As practice started, I was looking forward to a fun night. We were bowling on the same pair where I’d shot 800 a few weeks earlier, and we were bowling against a team that I truly enjoy bowling with.
Getting lined up in practice, I found that the right lane was one board tighter than the left. Single board differences are usually not a question of hitting the pocket or not. Rather, they’re indicated by how the ball enters the pocket. On both lanes, I could get the ball to the pocket standing on the same board, but the right lane was definitely a bit thin, and the ball hadn’t really gotten into its roll before hitting the pins. Standing one board closer to the friction without changing my target downlane created what I thought was a pretty good reaction.
It was just a question of how long it would last…
How’d it go?
Overall, it was a pretty decent night. But it was a story of one good game and two real grinds. It would be easy to look at it as a “bad” night, with the good game coming first and a bit of a disappointing finish. But in these situations, I always use a simple trick to ensure I’m looking at the bright side.
This was the good game. Having gotten lined up in practice, I felt very comfortable and knew the ball was coming off my hand pretty well. I did get a couple of good breaks, but I also stoned a 10 pin on a good shot, so things balance themselves out in the long run. 279 to start the night is always a good way to kick things off.
The grinding part of the night started in the second game. It didn’t feel like that much of a grind until I looked up and had bowled 15 pins under average, but I certainly worked for it. The right lane was starting to tighten up even more, and I made the wrong move for a split in the fifth frame. This is one I wish I could have back, because, in hindsight, it was a move based on something that had worked three weeks ago, not something I was “seeing” tonight. It was a poor choice.
Watching the reaction of another bowler playing a similar line gave me the solution. This bowler spins the ball more than I do, and her reaction improved quite a bit over the course of game two, so it became clearer that I should change hand positions and get around it more. After the split, I simply went back to where I stood in the first game and set my hand up differently in the stance.
A couple of nine-count spares, a split, and some strikes resulted in 214.
The third game was marked by two different issues, which may or may not have been related. With the other team starting well, my team was grinding along to start the game, with the energy starting to dip. Then, in the fourth frame, we had a small delay due to a jam. My first shot after the break was a strike, and I was feeling pretty good about handling it well. But then trouble started.
I left a 10 pin in the sixth frame, which I proceeded to miss. One of my failings when it comes to spare shooting this year is focus, particularly on the 10 pin. I am very confident in that spare, which sometimes makes me rush or not pay attention, and I whiff it. Very frustrating. In the very next frame, I stuck at the line, missed the release, and washed out for a 1/2/10, which I missed.
So here I am, seven frames in, upset with myself for these mistakes in a tight game. I generally don’t advocate doing the math on your triple, but I realized that I needed to strike out for 700. Now, the actual benchmark of 700 doesn’t mean much when your average is 230. By this, I mean that shooting 710 or 690 is basically the same thing, but it gave me some motivation.
“You need to strike out for 700. Your reaction is fine, just throw good shots, and you’ll get there. Keep working, and get off the lanes with a good save.”
It almost worked. I doubled and then left another 10 pin in the tenth. I picked it up for 194 and a 687 series.
Aside from that mental blip in game three and the mistaken adjustment in game two, I’m pretty happy with this night. In the end, it came down to three mistakes, all of which resulted in open frames. That being said, I only bowled about three pins under average, which brings me to my mental trick.
Flip it around
Yes, I finished the night with a subpar game, and I ended up shooting under 700 with a 279 to start the night. It would be really, really easy to be down on myself for how I performed after that first strong game. But what if the games were reversed? What if my last game was 279, and it “saved” the night to the tune of 687? I’d be thrilled. I’d have been very happy to find a line and finish strong. I’d be talking to myself about how hard I worked, how I didn’t give up, and how I pulled out a great game when I needed it.
Same score. Very different mental outlook.
So when I have a series like I did this week, I imagine the opposite scenario. This isn’t to say that I don’t acknowledge my mistakes and think about what I can do to be better next time. It simply makes me realize that the final score is the same as if I’d bowled 279 last, and I’d be much happier with that. Choosing to be positive about the result doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy with it, but it means you don’t beat yourself up about it.
I made three mistakes this week that cost me. There is no way around that. I made a bad move because I tried to take a shortcut and because I’m still not 100 percent sure what my moves are with this new commitment to playing straighter. Every week has been a learning experience, and as I build up this new knowledge bank, I’m more and more confident with what I’m doing. Unfortunately, the cost of building this bank has often been a split over the past few weeks. I’m okay with that.
As far as the missed spare and washout are concerned, I’m still not sure if the lane breakdown delay had something to do with it. I think it would be easy to point to that delay as the cause of my mental errors shortly after, but I’m not so sure. I’d be doing a disservice to myself if I simply chalked it up to that and got mad about being unlucky that it happened. I know I was unfocused for my spare, which has sadly been a bit of a recurring theme for me lately, regardless of any kind of lane breakdown or delay. I also know my game is not as sharp as it used to be, so the occasional timing issue that results in bad balance at the line is not out of the question, especially if I’m still a bit upset with myself for the missed spare.
All of the mistakes came down to focus, I think. While I was pretty “plugged in” most of the night, there are still the occasional blips, and I need to do a better job of being aware of my thought process in these moments. Taking an extra breath before starting my pre-shot routine and making sure I’m confident in my plan for the next shot should help.
- No matter how confident you are on a spare, you still need to be focused on the task at hand.
- Adjustments are always learning experiences, whether they’re right or wrong.
- Reframe performances in a way that can help you stay positive when they don’t go quite as well as you’d like.
Final scores: 279 – 214 – 194