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Tom Blasco's Expert Bowling Tips

-Interview With College Students

03/03/2006 - By Tom Blasco
      I just finished doing an interview for a college in the midwest. I thought you might be interested to see what's in the minds of our young college students relative to our game/sport. These questions were provided by the writer.

      First of all, bowling is a recreational activity for a majority of the participants. However, for that other percentage it is a sporting activity. The ironic part of this is that both activities drive each other.

      For many years, bowling has had a difficult time justifying it's existence as a legitimate sport or just a recreational activity. The bottom line for this discussion really seems to be which part of the game/sport each individual bowler participates in. For competitive or tournament bowlers it is definitely a sport, for the recreational bowler it is a recreation to be enjoyed by themselves, by family and friends as a night out without the heat of competitive play.

      One stat about bowling most people don't realize, is that, bowling has as much and probably more, to offer its participants in terms of skills to be perfected, knowledge to be applied, and competition to continually test one's prowess (compared to other sports).
  1. Why do some people say bowling isn't a "real" sport?
          An argument for the ages, with the biggest reason most people don't consider bowling a sport, to include the media, is because they really don't understand what it takes to become a pro bowler or tournament player at a highly proficient level. Most take the efforts of bowlers extremely lightly because bowler don't produce a lot of sweat, we don't do the 100 yard dash in 9 seconds flat, we don't dead lift 500 pounds or squat with 450 pounds. Bowlers aren't marathon runners or play 60 minutes of football or run up and down the soccer field or basketball court.
  2. What are some common misconceptions about bowling?
    • Within the industry one of the common misconceptions is that "Anybody can bowl" and this is true if we are talking about someone picking up a ball, standing on the approach and throwing it at the pins 60 feet away. Anybody, regardless of age can do those three simple things. However, somewhere along the way, as an industry, these claims have done an injustice to bowling by providing a false perception of what is required to be a proficient and productive bowler. While this is true to a point, not everyone can do what the pros do. Like golf, bowling is a timing sport where the mechanics are learned through countless repetitions. The weekend golfer and the recreational bowler cannot repeat the required timing movements over and over again under normal conditions never mind tournament play, under the lights and cameras. Bowling, even today, has not been able to identify a bowler as just someone participating in the game of bowling. Nor has bowling been able to identify a classic league, tournament bowler or pro bowler because we are generalized as bowlers. The fact is that there we are all bowlers participating in the game of bowling and than there are BOWLER'S participating in the game and sport of bowling. Two very different breeds of bowlers participating in a great sport.
    • Hooking the ball is what makes the game. A majority of bowlers (league) and maybe a little better than league bowlers think because if they can hook the ball they will become great bowlers. Most don't realize or want to realize that you must learn to control all this hook that you want to use and possess.
    • Bowlers don't prepare themselves for the competition for which they are going to become involved in.
    • Bowling has missed out in many respects because we don't have a lot of our participants decide to "take up" the game/sport.
  3. What are some benefits of bowling?
    It really depends on what level of bowling you are participating in:
    • Bowling is fun done recreationally or seriously.
    • Dr. Jeff Briggs, PhD of Briggs Consulting in South Carolina says, "Those that take the game more seriously will become involved in specific training programs to become better bowlers. They realize, that playing at an optimal level requires more than physical skills and know the following:
      • a healthier bowler can withstand greater amount of stress.
      • a healthy, fit body can more readily supply energy to the brain.
      • a physically fit bowler helps delay the onset of fatigue and prolongs his energy levels.
      • a conditioned bowler can recover quicker from injury.
      • a conditioned bowler can boost energy storage.
