Tom Blasco's Expert Bowling Tips
Hot Tips for Senior Bowlers (part 1)09/05/2005 - By Tom Blasco
Been out of the sport of bowling for awhile? Considering participation with friends you haven't seen in a long time, or a group once or twice a week? That's Great!!! You're never too old to bowl and "winning never gets old." Age is not a detriment to being able to bowl, particularly if you can adjust your game to what's happening or what has happened to your body. Like everything that exists in life, the older we get the more difficult some things are to achieve. Bowling can be taken up and enjoyed even at 65 or 70 years of age, and remember, our oldest active league bowler passed away at 106 years young.
So you are back in the sport, which more than 100 years ago held the distinction of being the sport of everyone. Yes, Bowling. The sport of individual achievement and competitiveness, used by some for recreation, gambling, socializing, exercise and a method of stress relief.
You are participating with many other senior citizens throughout the country and are part of the growing influx discovering our sport. For some, bowling will not be viewed as an ideal pastime. Nosiree!! They will participate in the sport with enthusiasm and determination because they have specific goals and enjoy competition. Many of you will realize the therapeutic, physical and psychological benefits. Most will realize the socialize interaction and the CAMARADERIE of our sport.
Seniors as well as younger bowlers are goal-oriented. Realistically we all bowl for the competition - whether it be outward or hidden deep in our minds. Look at yourself on the lanes and don't kid yourself. Out society dictates competitiveness everyday. Recall, if you can, when you were happy with yourself for missing a single pin spare, or fouling, or not being able to throw the big strike for a win? That's your competitiveness. Don't underestimate your desire to bowl well. High average performers reaching senior status may continue to be proficient and are probably still competing in good leagues and tournaments with higher average bowlers. Nonetheless, you are probably no match for the professionals in the scoring column and that's nothing to be ashamed of, settling for an occasional game of 190 or even seeing the 200 barrier. Normally, being able to bowl regularly provides the major source of enjoyment for seniors, not the pursuit of high scores.
We have a tremendous sport, especially if we have or can learn it properly. There's a strong correlation between proficiency and continuing in the game. We know, if we're good at something we want to display our skill. But for most, age can be a bitter pill because of individual pride. If you can accept the situation and realize the everyone tends to loose a little no matter what we are attempting - bowling can be a good part of your life.
The mental aspect of the game could keep a one-time top performer from enjoying bowling with fellow seniors or in a senior's league. Here is where a problem arises. The conventional methods we learned many years ago often don't work for us now with more age. Therefore, these tips are provided for the needs of our senior bowlers, and many apply to other participants of the sport.
- CHOOSE THE PROPER BALL WEIGHT: Most times senior bowl with a ball that is too heavy, usually because they own a ball drilled for them 25 years ago. Young in mind, but physiologically changes have occurred and you must realize, you may have added a pound or two, which changes the size of your fingers, thumb and grip; (Uncle-Arthur) arthritis may be getting in, rheumatism; or injuries incurred over the years are beginning to nag you. Why suffer?
On the other hand, seniors who possess the physiological factors under-estimate their physical strength and go for a ball that is too light. Feels good. Yes, but correct? Not necessarily. A ball which is too light usually causes the swing to be flat uncontrollably, thus creating poor direction, loss of roll and hitting power.
Extreme care should be taken when selecting the proper weight ball. A rule of thumb is, select a ball you can swing comfortably and for three games - a pound could make a big difference and cause you to tire in the third game. Keep track of your scores, if you scores consistently go down in the last game, the ball is controlling you instead of you controlling the ball. Selecting a proper weight ball can achieve wonders and allow you to participate while enjoying your game with friends and neighbors. In addition, if a pound lighter ball picks up your overall ball speed by 1/2 mile per hours, you could in effect still have as much hitting power as the heavier ball.
- PROPER BALL FIT: This is one of the best tools of higher scores and enjoyable bowling. Usually seniors will bowl with house equipment or with balls that were drilled many years ago. In either case, it probably is an improperly fitting ball. Since proper grip is essential and especially important to senior bowlers, make a point to have your grip checked. It's important, because you probably haven't used your equipment in five or ten years or had it checked. Take 10 minutes, visit your local pro shop and check it out, especially since most seniors often lack grip strength.
The most recommended grip for seniors is the conventional grip, as opposed to the semi and finger tip. Another method of improving the strength of your grips is by simply drilling an extra hole or two. It's not unusual and it helps. If all else fails or things aren't working out the best for you, purchase your own ball (new or used) and have it properly fitted.
- USE WRIST SUPPORTS: Again, you're attempting to strengthen your grip. Seniors will quickly discover that they don't have the wrist strength to hold the ball in the proper position through the swing. This usually occurs when first taking up the game, or coming back to bowling after a long layoff. A wrist support can be very effective, too. Try it, you might like it. Also, as an added note, make sure when you have your ball fitted you are wearing your wrist support during the measuring process.
- APPROACHES: Look at your approach. Are you starting on the last row of dots? Are you over striding? Years ago the method probably worked, but now age may not allow you the flexibility you once had. Remember, with the start of every approach over 145 muscles being to move in a coordinated effort to deliver the ball at the pins. It might not be quite as easy to stretch out the way you use to.
- The Five Step Approach: Although it is the extra step approach, it blends very well with most seniors because they are flat swingers (that is, they don't let the back swing get up over the bowling shoulder). This normally causes your swing speed and follow through to be overdeveloped. Changing a three or four step approach to a five step can dramatically improve your game. The extra steps, may also, lend itself to increased swing speed and release impetus.
- The Three Step Approach: If you feel you are a little uncoordinated or have difficulty blending the arm swing and approach, the three step may be useful. Attempt it by taking your stance about 9 or 10 feet from the foul line, hold the ball below the waist. You will start your approach with the left foot, but before you do you MUST initiate a slight upswing (the ball moves forward and up), before the step is taken. This approach reduces the need for coordination and helps the senior with better control.
- One or Two Step Approach: For seniors who have not bowled before, a simple one or two step approach is best for teaching the pendulum swing and release. Coordination for beginning seniors' is normally difficult.
- OVERSWING: As previously addressed, you may not be the spring chicken/rooster you once were. We have a tendency to remember the days of yesteryear on the lanes, not realizing that what worked years ago will not work, today. Why? Because of age, primarily, but also because of new technology in equipment, lanes, teaching theories, etc. This does not mean you can't bowl well. On the contrary. What you must do now is adopt a methodology that does not put a strain on your current physical capabilities. Why try to over swing the ball? Why do you need a back swing over 180 degrees or above your shoulder - especially when it requires more strength and coordination to keep it under control. A senior's physical make-up usually does not meet this requirement. Why not just let the ball swing naturally and let it roll?
- ARCHED BALL PLACEMENT ABOVE THE WAIST: Normally, the act of getting the ball down too soon when placing the ball in motion is a problem that hinders all of us. It not only robs you of coordination but increases your strength requirements. Therefore, you must hold the ball tighter which creates muscle tension and causes poor ball roll, poor releases and early tiring. It robs you of the relaxation you should be enjoying. To ensure you maintain relaxed ball placement, it is advisable to start holding the ball a little above the waistline while placing it into the slight upward arc. Try it, you may find it a tremendous aid and enjoy your bowling, again.
This was part one of a two part article. Part two can be found here.