But of course, the opposite it true when we bowl poorly. We feel down, and our confidence is hurt, and as a result sometimes we bowl worse. Getting out of this cycle can be difficult, and that’s part of the challenge.
So bowling is like any other addiction. Instant gratification to release the endorphins… Mmmm…everyone likes those.

If you’re still not convinced, bear with me. I haven’t gotten to the best part of this game yet. Why do we love bowling? Because it’s a competition with your perfect match: yourself. Who’s more equal competition for you than you? We may compete against others, but really we’re competing against ourselves and comparing scores at the end.

Think about it. Regardless of skill level, age, or ability, everyone who plays this game has some idea of what constitutes success. Maybe success is to bowl over 100. Maybe it’s to bowl over 200, or 300. We all get the same good feeling when we bowl a big game, regardless of whether that big game is 120 or 420.
Bowling is entirely relative. That’s why pins over average tournaments are so popular. You can compete against any player of any skill level. Because ultimately, you’re competing against yourself. And there’s no better competition than your perfect match. That average you’re always trying to reach was set by no one but yourself.

So, is bowling boring? It may not be the best spectator sport, but I think I’ve made my case. Bowling is about the individual. It’s about confidence, success, making yourself better. So I guess if you find bowling boring, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.