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Tom Blasco's Expert Bowling Tips

-Mental Bowling

2/19/2000 - By Tom Blasco
      We constantly hear as players about the mental part of the game. USA Bowling has devoted pages of material and data on preparing Team USA mentally to compete Internationally. Dick Ritgers Bowling Academy has devoted large segments of its material on preparing the athlete mentally to compete. I personally have devoted hours, months and years and even printing volumes of material dedicated to the mentality of play. So much so, that someday I hope to publish a book about it and it has lead to my returning to school to enhance by education in sports psychology. so without writing a term paper or a paperback book, let's look at a simple form of Psychology of Play.

The Psychology of Play

      What is your Psychology of Play? Is it grip it and rip it? Is it terrorize your opponent and the pins? Is it coast to coast every time - regardless? Or, is it stay in the pocket, maintain a routine, minimize panic syndrome, remain focused to the task at hand and stay the course with the skills I've learned?

      A thoughtful approach to your psychology of play. Every player has some sort of game plan (mentality) - beginner and pro alike. Beginners may have an approach just to do the best they can at a given moment because they are playing with friends, better players or typing to impress their girlfriend.

      Good players, on the other hand, develop a game plan for practice that takes what they've learned into league, tournament and tour play. Good players create scenarios, they create situations, they create the event or circumstance while they are practicing. The learned their natural tendencies and what their respond would be to a particular situation, make their physical or internal adjustments and let it go.

Good players are always attempting to:

  • repeat shots, especially great shots. They know repetition is not thinking about a physical movement but attempting to create a feeling of the great shot.

  • repeat good thought processes, especially emphasizing the elimination of negative feedback or vibes.

  • maintain their focus and concentration to the task at hand, thereby minimizing distractions.

  • hit the pocket and not be extremely critical on a fortunate carry (strike).

  • use the skills they learn to their advantage and not criticizing themselves if it doesn't always work.

      The Psychology of Play could be an endless list of affirmatives. The whole point behind it is for the player to have a designated game plan between their ears. You don't have to brag about it or tell all your friends about it, just have it and use it to be a successful player and champion.

-Bowling In A Nutshell

??/??/???? - By Tom Blasco
      The sport of bowling is both a physical and mental endeavor. The following techniques are provided to help develop new skill(s) that will stay with you the rest of your life; a sense of consistency and direction providing you take the time to practice and let these new skills become part of your game.

CAUTION: If you try some of these techniques, they will initially make you feel different with your bowling ball. This is a normal reaction. If you are attempting to become a better bowler or educator, go with the flow. If you are bowling just for the sake of bowling and the proposed techniques don't fit your game, try to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible with your current game and adopt some of the other techniques.

  1. Preshot Preparation: Always be ready to bowl. Don't let your fellow teammates have to find you and get you back to the bowler's circle. This is extremely important in developing a rhythm amongst your teammates which contributes to better scores. Also, know what you are going to do before you step up on the approach to take your stance. This is not the place for thinking; your concentration and focus should be on your target and your ability to roll the ball at and over your target.

      Hot Tip: Look at your target, but Don't aim at it.

  2. Take Your Stance: When you take your stance, ensure you stand in the same place on each strike shot, be at your point of origin. This will help you determine whether the ball is or is not hooking, so you can make an adjustment, if necessary.

      Hot Tip: Follow the ball - if the ball stays right, move your feet right; if the ball hooks left, move your feet left. A left hander would do the opposite. Next, ensure you place your fingers in the ball in the correct manner each time (up to second joint for conventional; up to first joint for fingertip), always fingers first with a slight amount of finger pressure as you grip. Place your thumb in the ball, all the way, and let the ball be placed into your comfortable starting position. Establish a firm wrist position, with minimal bend or flex forward or backwards. Ensure that part of the ball weight is absorbed in your opposite hand, this will help relax your bowling arm and allow you to develop a good ball placement position and free swing. Now, take your body weight and distribute it across the bottom of your feet, with most of the weight on your non-starting foot. Once in this position, two things should be accomplished. One, ensure the ball is lined up with or just inside your bowling shoulder fairly close to your body. Two, ensure your bowling elbow is tucked into your side or resting on your hip. You should now be ready to deliver your shot and begin your approach.

