Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Help! By Steve Barker
Many of our current competitive players grew up in an era of YBC where there was no shortage of quality coaches to guide us. It was especially true in the days before automatic scoring, and particularly in the younger divisions where we also had parents and volunteers who were helping by keeping score.
Today, kids can still get fine instruction in the YBC and have other options such as the Bowling Schools that are run around the country. I’ll delve deeper into those in the near future, but today wanted to look at the options that adults have in getting help with their game.
If you watch other individual Pro sports, you’ll notice that tennis players have a coach sitting in the box with their family and friends, and golfers usually have a swing coach with them on the range before a round. These two sports also offer all sorts of lessons for the amateur player.
For the social league bowler, the thought of having a coach or getting instruction is likely foreign to them unless they qualify for the “Holiday Classic” or some other tournament. For the average bowler who may possibly be looking for help to improve their game, they may not know where to look and may not know how easy it could be to get that help.
If you happen to fall under this category, I would suggest that you speak to your proprietor about soliciting some assistance, or you could simply contact any one of the people on here who may be in your area. There is also some material online that could offer some good suggestions. For instance, Tom Paterson, from Saskatchewan has written books on the subject and also has lots of tips available at saskbowl.com.
If you are a lifetime bowler who is looking for help with your game, one of the drawbacks will be that you have many years of muscle memory built into your arm swing and approach, so physical changes could be difficult.
A couple simple things that could help your form would simply be making sure your approach is controlled and balanced and that you are relaxed and “square” in your initial setup. If you are unbalanced and twisted before you start, there is no chance of being straight and balanced through your shot. Also, as in any sport, make sure you FOLLOW THROUGH. And if you look at the pins when you throw, try using the arrows to line up your shot as it is much easier to hit a target 15 feet from the foul line rather than 60 feet. Simply picture in your mind where you want your ball to go down the lane and line yourself up accordingly. The final “physical” thing you can do to improve your game is to use video. Nowadays it’s very simple to record yourself, even using a cell phone, and once you’ve seen how you actually deliver the ball, flaws are easier to feel and fix.
Physical changes aside, there is still one very simple way to improve your game. Just understand that 5 Pin is a challenging game and you do not need to rely on strikes to score well. Limit the pins you leave on the deck and make your spares and your average will improve.
For the competitive player, you are only assigned a coach for events as the Masters Nationals and the Open. It’s always interesting to see how other tournament players practice and what resources we use in individual competition.
Many players have one or two people that they can rely on when they are struggling. Oftentimes it is a spectator on fellow competitor who may know the bowler’s game very well. This seemed to be common at the recent Masters Tournament in Oshawa, Ontario. I also noticed that many bowlers also had parents on hand to lend technical and moral support.
It can be beneficial to have someone to talk to when things are going badly. A major reason that I was able to hang onto a spot at last month’s Open Zone finals was because of some advice and reassurance I received from John Honeyford. In the 19th game, I was “all over the place” and had 70 in the fifth frame. Since it didn’t seem like I’d get my timing and mechanical issues sorted out, I was considering an extreme move (about 17 boards to the right) on the approach to throw a line that might work with my newfound (yet unwanted) technique. I pitched my idea to John to get his opinion and he gave it the thumbs up with some encouraging words to boot! I threw 4 strikes in a row and finished with a 253 and went on to have a decent final game as well. Having that extra person to lean on for advice or a vote of confidence can make a huge difference.
One of the things that will help all bowlers is to learn your own game and your tendencies so that you are not reliant on just one or two people to help. Instead of being “lost” up there, you will be able to self- diagnose issues more quickly. Plus, it’s easier to ask someone to watch for something specific in your delivery rather than simply saying, “What am I doing wrong”?
As I’ve always said, the cool thing about this game is that while there are some standards out there that will help, there are many ways to hit those 5 white objects with that little round projectile.
I hope that some of the tips offered were helpful and I encourage others to debate or add some of their own. But the most important piece of advice I can offer to bowlers out there looking for help is “Don’t be afraid to ask”! And unlike the “PROs” at your local Golf or Tennis club, our lessons are FREE!
* I would also like to congratulate Oshawa’s Mike Herbert for his incredible performance at the recent MBAO event held at Neb’s Fun World. In the 12 game qualifying, Mike finished with a remarkable 3822 total. His 6 games during the first day were 396, 333, 400 (an 1129 Triple), 310 (1439), 350 (1789 for 5!!) and 253 for 2042 total. Congrats to Mike and also to the eventual winning Triples team of Brad Rowland, Les Ham and Brenda Walters! For Brenda, her win was an astounding and record-setting 17th Tournament Victory!! Congrats!