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
- High Percentage Hitter
- Mental Toughness
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
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
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.