  3. Ball Placement: From your relaxed position you should start the ball and step toward your intended target. This is called the push away, ball movement, ball placement or disengagement position. Do Not, I repeat, Do Not use a death grip (grip the ball tight) in this motion. Use only enough grip to get the ball into swing and back. Allow your grip and swing to be as free as possible. Move the ball, out, down, back and forward (toward the foul line) in as straight a line as possible.

  4. Body Position: Once you start the ball moving, allow the ball to swing as freely as possible and minimize the amount of muscle you use. Remember your relaxed grip. Try to keep your upper body (waist to head) fairly erect and your lower body (waist down) relaxed and flexible. Allow you knees to bend as you approach the foul line, making you ready for the release position.

  5. Release Position: Allow your body to arrive at the foul line with good knee bend on your slide foot, back fairly erect and your swing headed for your target. Let your thumb release the ball as quickly as possible, on the apex of your swing (the very bottom), and follow through to your target with the remainder of your arm swing. Always try to follow through to your target. You'll be surprised what it will do for you.

  6. Get Ready for Your Next Shot: Now that you have completed your first frame, get yourself ready for the next shot. Stay involved in the match, cheer on your teammates, give a high five or whatever. You'll see the bowler in front of you has just completed their first shot, now take a few seconds to go over what you are going to do - mentally review you shot. Yes, mentally visualize your shot and what you are going to do. One important part of the mental game is not to let your conscious mind get involved or beat yourself up if you throw a bad shot; I can't; I should have done; if I did; doesn't fit in this game. Keep the negatives out. Be as positive as you can be, even if you did only one thing right. Make each shot as positive as possible, have confidence in your ability and yourself and have fun. Now, pick up your ball, take your position on the approach, take a deep breath through your nose, exhale through your mouth, use relaxed concentration to see your target and take off.

-The Eyes Have It

??/??/???? - By Tom Blasco
      As a teacher of the game I'm constantly asked, "what makes a good bowling instructor/coach" or "teacher of the game"? Besides playing alot of different roles in professions with shingles on their walls, good instructors/coaches, in my opinion, must possess three critical attributes to be successful.

      First, they must possess a good understanding of the game and how it is played in all of it's environments.

      Second, they must have a sound anatomical structure of a bowler in their minds, whether it be a cranker, tweener, or stroker.

      Third, they must have a good eye.

      For many years and still today, great instructors/coaches do not necessarily have to be great bowlers. This should not detract from the individual's abilities because they possess the attributes described, with the eye becoming the most important. As a matter of fact, some of the best bowlers have made terrible instructors/coaches.

      How many times have you seen or been around educated players or tour representatives, that know a players game, and listen to him provide direction or instruction. He tells the player to move here or move there, to do this or that, change balls, or play out on this pair instead of in, and the player takes off. There's alot to be said for this. They can see something going on the player can't see or can't read.

      Because bowlers operate in a 40" x 15 1/2 foot rectangle, they sometimes become not just closed minded but closed sighted. Yes, the player can't see or lose their feel, they create their own form of tough mindlessness or tunnel vision. Part of it is created by bad play, anxiety and the famous "panic syndrome". Generally speaking, when a player is in the heat of competition their focus is to the task at hand - hit the pocket, don't lose the pocket, keep the ball in play. The players concentration becomes so intense they begin to deliver the ball just a little hard than normal, their speed sometimes increase, or they lose sight of the ball rotation and the breakpoint. Thus, while the player is generally attempting to relate to feelings he has created over years of doing and practice and making the proper decision about what he is doing at that time, the player some becomes distracted by his own mixture of play. What the player sometimes forgets is the other set of eyes.

