Walking into the bowling center last night, I knew things were going to be interesting. First, we were bowling against a new team in the league that featured two two-handers. My area doesn’t have very many bowlers using this style, and they’re the first ones in this league. Both are fairly young, have high rev rates and ball speeds, and are likely to cause havoc with transition. Second, we were bowling on lanes 63 and 64, which is one of those pairs that can be very friendly or make your life just a bit difficult. The combination of these two factors brought a wry smile to my face as I started to get ready.
In practice, one of the two-handers started throwing urethane, and conversation with his teammate implied he intended to use it all night. I’m guessing the previous week didn’t go so well with reactive, so as a new bowler to this league and center, he was trying to figure things out for himself. This brings us to one of the main considerations of the night: a lot of bowlers get messed up when urethane is on their pair. In a lot of cases, it’s not even because of the transition, but just the thought of what urethane can do, let alone when being used by a two-hander. It’s important to adopt the right mental approach from the beginning.
Dealing with urethane
The first step to this or any other potentially problematic situation is to make sure the words, “Oh, no!” never cross your lips. Any kind of distraction or negative occurrence should be framed as either something positive or, at the very least, neutral. For example:
- Positive: This is a great opportunity to apply what I know about urethane transition.
- Positive: This will be a fun challenge.
- Neutral: Interesting. I guess I’ll get to learn something new tonight.
- Neutral: Alright, let’s just pay attention and see what the night has in store.
The next step is understanding what urethane equipment can and will do to the bowling lanes. They generally remove oil from the fronts and deposit it downlane to create carrydown, whereas higher flaring reactive balls tend to create more breakdown by not dragging as much oil downlane. Knowing this, the strategy is to use the extra carrydown as “hold” by playing a breakpoint outside of the urethane line whenever possible. Higher rev players can go around it by playing steeper angles through the front, while lower rev players can try to float it through the front or use speed and loft. This is much easier to do on house shots than on sport shots.
It’s also something I “know” but haven’t done very much of myself, so I adopted the attitude of testing and applying things I know and getting to learn more about myself and my game.
How’d it go?
The good news is that I was throwing it better than last week, at least to start the night. My roll was better, my rev rate was up, and I got to see what the Stealth can really do, and it looked great. Despite my release being a bit better, my shotmaking was still a bit wonky, so there were a lot of misses, particularly to the outside, which caused me to miss some spares. As you’ll see below, the scoring line was similar to the previous week, but I had three opens, compared to a clean series last week.
Despite my brief discussion of urethane as the “X factor” of the night, it’s important to note that there was another two-hander using reactive, plus another higher rev rate one-hander on the team helping to tear up the lanes. I briefly found myself behind the transition as practice ended, resulting in an opening split and a few high hits to start the night. When dealing with significant rev rate on my pair, it has been my habit over the years to simply move one board left on every shot to stay ahead of the lanes as they dry out.
Since straightening out my game a bit over the past few years, this strategy has not been used very much, but I decided to go to it last night. There was too much rev rate on the pair, and I was throwing the ball much better, so I could expect plenty of hook and recovery…at least until the urethane problem reared its ugly head.
For the first 13 or 14 frames, my strategy worked well. I caught up with transition and stayed on top of it. I had a pretty good look, but I threw a few too many bad shots. The right lane seemed to break down a touch faster, so I lost it for a frame or two, but I was right back in the pocket in no time. My Stealth was still giving me a bit of area on the lanes, but it wasn’t getting through the pins as well. Out came the GB4 Pearl. It looked better, but I was still struggling to get the ball to face up properly, with a few light hits, a few more bad shots, and a real grind of a 216 game. Then it dawned on me.
By this point, the urethane had worked its magic and created some tightness downlane. My GB4 looked better than the Stealth, but it wasn’t quite getting there, so I had the same two options I described above. I could move a bit left, slow down, and circle the lane more, or I could go back a bit to the right and try to get a bit softer with my hand to help the ball float through the fronts. As a tweener, I can do either one depending on the situation. My hand was feeling a bit raw thanks to not practicing before league season started, so I opted for the softer hand approach. I moved back a couple of boards right with my feet and just let the ball float through the front of the lane. It worked and I strung some strikes until the tenth frame, where an interesting mental lapse happened.
The mental lapse
It happens to everyone. Rather than going up there with a clear head and being focused on your next shot, you’re thinking about something else. Maybe it was the last shot, maybe it’s a problem at work, or maybe you’re thinking about the score or team point. We all do it. The best bowlers do it less than regular folks, but it happens to everyone. It happened to me twice last night, and the tenth frame of game three was truly unique.
Going up in the tenth, my performance didn’t matter whatsoever to the team point or my individual point. These are things that don’t distract me so much as motivate me to stay focused. Without those things on the line, my mind started to wander. I threw a mediocre shot and started laughing when it was a nine-count that never had a chance to be a strike. Where did my mind wander? To this blog. During my pre-shot routine, and even during my approach, if I’m being honest, I was starting to piece together this blog and write out some things in my head. And while this wasn’t the kind of future orientation coaches are talking about when discussing the mental game, I certainly wasn’t in the present moment to execute the best shot possible!
Luckily, as I said, the points were already in hand so I didn’t cost the team anything by going spare with a nine-count fill in the tenth frame, but I did get the chance to chuckle at myself and find another little tidbit to add to the blog.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the night. I definitely felt better with my release, even if I had a few more shots that went off-line compared to the week before. The lanes did not get as squirrelly as I thought they might with the urethane going down the lane, and I only lost a couple of frames missing that transition. The ball change was a good choice in game two, and had I recognized the need to go a bit more right immediately, I’d have probably saved a game closer to 230 than 210. In the last game, I could have thrown a better shot in the tenth, but that doesn’t guarantee that I would have struck either, so I don’t think I gave away too many pins. Blog-writing in my tenth frame notwithstanding, my mental game is currently feeling pretty good.
Last week I said I was reserving the right to evaluate my equipment until I was throwing it better. While still not 100 percent with my game, if last night was any indication, I’m very happy with how my equipment is set up for bowling in this league this year.
Final scores: 224 – 216 – 245