Improving Lane Play Skills – Part 1

Foundational physical tools for better lane play


In today’s game, the ability to adapt to different playing environments is a prerequisite for good performance. Unfortunately, many bowlers don’t know what to practice in order to improve their playing skills and decision-making on the lanes. More importantly, many bowlers don’t have the tools they need to even get started with this process. We’re not talking about technology like Specto here; we’re talking about the physical tools to manipulate motion, such as ball speed and axis rotation.

Over the next few articles, we’ll break down how to develop your lane play skills, starting with the fundamental pieces of execution. In order to practice and improve lane play, bowlers must develop some tools first:

  • a system to play a variety of angles;
  • the ability to adjust ball speed; and
  • the ability to manipulate the degree of axis rotation.

It doesn’t do a bowler much good to see what needs to be done, decide to do it, and then be unable to execute that adjustment consistently or effectively. Only after these skills are developed can a bowler truly start to work on mastering lane play.

Getting started with skill development

First and foremost, bowlers need to develop a system in order to change their launch angles to match the line they are trying to play. This is the most basic adjustment a bowler can use, but most bowlers don’t have a systematic approach to ensure their execution doesn’t change when they adjust their lines. Many bowlers adjust their footwork or their swing to compensate when they change areas of the lane, which results in inconsistency.

Second, bowlers need to be able to adjust ball speed. As I mentioned in Bowling 2.0, the key to adjusting ball speed is not what most bowlers think it is. For reasons I’ll explain in detail further on, the swing height is the key to adjusting ball speed without affecting swing tension, rather than using your feet to run faster to the line.

Finally, the ability to manipulate your release to achieve various degrees of axis rotation is extremely important. A good goal would be to achieve a range of 0 to 75 degrees, but the vast majority of bowlers will only be able to get to between 10 and 60 degrees, which is still enough to be extremely effective when used properly.

A system for angle adjustments

This topic was covered in great detail by Coach Ernesto Avila in the article, The Importance of Proper Alignment, using the ETT (Everything Towards the Target) method. I also wrote about this in Bowling 2.0: Footwork, but here is a quick refresher.

The fundamental key to the ETT method and a proper system for adjusting your alignment and launch angles is to swing the ball the same way every time by walking in the direction of your intention line. Many bowlers do not do this. As their launch angle increases, their footwork direction remains the same, forcing the swing to compensate to ...

Juha Maja

About Juha Maja

Juha Maja is a professional bowling coach with over 20 years of experience. He has a professional coaching degree from the Kuortane Olympic Training Center, where he was also the former Director and Head Coach of their Bowling Training Center. In addition to being the former national team coach for Finland, Romania, and the Czech Republic, Juha is the author and Head Instructor of the Finnish Bowling Federation and European Tenpin Bowling Federation (ETBF) Level 1-2-3 coaching programs.