      • an athlete who trains augments society's perception of the sport.
      • a conditioned bowler increases their longevity in the sport.
    • Dr. Charles Martin, PhD of Wichita State University provides the following information. "Bowlers bowl for many reasons. None of them are necessarily more appropriate or better justified than the others. In fact, most bowlers bowl for a combination of reasons. Here are some of the reasons that surveyed bowlers most frequently cited:
      • To be challenged.
      • To be good at something.
      • To be part of a team, club or group.
      • To compete - with themselves or against another individual or team.
      • To get exercise.
      • To get out of the house or just to break the normal routine.
      • To make new friends.
      • To relax and have fun
      • To socialize with friends.
      • To spend time with friends and family.
      • To receive accolades, win money, prizes or awards.
      • In addition, he says, "all of us have, and attempt to satisfy, three general categories of motivational needs: achievement needs, affiliation needs and power needs."
      • Achievement Needs: People need to be challenged, to be successful, to learn and to develop skills. Bowlers high in achievement needs like to win. These are the ones really involved in all aspects of the game/sport.
      • Affiliation Needs: People with these needs like to meet other people, be with other people, socialize, develop and strengthen harmonious friendships, and be liked. These are the ones that enjoy bowling - or doing almost anything else - with other people.
      • Power Needs: People with these needs drive us to direct or influence others, to lead and to participate in decision-making. These are the ones that may be guilty of telling others or their teammates what to do from time to time, and they may be a little overbearing during these attempts to control or influence others."
    • Contrary to popular belief bowling does burn up calories while participating. Self Magazine published an article a few years ago showing that bowling burned up 270-300 calories an hour.
    • Bowling is an excellent method for exercising your brain cells.
    • Bowling provides an opportunity to develop some muscle tone and utilization of hand to eye coordination.
  4. Looking at the female and male side of our game, we look at:
    • The females can use bowling as an outlet to break the normal routine of classes and study or the regular housekeeping chores of campus life. While not strenuous, bowling allows a chance to firm and tone muscles helping to stay slim and trim. They use it as a means and place to meet new people, hang with girl friends and greet friends. It can also be used as an activity for clubs and groups to meet and stay together.
    • The males on the other hand will bowl for many of the same reasons, but the key is competition and personal achievement. Men look for a change of pace, to keep in shape and feel better. Many men that continue to bowl do so because they have developed individual skills that makes them proud of themselves. That pride of accomplishment keeps their interest alive.
    • Both genders also realize that in league or club bowling it keeps the group active and is inexpensive. It is extremely flexible, so it can be done almost anytime of day or evening. The club atmosphere can provide the opportunity for competition and is a great fund raiser. They also realize that you enjoy the game more when you can improve your overall ability to play the game. Both, also realize that the game gives them more fun per their entertainment dollar than anything else around. Also, they realize accessibility is another great reason for people to bowl - because you can go to any area in the country or the world and not know one person, but by just going to your local bowling center you can make and meet all sorts of new friends.
  5. What do you enjoy most about bowling?
    Personally, the competition. The numerous challenges the game offers as you become more skilled at what you do. The companionship of my fellow players. The socialability factor of being allowed to play the game with players of all skills.
  6. What does it take to be a good player?
          An understanding of ones self and the skills of the sport; physical, mentally and emotionally. The development of the skills necessary to be proficient requires effort and many hours and years of practice, practice, and practice. The greater a bowler's determination to excel, the more difficult the game becomes and the greater the amount of knowledge that will be required to become effective, productive and proficient at learning the different aspects and elements of the game/sport.