      The other set of eyes could be just about anyone; coach, friend, wife, bowling buddy and even bowling competitor. That set of eyes, after watching the player game after game, year after year may have the key to what ails you - only because they have a totally different perceptive of play. The extra set of eyes has a bigger view of what is going on with the player and even the lanes, Just a casual comment from the outside perceptive can work wonders by allowing the player to get back on track and provides an added insurance policy when all is not going well. A certain air of confidence and trust can be developed, in the extra eyes, and generally will reveal how closed sighted we become as players. Give yourself the opportunity to expand your horizons by a simple comment or gesture. Know that we as players can't always see and read everything that is going on around us. Just the simple confirmation from your other set of eyes can put you back on track quickly and back into competition.

      And, you might ask what do I do without a set of eyes? You do as I tell my students and bowlers, jump back out of your skin and look at you the bowler. Yes, you physically have to take the time to step back and analyze what you are doing, seeing and thinking. First, you RECOGNIZE the problem, ANALYZE what you are going to do, PROCESS the data in your computer (mind), than MATERIALIZE, let it go. You have to become separate from the person throwing the ball. Than get yourself relaxed, settled down, re-focused, develop a plan, and go for it. Trust me it can't be any worst than you are already doing.

      If you don't think this to be true, just think of the ball reps on the tour, a friend or fellow bowler that by virtue of a suggestion or comment has put your adversary back in their game and allowed them to perform successfully.

-Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

??/??/???? - By Tom Blasco
      This past week I had a student (Senior National Tour) - pretty good player. Averaged 230/237 last year, around 217 on tour. Overall game is pretty sound. Good arm swing, great upper body, timing motion pretty good, release is very consistent. In adition, this student had a really good skills package and a good mental game. He could adjust speeds, play different parts of the lane, had three or four releases that were quite functional, could walk dead straight, walk left and walk right, use open and closed shoulders very effectively -- a pretty sound student.

      So I asked him, after watching him play, what he thought was his problem. His reply, "I'm not happy with my feet" and went on to explain different feelings he would have while playing. How his feet would be great for a while than all of a sudden they would be short, or he would lose the feeling of his timing and periodically couldn't finish solid at the foul line. He admitted to me this was an on-going problem that creep back into his game time and time again. He also realized he would have to work himself through the errors and do the best he can until he could get another set of eyes. I though to myself, he's a pretty successful player and he's been able to work around his inconsistencies - not bad.

      He's a five step player, so I began to watch the movement of his feet and left everything else alone. We only concentrated on his feet and the movement of the ball into the second step. After observing 10-15 shots I noticed the length of his first step changed, by inches, one time he stepped out another time he slide the step out, totally unknowingly, and it did change the movement of the ball into the second step. Hence, a small but critical part of this individual's timing mechanism.

      Since timing is so critical to this individual's play and he was looking for more sound footing and a solid release position we had to come up with a method for this player to achieve a feeling of comfort and a sense of success.

      Remember, I said, this is a pretty good player. Early in his demonstation of his skills' package he showed me a method he uses to soften up his overall movement and game when the lanes are very wet or he wants to open up the lane late at night. I was really impressed with this capability. His feet were solid and he rarely missed the finishing position. But during this movement, I noticed he had a shorter sliding first step with a very easy and relaxed ball placement into the second step. So again, I reviewed his normal set-up, what he described as his "A" game and it was obvious the first step became the key. He was heel toeing it with length on one shot, heel toe shorter on another, etc., etc., consistency was definitely not there.

      So what I introduced was using his method to soften up as part of his "A" game approach. Needless to say, once he was able to repeat the movement the results were outstanding. Consistency of movement resulted in an extra 1/2 mile hour ball speed, playing angles become more useable, hitting power and carry power increased, confidence grew to another degree. End result, better starting movement, more sound feet and a better finishing position and a player with a new mindset to achieving his goals.

      Now we will have to wait and see what rewards are reaped by this player.

      Moral of this story is -- even the best player's are always looking for ways to improve their game. They are always looking for the edge to make them more competitive, better trained, and more successful. So you can teach old dogs new tricks.

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