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Robert Knight's Expert Bowling Tips

Playing Out Of Your Comfort Zone

      Practice. You would have thought, that as a coach, I should know the meaning of the word "off" by heart. Well, up until the beginning of November this year I thought I did too, when I discovered there was one type of practice I had been neglecting--that of practising playing somewhere on the lane that I'm not used to playing.

      Whenever you watch the pros on TV isn't it amazing just how comfortable most of them seem to be, playing pretty much anywhere on the lane? Walter Ray Williams, Jr., is the prime example. If you ever go to a PBA Tour stop and watch him bowl, he seems to be able to play anywhere from 1st arrow all the way inside to 6th (and beyond if necessary), and this is one of the reasons he has been so successful over the years. He has the ability to play straight down the boards or swing it from the inside with the best of them. Obviously, on the telecast, he his playing his "A" game, down the boards, but that won't be the only shot he's been playing all week.

      Anyway, back to November, and practice. November was my downfall due to the Festival of Bowling in Reno. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time, but my bowling was awful. It took me all three sets before I could honestly hold my head up and say I bowled well (and even that wasn't great). The reason for this was the line I had to play on the lanes. I am, by nature, a cranker of the ball. Over in England, where I live, I am very used to playing left of 4th arrow in both leagues and tournaments. Reno, however, was very different indeed. Not only did I manage to bring the wrong equipment with me all the way over from England, but in the US, the lanes are oiled much differently, which requires a different approach to the game. Firstly, you will often need more reactive equipment than over in England, due to the heavier oiling of the lanes. Also, there is more of the lane available for play, due to the higher standards of lane maintenance. It is not uncommon to have to "loft" the ball down the lane to clear to heads, which are often in a bad state of repair. In Reno, I had to play straight down 2nd arrow which compared to what I'm used to is anything but my "A" game. As a result of this I suffered (albeit not as bad as some of my teammates, and I even managed to beat George Freeman on a couple of games, but that aside, I did not do as well as I should have done.)

      As a result of this, the lesson I learned is that next time I go out to practice, I should try something different. Not just learning to spare consistently (which was the only saviour in my whole 9 games), but also to try bowling different lines on the lane - somewhere "out of my comfort zone." If you're naturally a stroker of the ball, try playing deeper inside (say 4th of 5th arrow), and still making the pocket. It may require a more reactive ball, or adjusting your release a little, but it can be done. Likewise, if you're a cranker of the ball, try playing 2nd arrow sometimes. It may require the use of a plastic ball, or of trying to cut down on the hook you generate, but again it can be done.

      Practising playing areas on the lane you're not used to will stand you in good stead next time you come up against a "new" condition. The condition in Reno was anything but a cranker's paradise. Those people scoring the most consistently (especially the guy who shot a 289 game on our Team squad) were playing fairly straight down the boards.

      Trust me, who knows when it might come in useful the next time your up against a condition you're not familiar with, and have brought the wrong ball (or three) with you.

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