As promised, here are more games you can use to liven up your training sessions. There are challenges for your high school, college, league, or tournament team practicing together.

Approach Dots

This is a game I learned through Mark Roth. The goal is to hit the pocket from every dot on the approach. That means stand on the 5th board (sometimes that’s the 1st dot) and figure out a way to hit the pocket. Then stand on the 10th board and do the same. You do this all the way across the seven dots on the approach until you’re standing on the 35th board. Now, work your way back across to the 5th board.

When playing the extreme outside line it might be easier to use your spare ball to keep the ball on-line, especially if you’re doing this on a house condition. However, the greater challenge would obviously be to do it with your strike ball and vary speed and hand position.

A variation of the game would be to not move from a dot until you have struck from that position. A third variation would be to hit the pocket from the 1st dot or 5th board and move to the 1oth board. Hit the pocket and move to the 15th board, etc. If you miss the pocket with any shot you have to move back to the 1st dot and start over. Don’t like to yourself. You know where the pocket is and leaving the bucket is not hitting the pocket.

The most difficult variation would be to make strike the requirement for moving on rather than just hitting the pocket.

Pin Talk I

Standing pins are your friend. They have an unerring message for you. Just make sure your receiver is on the same frequency as their transmitter, try this: you know what leaves a 2 pin for a righthander, a light shot. Okay, so leave one deliberately. Now move enough that you leave the bucket. Then leave a 3 pin or a combination with the 3 pin ON PURPOSE.

If you feel you don’t quite know what leaves some of the pins standing, the following should help. You know that the “perfect” strike ball hits the 1/3/4/9. Just to be sure, let’s go over the rest of the pinfall on this “perfect” strike. The 1 hits the 2, the 2 hits the 4, and the 4 takes the 7, sort of a domino effect. The 3 hits the 6 and the 6 takes the 10. The 5 takes the 8. That’s textbook pinfall. Frankly, we seldom strike this way. There are lots of other ways to strike – many of which I am sure you have used.

Anyway, on this perfect strike shot, the ball leaves the deck with its right edge touching the left side of the 9 pin. You know you are supposed to watch your ball roll over your target and then follow its progress down the lane. Throw ten shots doing just that with a slight exception. Once the ball hits the pins, instead of watching or being concerned with pinfall, you are going to watch your ball leave the deck. After it falls into the only pit in bowling, merely observe what might be standing. You’ll learn lots more about why pins stand in a bit.

Now for a rare treat. This is the only time in your life you have permission not to watch the ball path down the lane. In this exercise, you’ll need to watch the ball roll over the target and then lift your eyes to the pins so you can watch the pin action.

You should have a full rack each time. (You will, of course, not get this full rack by reracking, but by shooting whatever spare you might have left). Throw ten shots, hit your target, and lift your eyes to the headpin. Watch what happens to it. For the first few shots, just make sure you can see where it flies. Uh oh. It left the 2 pin? Well, what is supposed to hit the 2 pin? Where did the pin go instead of hitting the 2 pin? Where did the ball go?

After you have watched the headpin for ten shots, watch the 2 pin for the next ten shots. Then watch the 3 pin for ten shots, and finally watch the 5 pin for ten shots. Notice you are not to watch the 6 pin. Although it is the pin that most often hits the 10, the action of the 6 pin is a result of how you hit the 3 pin. Therefore, seeing what happened to the 3 pin is much more important in understanding 10 pin leaves than the 6 pin is. That’s why you watch the 3 pin. You can see it hit the 6 and know what the 6 did or did not do to the 10.

If you hit high or light in the pocket, don’t necessarily discount that shot. That is, after all, how you leave stuff. Maybe you’ll hit high and leave a 4 pin. Yes, you can leave on either way. Watching your ball and the pinfall can really help you understand how all this happens.

This is a lot of shots to be sure. Take smart breaks. For example, rest for 88 seconds between each set of ten shots. This will assure you can evaluate what just happened and refocus your intent for the next phase. Don’t be mindless. Be present!

Pin Talk II

This is a way cool session. Imagine. Rewards for missing. This is an exercise best done after you have mastered the Pin Talk I training exercise.

After doing Pin Talk I enough times that you’re really confident you see and understand the movement of each of the pins you were to watch, miss on purpose. Don’t tell me you can’t. You’ve missed before, just not on purpose. You already know what leaves a 2 pin. Move inside enough to be light and leave one. Keep moving and changing angles and rotation and speeds until you leave the 2. Spare it and do it again.

Move more and/or change something else so that you hit differently and leave the bucket. Spare it and do it again. Isn’t it just incredible how far off you have to be to leave this stuff?

Now try hitting the 3 pin heavy. Based on what you learned about how to be light in the pocket and leave a 2 pin or bucket, opposite or exaggerated moves should hit the 3 pin in the face. Shoot what you leave and leave it again.

Next leave the 3/10 or the 3/6/10. Have you ever wondered what takes the 6 pin out of the 3/6/10 and leaves the 3/10? It’s the headpin in my experience. You’ve left the 3/10 or 3/6/10 many times in your bowling career. Leaving it on purpose almost seems impossible. You know it’s not since you’ve done it, but wow, what a strange leave. Anyway, fool around and see if you can leave it. Spare it. Leave it again.

Now move to be flush in the pocket. Shouldn’t be a problem. You’ve been all around the pocket with this game. Don’t forget to shoot every spare you leave never reracking or discounting them. This is a supremely wonderful exercise for accuracy and understanding pinfall.

To Die For

This is a fun game I learned from Coach Glenn Soanes. It’s a great coaching tool, a neat way to hone your personal bowling skills, and a wonderful team practice session. It will really help you get acquainted with different parts of the lane.

You’ll need some dice, preferably two, and preferably different colors. Roll one die and whatever number comes up is the arrow you must play until you or whoever you’re working out with doubles. At that point, roll again and you’ll get to play a different arrow. you can also wait for a turkey or hambone to move to add a little juice to your session.

If you are using a pair of dice and especially if they are different colors, you can play a more challenging game using boards. Two things here. Low numbers mean a move of your target to the outside and high numbers mean a move to the inside. For example, a three on the first die means your target is the third arrow and a one on the second die means the new target is one board outside of that third arrow or the 14th board. A two with the second die is two boards outside, etc.

Rolling a four with the second die means your target is now one board inside of your target arrow. A five would change your target to two boards inside and a boxcar means your new target is three boards inside the arrow.

All in all, a very good exercise for expanding your skills, improving your accuracy, and making you a way deadly opponent.

I hope you’ll enjoy each of these training games. Training is important. You can’t get better without it and these games will keep you focused on things that will improve your skills and help you have a good time doing it.

Susie Minshew

About Susie Minshew

Susie Minshew is a USBC Gold Coach, Master Silver Instructor, a regional PWBA champion, and past president of IBPSIA. She has authored two new books, Whoever Finds It First, Wins and Bowling Whisperer. Visit her online at