I write a lot of articles about the importance of getting a bowling coach, setting goals, and the mental game. I do this because many of us start out as recreational bowlers and, by the time we’re entering leagues and tournaments, our mindset is such that we think we can continue to advance ourselves by doing the same thing we’ve always been doing – that is, “on our own.”
In the 1960’s, there was basically one type of bowling ball – hard rubber – and wood lanes with manual oiling. For a myriad of reasons (e.g., lack of mass communications), the vast majority of coaches were self-taught, great bowlers in the local area. It was a simpler time and not much research or study had been done in “training your mind” to do things – the frame of thinking was more to physical ability and talent. High School, Collegiate, and International bowling competitions were theories that were going to be developed “some time in the future.” But, in the 1970’s to the 1990’s, bowling took some rapid, seemingly exponential, growth advancements in technology, equipment, and coaching.
Now as we are in 2020, things have become much easier to access the best bowling alleys in our vicinity by just a chance visit to websites like aboutbowlingballs.com where you can learn everything about bowling bowls, practice sessions and tournaments with technological advances at their best.
Fast-tracking to today, it’s difficult to keep up with the number of different bowling balls available, synthetic lanes are replacing wood, there are a large variety of oil patterns, research into all the physical and mental aspects of the sport are at a really advanced stage, the world is embracing the sport, and bowlers who have grown up with advanced coaching techniques are now the “stars of the lanes” not only here in the United States, but in a large number of foreign countries.
Modern bowling is no longer a matter of throwing the ball down the lane and expecting to score high because you have lots of “natural ability and talent.” It is now a game of knowledge – the physics of lane topography, bowling ball dynamics, etc., finesse, and being able to make the necessary adjustments to conquer the lanes for that particular time and condition.
For the bowlers who are attempting to re-invent their game, and for the bowler who is thinking of evolving from a recreational to a serious one, my advice is to set a goal and put together a game plan. Organize yourself; chances are, we have not had the luxury of constant and consistent coaching and are waging an up-hill battle to keep up with the advancements in the sport.
Here’s a “Choc-List” as a starter for you:
1) Organize yourself and get set up for success. Identify what your desires are – league champion, state champion, professional bowler. Desires are your “passion,” and if you set your goals and priorities to achieve your, “passion,” you are more apt to do your best to achieve them. Be realistic in your approach – do not define success by your average, which is the fatal error most bowlers make when they want to move from one plateau to another. Keep reminding yourself that a 220 average on a typical house shot is very inflated and may be 20 pins (or more) higher than if you bowl on other, tougher, conditions.
Note: While “professional bowler” conjures up thoughts of the Professional Bowler’s Association (PBA), keep in mind that in many areas, there are local “amateur tournament bowling clubs,” that conduct regular tournaments for some fairly sizeable prize funds. You’re not making a full-time living at it; but, you’re still winning money.
2) Organize yourself in your training and development by getting a coach. Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish with your game, get a certified coach. If you’ve been basically self-taught, you are going to have some flaws in your game that have been developed over a period of time. If you’re now moving from recreational to competitive bowling, you want to begin with some solid fundamentals and the proper framework for your future development.
Note: With the certified coaching programs under the auspices of the United States Bowling Congress, the “whole World” is being educated as Bronze, Silver, and Gold level coaches. Wherever you live on earth, you will probably be able to find a certified coach to teach you.
3) Organize yourself, open your mind to new ideas, and expand your mental game. The sport is ever-evolving and a tremendous amount of “new” ideas is constantly being brought to the fore. Your “mental game” is becoming a very important part of your ability to elevate your game to the higher levels. The elite bowlers of every country now have Sports Psychologists traveling with them. There will be many occasions when the only difference in winning or losing will be your frame of mind. Mental exercises are being touted as a way to keep you focused and calm during competition. It is also being used to keep practicing when you’re not at the bowling center.
Note: “Competition” is a relative term. It is relative to whatever level you’re at currently. Mixed handicap league, singles handicap tournament, and senior scratch competition, you’re generally trying to win. Whether it’s “for fun” or not, not many people can honestly state that they unequivocally, “did not want to win.”
4) Organize yourself and sift through the tons of information to decide what is important. You have to be able to sift through, and sort out, what is important to your game of bowling. By constantly educating yourself and upgrading your skills, you will be able to keep (or disregard) the pieces of information that you need.
Note: With all the countries in the world participating in the advancement of bowling, you can bet that at any moment in time, someone, somewhere is trying to find the next best breakthrough that will propel the sport into a greater era. Research is being conducted, literally, on a second-by-second basis. How did the “spinner” bowler get to be such a widespread phenomenon in Taiwan? Why is discussion at the upper levels of bowling now moving to “Positive Axis Point,” “Radius of Gyration,” and “Angle of Entry,” just to name a few.
Too many bowlers take their knowledge side of the game for granted. I happen to think that it is the biggest difference between the upper level of bowlers and the other “wanna-be’s.” A bowler has to keep studying and upgrading themselves at which ever level they are while keeping a constant eye on new advancements and technologies. They have to be aware of, “that will carry them to the next level.”