Volume 1, Issue 43
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
My favorite line I hear every time someone gets started on the ball of the week is: "Get a (fill in the ball of this week), it RULES." I can remember conversations from a year ago that went exactly the same way, substituting only the name of the bowling ball. Balls the companies no longer manufacture. The reality is that the balls today ALL hit like trucks. They all seem to go longer and they all hook harder.
What really troubles me is that so few people give any regard to quality coaching. People who have trouble picking up spares (sorry, to offend, but a 150 average says there's a definite problem with spares), are talking about $300 pieces of equipment. When I try to be a voice of reason, I hear "But I don't have money for a lessons." The same people who want to know every detail of the next great ball, and will no doubt find a way to re-mortgage their homes or get their allowances docked until the year 2010, won't invest the time or the money to become better bowlers. That's right, I said invest. Bowling balls have a life span these days, they won't last forever. All the resurfacing, baking, bathing or other tricks won't revive a ball once it has done its duty.
Lessons are different. Fill that brain with knowledge and the experience of someone else's watchful eyes. When there are times that no ball ever invented would help a bowler to overcome the lane condition he or she is experiencing, coaching can get the bowler through. Coaching and lessons vary greatly in price, and there is a coach for every level. For juniors, certified coaching is often free as part of their leagues. Some houses put on simple programs where bowlers pay for the lineage during open bowling, and someone will walk up and down the lanes to work with the them. Coaching from a pro shop professional/certified bowling instructor ranges from $15 to $50 an hour and up. As bowlers move into the day-long clinics and week-long camps the cost goes higher. All but the most expensive camps are no more than the cost of two or three bowling balls.
That's apparently too expensive for some folks who insist on merely using practice as their means of improvement. And I appreciate that practice is important too. A good coach/pro shop professional in my area tells his students during the lesson if they don't practice between lessons they should be prepared to come back and have the same lesson again next week. But for the new or young, improving bowler to believe that practice alone will do it, I'm reminded of the saying that the doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.
I've watched folks "practice" the same mistakes over and over until its ingrained in their game. When they're finally ready to talk to a coach, it will take that much longer to "deprogram" the bad habits. Some of these "self-help" bowlers have boasted that they practice every day. Add up the cost of lineage even at the cheapest rate, and it's expensive. Since most shops have some arrangement with the house in regard to lineage (some coaches give free lineage during lessons), the money they spent just throwing the ball would quickly translate into a few lessons of quality instruction.
The added perk of working with a certified coach/pro shop professional, is that as the bowler improves, when the time comes for a new ball (and it will), the decision can be made by both the bowler and the person who is going to drill it. Often the ball purchase can be packaged with a few lessons so that the arrangement can work out for both sides. That kind of cooperation can only enhance the professional's ability to choose the right equipment and thus help the bowler's performance yet again.
I realize people are busy these days. It's hard to find time to do everything the right way, and not be tempted by the short cuts. Manufacturers sell equipment on the premise that the answer to a bowler's problem is only a bowling ball away. But there are few short cuts in improving bowling performance. Bowlers can get the desired results by a combination of the right equipment, enough practice, and quality instruction. But without the instruction, the road is long. For bowlers who want that short cut, consider investing in yourself as that short cut--invest in lessons.