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Coaches' Corner SUSIE MINSHEW
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Articles Mini Bowling Tips Part 2
Here are some gems I have gleaned from coaching, being coached, bowling, and my wonderful clients.

> You will not ever be able to release the ball in a consistent and effective manner if it doesn't fit. Bowling is not supposed to hurt. A ball properly fitted to your hand will not cause injury. If you only bowl once a week, you might not notice that your fit is incorrect. But what happens once a year when you go to the state or city tournament and you bowl six games in a day? If your hand, fingers, or shoulders are sore, get your fit checked by an IBPSIA Certified Pro Shop Technician. An improperly fitted ball can cause severe injury to your fingers, elbow, wrist and/or shoulders.

Remember that the ball is supposed to swing your arm. Your arm does not swing the ball. If your ball doesn't fit right, you tend to squeeze it so you don't drop it or to muscle the ball instead of allowing it to free-fall into your swing. These compensations for a bad fit can cause shoulder problems and prevent a consistent execution of the shot. There can be pain on the inside of the elbow or the outside of the elbow or down the forearm or in the wrist. This is both frustrating and painful and it doesn't have to be that way if the ball fits your hand like it should. Don't take chances with your health. That's a no kidding statement. These injuries can affect your ability to turn doorknobs or pick up coffee cups. It is a bowling injury that can affect your whole life.

> Bowling etiquette is important to your enjoyment of the sport as well as others enjoyment. Don't ever put your hand in another person's ball. The feel of the bowling ball on the hand is a very personal thing as well as part of great execution. You wouldn't want someone who uses rosin or slick powder to put his or her hand in your ball and leave a residue.

> If it's not your towel, don't touch it. No telling what's on it that could get on your hand.

> When your ball comes back, don't reach to get it until the folks on either side of you have started their approach. They can see that movement peripherally and it can be very distracting.

> When someone on either side of you is ready to begin their approach, don't rerack. Wait until they have delivered their shot to press the reset button. The pins being reset are in their line of vision.

> Put your hand in your ball to make sure it fits today. Some people swell as they bowl and some shrink. There is never a reason to make bad shots thinking that as soon as you swell up your thumb will fit and everything will be wonderful. You've gotten a bad read off those shots and wasted your effort. Tape is much much cheaper than playing the wrong shot. If it's cold outside, your thumb is probably small and you might need to add tape until it swells. If it's hot and humid, your thumb might be big today. Remember that your thumb size can change but your thumbhole cannot. The size of the thumbhole is easily regulated with tape. Since we can never afford to give shots away and normally your opponent is not going to wait for you to figure it out, it seems a good plan to put a piece of tape in, make good shots, get a good read, then if you swell, take the tape out.

Another important loosen up technique is to put your hand all the way in the ball and swing it back and forth three or four times. Your thumb feels one way in a ball not in motion and entirely another in the swing. Don't let the first time your shoulder feels the weight of the ball to be when you mean it. Your first shot should be about speed. By about the 5th or 6th shot you should be up to full speed. No athlete in any sport starts out at full speed. That's what warming up is all about, gradually allowing your body to get into the athletics of your sport. (I've often thought I could have a lucrative part-time job throwing everyone's first three shots.)

> Put your fingers into the ball first and then your thumb. Putting your thumb in first will usually have you feeling like the ball was drilled for someone else! Super tip - Works well for straightening the ball out for your spare shots.

> Bowling is a sport. You are an athlete involved in this sport even if you only do it recreationally. Proper stretching and warming up before you bowl will help prevent injury. There a few stretches you can do before you ever throw your first ball that will help prevent injury.

   >> Grab your right ankle with your right hand and pull your foot up behind you until you touch your hip. Now do the same with your left hand and your left ankle. In addition to this, some people also stretch differently by grabbing the right ankle with the left hand and the left ankle with the right hand.

   >> Hold on to a seat or table if you need to and stretch your right leg out behind you keeping your heel on the floor to stretch your hamstring. Don't bounce and don't try and stretch until you hurt. Just feel it pull slightly. Repeat with your other leg.

   >> Before you put your wrist brace on, stretch your arm out in front of you and pull your fingers back keeping your wrist and elbow straight. Also pull the hand down with your wrist and elbow straight. This stretches the tendons you'll be using in bowling and helps loosen them up as well as stretching the wrist.

   >> Put your right hand on your left elbow and push your bent elbow up by your head. Move your upper arm across your throat and push gently on the elbow toward your back. Repeat with other arm. This will loosen up your shoulder muscles.

These few stretches take about 30 seconds and can really help prevent injury. Check with your doctor before you do any stretching exercises, even these simple ones.

