After missing last week due to illness, I was looking forward to being back out on the lanes this week. After a rough week struggling with both my release and launch angles two weeks ago, I also went in with the idea to spend the first part of practice getting a better feel for my release. Things felt good in practice, but there was a downside to this plan which we’ll discuss later.
I also reworked the surface of my Track Stealth. Despite refreshing the surface regularly every few weeks, it had been a while since I’d done a multi-level approach. Before practice started, I sanded the ball by hand with 500, 1000, and then 3000 grit pads. My hope was to bring back some of the deeper valleys on the ball, and keep some smoother teeth on top with the 3000 grit pad to get the reaction a little closer to what it was when it was fresh out of the box. To an extent, it worked, because the reaction was much better. I just didn’t really capitalize on it.
The last time we bowled this team, one of the players was attempting to convert to two-handed and was using urethane. This time around, he was back to bowling one-handed with reactive, so this essentially meant we were bowling against a completely different bowler. The other two-hander on the team was also using reactive this time around instead of urethane. Nothing we’d done last time was going to apply.
How’d it go?
The short answer is, “not well.” There were a lot of positives, but my release was still an issue, and my practice plan hurt my lane play in the first game because I’d missed seeing differences on the pair.
This was a frustrating game. At first, it was because I couldn’t figure out the right lane. Then it was frustration that I’d missed the information in practice in the first place. Rather than my usual approach of getting a feel for the lanes and playing “spot the difference” in practice based on my experience and on what the pair was showing me, I’d been focusing on my release and disregarding anything to do with ball reaction. On the bright side, I kept things clean, changed balls to my Game Breaker 4 Pearl, and struck out for 200, but it could have been better if I’d seen the difference in the lanes before the arrows came up.
The second game was a little better. I was still struggling with my release, but at least my launch angles were mostly consistent. Unfortunately, it took until the second half of the game to remember one of the key maxims I try to coach: “The more you think about a problem, the worse it gets.” I find this to be particularly true for the release because it is a result of all the things that come before it. So, I set my mind to focusing on my ball start and feeling good in that part of the approach. I once again struck out, this time for a 220 game, but I admittedly had some help from the forgiveness provided by my GB4 Pearl.
Setting my mind to the swing and seeing a good reaction from the GB4 Pearl, the third game went much better. It wasn’t perfect, and a split in the tenth frame hurt quite a bit, but at least I was feeling a bit more like myself. By the end of the night, I was only about two boards left of where I started, which was a bit of a surprise, but with only the two-hander being inside of me, the lanes didn’t get too crazy.
Despite a subpar night, there were plenty of good things that happened. Like last week, I want to focus on the positive, but there are some good reminders I can take away as well. My experience last night shows that even a coach who knows better can make some important mistakes. More importantly, my night illustrates how hard it can be when you get emotional and over-focused on the wrong part of the game.
The most important mistake of the night came in practice. I tried to squeeze in some physical game practice in a warm-up period where the focus should be on the lanes and getting into the right mental space for competition. In retrospect, I could definitely have spotted the difference in the lanes. When doing a few very slow, very high rev release shots to get the feel, I saw the ball miss the headpin left on lane 65, but hit Brooklyn on lane 66. That indicated a clear difference of a few boards less hook on the right lane, but I didn’t acknowledge it because my focus was on getting a better feel with my release. It’s a good example of how you can read lanes even without your best shot, but my focus was elsewhere and it cost me some pins.
Speaking of focusing on the wrong thing…
My hyper-focus on my release was another mistake. It made every shot that wasn’t perfect feel awful, and it brought tension to my swing throughout the approach. It was only after I shifted focus to my ball start that the release started to feel a bit better, and the shotmaking started getting much more consistent. It’s something I’ve coached many bowlers through in competition, but I fell into the trap myself. When bowling for score, you need to work with the game you have, even if it’s not perfect. My normal focus in the approach is to get started correctly and then just feel smooth through the shot. With an imperfect release, I abandoned this process and only made it worse.
The good stuff
I was clean in the first game, which was a goal of mine heading into the new year after I had a disproportionate amount of opens in that game in the first half of the season. I made several 2-pin combinations, which was another goal. Similar to two weeks ago, this is a good sign and a big positive to bring forward as we get deeper into the second half of the season. Beyond that, I struck out twice to save games that could have been worse. It always feels good when you can strike out despite struggling a bit during the game.
- When competing, bowl with the game you have and focus on the lanes.
- Focusing on your physical execution is fine when practicing, but that focus needs to shift outward during league and tournament play.
- Develop and use a practice routine before tournaments and league play to get lined up and feel ready to bowl.
Final scores: 200 – 224 – 220