          One point needs to be made. There is no substitute for practice. NOTHING repeat, NOTHING is going to make a player's game better unless he/she goes out there and work for it. Most people, media included, don't realize the many hours of commitment, practice and conditioning (physically and mentally) that a player invests before appearing in actual competition or on a TV show. There are years of dedication and sweat that go into getting that player to the top level of his or her sport. Most of the top professional bowlers practice to keep on top of their game, honing their skills and mastering the intricacies of equipment, conditions, and hand techniques. These top competitive player's require an orchestration of precise physical movements and they realize it and how important it is to their production.
  7. What are some reasons for bowling popularity?
    • Because everyone from 8 to 80 can do it, however, excelling at the sport is an achievement of only the very few who through love of the game, work, understanding, application and dedication to master all of its diverse and complex skills.
    • Its simplicity.
  8. What are some tips for beginning bowlers?
    • I'll give you a simple outline just to be a beginning bowler without getting into any of the advanced elements of the game/sport.
      1. Be properly dressed
      2. Select the proper weight ball
      3. Ensure your rental shoes or your shoes fit properly
      4. Understand a little bit about the game and the playing environment
      5. Know that there is an etiquette to the game, take time to learn it and don't be offended if someone says something to you about it
    • Beginning bowlers should remember to keep it simple (basic). Pick up the ball with two hands on the side of the ball, insert your fingers (middle two) up to the second joint and your thumb into the ball. Take your position on the approach with your left foot (if you are a right handed bowler) somewhere between the center dot and the one immediately to its left (reverse for a left hander). Most beginning bowlers should start with a four step delivery around or just behind the second row of dots about 12 foot on the approach.
      Let's start here:
      • Proper Stance - Starting Position (athletic position).
        1. Hips and shoulders squared with the target - not at an angle.
        2. Feet. Left foot forward if you are right handed, right foot back, feet straight and slightly separated.
        3. Knees: Slightly bent a little to prevent stiffening up. Helps to relax.
        4. Body: Three positions:
          1. Body upright, flex knees, feel heels, ball chest high and push away is out and down.
          2. Leaning forward from the waist, ball at waist level and push away is straight forward or level.
          3. Bending from waist - ball at thigh level - push ball upward and out.
          Note: In all positions the ball is just to the right of center on the body with most of the ball weight on the left hand.
      • Push away (Ball Placement Position) The push away is the trigger that starts the footwork. This is especially important in the four-step delivery, in order to properly coordinate the movement of the ball and feet. The length of the push away is approximately the length of the first step.
      • Footwork: Most beginners are taught the four-step delivery because this delivery of more rhythmic and coordinated.
      • Arm Swing: Where the arm goes the ball goes.
        1. Rules:
          1. Arm swing is like a clock pendulum,
          2. The ball and arm stay close to the body and keep the elbows close to the body,
          3. the right shoulder is the pivot base of the pendulum and keep the shoulders squared to the target.
        2. Back swing: The back swing should be at least past the body but no higher than the shoulder. If the ball is not swung back far enough strain is placed on the arm and shoulder in forcing the ball. If the ball is swung too high the momentum of the forward swing can throw the youngster off balance.
        3. Follow Through: a. Reach for your target (arm at eye level).
      • Timing: The ability to coordinate your footwork and arm swing, so that on your last step your left foot and your right arm with the ball, are both coming forward at the same time, or as close to it as possible. You might look for a cadence count of 1, 2, 3, slide or try; Push it.Out, down, Back and Roll. Good balance at the foul line indicates good timing. If you are off balance, or hop at the foul line, check your timing.
      • Finishing at the Foul Line: An excellent definition of a good finishing position is: Your whole body is pointed as an arrow to the target. The perfect finish at the foul line is as follows:
        1. Left foot pointed toward target.
        2. Hips and shoulders squared to target.
        3. Left knee bent.
        4. Body bent forward from the waist.
        5. Right leg is in back of you, not necessarily straight in back. Toe may or may not be on the approach.
        6. Right arm reaches toward target.
        7. Left toe 2" to 6" behind foul line.
        8. Left arm extending as a balancing agent.
      • Release of the Ball: Release the thumb grip of the bowling ball at your ankle and do not release the ball off your fingers until after it has passed your left foot at the foul line, then release it as smoothly as possible on the lane anywhere from 6" to 18" past the foul line. Many beginners have the habit of releasing the ball on the foul line or on the approach.
    • Developing a Hook. Even as a beginner learn to develop a hook ball as soon as you are comfortable on the approach with your delivery. There are a number of ways to deliver a hook ball. A few of them follow:
      1. Natural. Thumb is at 9 o'clock. Thumb and fingers parallel. Start and finish with your hand in the same position -- hand shaking position -- and reach for the target. The thumb hole must be comfortably loose, and finger holes slightly snug.
      2. Straight Lift. Thumb at approximately 11 o'clock. Hand slightly under the ball. The hand remains at 11 o'clock all the way through with lifting action off the fingers. The release must be as smooth as possible. (Check to see that the thumb is not to the right of the 12 o'clock position at finish -- this is where the backup ball develops).
      3. Turn and lift. Thumb at 11 o'clock position until the ball passes the left foot on the forward swing, then the thumb is turned down smoothly toward 6 o'clock and the ball is lifted. No turning of the ball until the ball passes the left foot.
    • Learn how to Spare Bowl: There are three phases of spare shooting; two of them are Angles, and Key Pin.
    • What do you look at when bowling:
      1. Pin bowling. Make sure you look at the correct pin.
      2. Spot bowling. The recommended way. Pick a spot between the second or third arrow between foul line and pins.
    • Two secrets of good bowling:
      1. Control: Control of feet, body, arm swing, finishing position, follow through and temper.
      2. Consistency: The ability to do the same thing over and over. Experience cannot be taught. Confidence cannot be taught, but can be built up.
  9. Why is bowling a good activity for college students?
    • Socialability, a good form of relaxation if maintained as a recreation.
  10. What are some interesting facts about bowling.
    • Number of bowlers in the USA (annually): 69 million
    • Number of bowlers worldwide (annually): 100,000,000 (approx 10 million are competitive)
    • Number of games bowled each day around the globe: 7 million
    • Number of youth bowlers (17 and under): 22 million
    • Number of bowling centers worldwide: 12,000
    • Number of countries where there is competitive bowling: 105
    • Bowling's rank s other recreational sports: 1st
    • Economic impact of bowling in the USA: $10 billion
    • Number of states with varsity or club bowling team in high schools: 39
    • Average cost for a family of four to go bowling: $45-50
Tom Blasco


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