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Phil's Greatest Hits...or, The Bowling Tips Archives

Practice Smart


Let's say you're a competitive bowler who wants to improve. In order to improve, you practice a lot. But do you practice smart? Practicing smart means setting goals, devising a plan to help you reach those goals, then taking action to put that plan in action. I call it The GPA Method. It means you avoid distractions, like your friend who wants to sit down and tell you her sad story of how badly she bowled in league the other night.


It means you practice several times a week, compete when possible, read every bowling publication and online magazine you can find, and always focus, focus, focus on your goals. It means you bowl by yourself, because if you're with someone else you will get distracted. Bowling is fun, but competitive bowling adds another element: work. 


So get to it. It's worth the effort.

Practice with Purpose

"Going bowling with friends" is not the same as "practicing." Not even close.


The first activity—hanging out—is recreation. You want to knock down some pins, of course, but you're at the bowling center mostly to have a good time.


On the other hand, real practice. You want to be a better bowler, right? Then you have to take your bowling seriously.


When you practice, observe two basic rules. First, you absolutely must focus on one - and sometimes two - aspect of your game that needs work.


Your primary focus should be on the dynamic part of bowling: that which involves movement. For example, you may want to work on an earlier pushaway, a higher backswing, or adding a step to your approach. You decide what needs attention, and you work on nothing but that part of your game during practice.


There can also be a secondary component to your practice session: the static aspect. This is a part of your game that occurs before your pushaway and does not involve motion. For example, you may want to experiment with holding the ball higher or lower in your stance, or maybe see what happens when you position your feet differently.


When you practice, you must practice alone. This is important: practice demands focus. If a friend wants to visit with you and tell you all about how many spares he missed in league last night, ask him to hold off sharing such vital information until after you've finished practicing.

"Should I Buy That New Ball?"


Your friend Bob, a 165-average bowler, is excited. He just saw an advertisement for a ball company's latest offering: the "Toxic Red Strike Monster with the All New Toxic Red Coverstock  and All New Toxic Red Asymmetric Core"

The breathless ad goes on to boast of the ball's low RG, high differential, Durometer reading, positive spin axis and flare potential. It is, says the ad, "The Biggest-Hooking and Most Powerful Ball on the Market!!" Not only that, but Bob's favorite bowler was featured in the ad, extolling its virtues. Bob is beside himself, with visions of long strings of strikes and a 200+ average. He can't wait to run down to his local pro shop and order the new sphere. 

Hold on there, Bob. Do you know what you're getting yourself into? Do you even know what flare potential is? An asymmetric core? Positive spin axis? Do you know how these features can affect the performance of the ball? And are you sure you can control "the biggest hooking ball" on the market? 

Bob is fictional, of course, and there's no such thing as a Toxic Red Strike Monster. But the lessons here are real, so protect yourself. The wrong bowling ball can cost you--and not just money; it can lead to drastically lower scores.


Never buy a bowling ball until you've researched how that ball's features could work for you. Go online and educate yourself. Learn all you can about bowling ball terminology, design and construction. If you don't know what cores are, how will you know what core construction can mean to you? If you don't have a clue what an RG is, you can't begin to know how it can influence a ball's performance on the lanes. 

There's something about new bowling balls...we just want to run out and buy every new one that hits the market. But remember a couple of important points. First, a bowling ball is a product, and ball manufacturers are like all other manufacturers: they hype their products. Everything is "the latest and greatest," even if it's just a slightly-modified version of a product they brought on the market a few years ago. Second, modern bowling balls are expensive because they're no longer just the glorified rocks of years past. A couple of paragraphs back I used the word "design" in reference to bowling balls. That's because technology has taken over, with advances in today's equipment governed by chemistry, physics and mathematics. 

None of this is a knock on modern bowling balls. They are amazing. A collection of today's bowling balls is called an "arsenal" for a reason: they knock down more pins than anything the sport has ever seen. The are weapons. That is, if you buy the right ones and know how to use them.

Education. Don't buy a bowling ball without it.

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