Wow, did you really just bowl a series 150 pins under your regular average?
It's pretty normal to struggle a bit at the beginning of the season. On that first night, some of us just show up with our bags hoping our bowling balls haven't melted or cracked in half.
It's one of the beauties of the sport - you don't have to be any good to enjoy it. What's the worst that can happen? You throw a gutter ball, and even then, they bring the ball right back to you as if you'd thrown 11 strikes in a row.
But it is kind of annoying when this continues for two weeks, or now, nearly a month into the season.
So I thought some simple tips might be in order to at least get your game back to some semblance of where it was in March or April.
And there's no reason you can't save these ideas if your game goes in the dumper sometime later in the season, or maybe at some tournament when your teammates are counting on you to hold up your end of the bargain.
Last week I talked to Clay Sandberg, general manager at Country Lanes in Ishpeming, and in less than 15 minutes we - actually he gets credit for about 90 percent of this material - came up with some simple ideas that can keep you from winning "worst improved" bowler of the year, or whatever they would call that award if it existed:
- If it's problems with accuracy, try slowing down just a bit and see if that helps. Moving up on the approach makes that job easier, since you'll have shorter steps and everything will go slower.
I've always told people to make sure to follow through after releasing the ball, while Sandberg emphasized the importance of the timing step, which is the first step of your approach.
Some other factors include drifting - starting out in the right spot, but ending up somewhere you shouldn't be by the final step - staying down at the foul line and keeping your eyes on the mark.
Instead of using practice balls to limber up, try stretching beforehand so your practice will actually help you find a good line on the lanes.
- The problem could be with the bowling ball. Even if you've only been off for the summer, get the holes in your ball inspected.
The grips may deteriorate due to heat or moisture, or you might even need your ball redrilled if your throwing hand has changed, maybe due to weight gain or loss or simple aging, which Sandberg says happens more than most people think.
In the spring toward the end of the season, you may have opened up the thumb hole after your thumb expanded, but now it's shrunk back. Putting tape - electrical or bowlers type - can be a temporary fix, one I use because my thumb size seems to change like Upper Peninsula weather.
- Another idea might seem radical for some, but I'll put it out there - a new target line might be in order. That not only means what spot you aim at on the lane, but where you stand to get you there.
In Ishpeming, the wood lanes are resurfaced each summer, and Sandberg says it changes the way balls react for awhile, making the hook at the end of the lane sharper.
Even if you bowl somewhere where resurfacing isn't done, like on the synthetics at Marquette's Superior Lanes, a change in oil conditioner may alter the shot and way you should play it.
Sandberg mentioned it's worth watching how successful bowlers attack the lanes and maybe incorporate some things they're doing.
- For some of you, sliding shoes are an issue after they've suddenly become sticky or too slippery.
The leather sole may have hardened, and a wire brush can bring it back to normal. Some bowlers swear by using the toe of a sock on their sole as the be-all, end-all. Teflon pads and shoe sliders can be bought to help sticky soles, too.
Personally, I bought an expensive pair of shoes a few years ago and for me they were worth the investment. They have velcro soles, and most importantly for me, heels that can be changed depending on how the approaches are.
- Finally, Sandberg says don't be afraid to ask people working at your center for tips or information. At the least, they'll be able to point you in the right direction to someone who really knows their stuff.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.