Volume 1, Issue 13
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
There's a myth among bowlers that says: "I bowl on a really tough shot, but everyone else bowls on a wall." Translation: while the bowler's average is true, the rest of the world suffers from the delusion of easy conditions. The truth hurts, and no where was the pain more evident than in the recent Youth Masters tournament held in Ohio.
The tournament promised to be the most challenging shot youth bowlers could experience. Apparently miscommunication between the tournament staff and the lane personnel caused the shot to be tougher than "challenging." YABA bowlers, who are quick to say they average 2-teen, 2-twenty, or more at home, should adjust even on a difficult condition. But horror stories included games of 059, 077, and 086. No matter how difficult the lanes were, every bowler experienced the same shot, so no one could say the lanes were unfair.
But considering the whining by some bowlers, the parents' behavior was worse than the bowler's. The tournament promoter related stories of being verbally assaulted by parents who, when faced with the reality that their children are not PBA-quality bowlers (yet), chose to threaten him. Since when did we need to start kicking parents out of bowling events? I thought that was reserved for little league and soccer.
What got lost in all the whining was the $40,000 in scholarships awarded. The winner of the boys event won by getting nine spares in a row, then doubling in the tenth. Rather than sparing their way to a scholarship, some juniors gave up. Their parents promised they'd never return. When did they start to award titles if you are only X pins over? I thought the winner was the person who knocked down the most pins overall, regardless of how many.
The tournament magnified the bowlers weaknesses and it was painful. And really to a certain extent, it's not entirely their fault. It's a three-part cycle. Lane conditions, bowling equipment, and bowlers wanting to average more every year. As as parents and coaches we need to guide them.
Everyone has grown very complacent on soft lanes. Houses that several years ago softened their shots to attract adult leagues, in turn, softened the shots for the juniors to attract full leagues of 230 average wannabes. Unlike when I was a junior where overnight lane personnel were fired for falling asleep instead of dressing lanes, scratch level junior leagues have bolted from a "tough" house to the house where their averages skyrocket.
Yet here's a chance for everyone to stop the viscious circle of easy lane conditions creating less-skilled bowlers. If parents are willing to travel great distances with their children to bowl tournaments, how about investing in their game first? I've heard of "White Dot" leagues for years. And some leagues have split seasons with different oil patterns each quarter (ABC Nationals, World Team Challenge shot, among others). How hard would it be for the house to set up special practice sessions for folks (not just the kids) to practice these shots just for the sake of practice? Maybe a couple of hours during slow open bowling times. I'll never bowl a WTC but I'd like to experience it. For the kids who would like to bowl a WTC someday, it would be worth the $2 a game to know what they'll be shooting on.
The second thing that irks me to no end, is the selling of salvation in a box. We're all guilty of it when we want the "latest and greatest" on the market. But children who average 130 who have several $200 pieces of equipment? What happened to learning the basics? Or hand me downs? Learning to shoot straight at spares? What about spare shooting at all?
Most pro shops dissuade bowlers from buying a ball that's too much "toy" for them, but with the advent of Internet shops, many folks walk in with the ball under their arm, and all the pro shop can do is drill it and shrug. I've had children ask me for a dry lane ball, and when I tell them I'd use a plastic or hard urethane, I'm rebuffed, and told that the old stuff doesn't carry. I've even heard of parents who buy their children the latest and greatest in weights so light that the ball is no longer the same as its heavier brethren.
Finally, let the kids bowl. They learn from example and we need to encourage them when to do well, and support them when they struggle. Reality hurts, but please, don't shoot the messenger. This is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes, and help these kids to really learn to bowl.