Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Easiest Way to Be a Better Bowler

There are no big breakthrough secrets about the game of bowling that are going to be revealed here. There are plenty of books, e-books, bloggers and self-proclaimed experts claiming to have esoteric info to share with you for a price.

The simple fact is that sometimes we're so focused on trying to improve at something that we miss the most obvious solutions. There's no mystery to getting better at bowling. The easiest and most readily available way is to hang out with better bowlers and learn from them.

First things first. Are you in a bowling league or do you just casually bowl with friends and family? If you're in the latter group, then your first step is to join a league.

The second step is to keep your mind in the game. Now bowling in a league means lots of idle time between frames while your teammates take their turn on the lane. Some see that as down time to socialize with others.

Nothing wrong with that. One of the attractions of bowling is the social aspect. But if you're making idle chit-chat, sharing gossip, comparing stock market portfolios, discussing business concerns or complaining about your boss, that's not going to improve your average. If, like me, you're in this to be the best that you can be, then you're squandering a valuable resource.

Socialize all you want with your league buddies, but talk about their game rather than their favorite television shows. Talk to the better bowlers about how they test for conditions and other variables.

Do they use the pre-game frames just to limber up or to fine-tune what adjustments are required for optimum results once the competition starts? How do they carry out this testing? You want details so you can benefit from their experience and start conducting your own pre-game testing.

At the same time, pay attention to what's happening around you. If you're finding the lane conditions a little sloppy and are having trouble hitting your average, check out the scoreboard to see who's having the greatest success. These are the people you want to consult.

Offer a compliment or two on how well they're bowling and prod them for info on what adjustments they're making. Are they slowing their ball down or speeding it up? Putting more spin on the ball or taking something off it?

Most leagues have a couple of solid bowlers who love to discuss the minutiae of the game. Find them and get them to chatter away. Make mental notes on what they do to work out of a slump. When they get off to a rough start, what process do they use to get back on track?

Your job is to simply listen and absorb. Use the information and apply it to your own game. Keep what works; discard what doesn't. Once you've taken all you can get from the talkers and they start to repeat themselves (and they will!), move on to the less boisterous bowlers. Ask questions and get them talking. It's more work getting pertinent pointers from them, but it's well worth the effort.

I learned an important lesson last season from one of the best bowlers in our league. You need to let the more laid-back, quiet people know that you truly value their input. Make it clear that you're not the type who resents constructive criticism.

I'm a good 30 pins under where I want to be average-wise. I know the best way to get where I'm going is to take direction from better bowlers. This one night I was having a terrible time, missing all my strikes and spares, making adjustments that weren't helping. I was way below my average and at my wit's end.

Half-way through the third and final game, a high-roller on the competing team saw my frustration and offered a well-intended observation. "I hate to say anything, but all night you've been dropping your shoulder and not following through." I couldn't believe it! It was a total newbie mistake. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and said: "Now you tell me!"

His reply was a real eye-opener. He said he never says anything because he learned to bowl from his dad, who would critique his game and give him pointers. He said it drove him nuts to the point that he almost quit the sport a number of times.

Now I had been bowling in the same league with this fellow for six years or more. I thought we had become pretty good buds, but I had no idea why he never uttered a comment or helpful hint. I figured he saw me as the competition and wanted to keep his edge. Turns out he was being considerate. He thought I'd be insulted.

Since then, he has become my go-to guy when I'm having a bad night. He still doesn't offer advice to anyone else. But I get all the help I need simply because I let him know what a high value I place on anything he can offer.

Life and becoming a better bowler can be so simple sometimes.

Get valuable tips and video lessons from the pros at my Be A Better Bowler blog,

Don Sangster is a 35-year veteran of journalism currently active in Internet marketing and writing. He became a league bowler at the turn of the millennium. He currently has a 25-handicap that he is striving to shed, and is confident that he will achieve "scratch" bowler status someday soon. For information on his Internet marketing activities, visit:

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