> I see this constantly and wish I didn't see it at all, ever. It causes so many problems - poor roll, squeezing the ball, killing the shot, dropping the ball, no backswing, grunting at the foul line, etc. Unless you are making a rather sophisticated adjustment, you should always put your thumb completely in the ball. Sometimes people are afraid of sticking in the ball and don't put their thumb all the way in. Your hand was measured by your pro shop professional and your span gauged with your thumb all the way in. If you don't put it all the way in, you won't be able to free swing the ball, will have to control it, and the pins always know when your armswing is tight. I understand that a very common reason for not putting the thumb all the way in the ball is that you can't because you are so stretched. That's another article...

> The ball should contact the lane as though it were an airplane landing. Cramming the ball INTO the lane instead of laying it ONTO the lane creates a very poor and inconsistent roll besides causing lane damage. That's why knee bend is so important. You've got to get your body into a position to lay the ball down. The more upright you are, the higher the position of the ball for delivery. Banging the ball on the lane is loud, embarrassing, and kills the roll. Other than that, it's a good idea.

> Make sure your stance is comfortable and will allow you the easiest position from which to start your approach. A comfortable athletic stance includes the knees flexed 4" or so, the spine tilted slightly forward by moving the hips back, and the ball held close to the body with your bowling arm never outside of your bowling shoulder.

> There is a big difference between being in control and being in charge. If you alphabetize your canned goods, you're probably an over-controller. We've all had bosses who were controllers. You felt like no matter what you did the scrutiny would be ominous. You tried to be perfect in everything you did. You checked and rechecked your work to avoid being wrong and you were always uptight when your work was being reviewed.

If you've ever had a boss who was in charge, you know the difference. Your creative juices would flow, your work output was greater, the quality of your work superior. When the boss reviewed it, the suggestions for improvement, if any, were just that - suggestions, not criticisms. In bowling, if you are controlling, you are uptight and your efforts will fail. You try too hard to be perfect, to look great, to hit your target exactly. And it never works! But, if you are in charge, your approach flows, your swing is free and natural, and your accuracy incredible. Be in charge, not in control!

> Tucking the pinky of your bowling hand to the first knuckle can cause the ball to hook a little more. When you first try this, it might feel as if you're going to drop the ball. Keep after it. You'll learn to do it and find that it gives you an alternative ball reaction. You might want to wear an adhesive bandage across that knuckle for a while as a callous might develop. Keep in mind this is an adjustment. If your ball is hooking too much or too soon, untuck! You also might want to untuck it on your spare shots.

One caution here about tucking the pinky. With some people, tucking the pinky can put strain on the ring finger. If you try this and notice your ring finger beginning to hurt, either have your pro shop professional shorten the ring finger span very slightly (for instance, by 16ths until the pain stops) or stop tucking. The added hook potential is not worth an injury.

> Opening and closing your shoulder can indeed generate more speed but it certainly can cause some unique problems and complications to your game as well. If you don't get it closed in time, the ball is late in the swing. If you close it too early, you'll pull the ball. It's much easier to just have a 'free' swing and one less thing to worry about in your timing mechanisms.

> To help keep your wrist firm, try pressing the tip of the index finger of your bowling hand hard against the ball. This will keep your wrist firm without tightening up your whole arm.

> Your non-bowling arm is almost as important as your bowling one. It helps provide balance. Your non-bowling hand and arm come off the ball at the end of the push off and should go out to the side of your body to help offset the extra weight you have on the bowling side of your body. If you don't get that arm out to the side for balance, you'll tend to fall off the shot. Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Walter Ray Williams, and many others have their non-bowling arm about 90 to their back and the bowling shoulder forward at the delivery. This is a very powerful delivery platform. See the chapter on Follow Through for a more in depth explanation of this method.

Another very important component of the non-bowling arm is the position of the thumb. If your thumb is up at delivery, there could be a tendency to roll the shoulder forward. It is usually more effective to have the thumb down. Check which one you do and then try it the other way. You will find turning the thumb up or down can give you some options you didn't know you had!

> If you want to get the ball into an earlier roll than normal, target the dots, which are 7' out on the lane rather than the arrows. The first time you try this you might feel like these dots are right in your face by the time you get to the foul line. They're not, of course, but it is how you feel. Be careful not to allow your head and torso to go down when learning to look at the dots. Your head and shoulders must still say up.

Some people have success learning this by pretending they are looking at their target through the bottom of their glasses (regardless of whether you wear any or not although it doesn't work very well if you wear bifocals!) or that they have a glass of water on their head they cannot spill.

To get more comfortable looking at the dots, try looking a foot or so in front (closer to you) of the arrows for a few shots. Then go two more feet and two more feet until you are comfortable looking at the dots. Although these dots are not on the same boards as the arrows, they are still great targeting aids and are generally used when you need to get the ball rolling earlier or when you need to decrease the distance you put the ball out onto the lane. The dots are on 3, 5, 8, 11, 14, 26, 29, 32, 35, and 37. So if your target is the second arrow, you might want to look one right of the fourth dot. That is, of course, if you are trying to lay the ball down on 10 and be at 10 at the arrows. If you're trying to swing 10, you might want to look at the fourth dot. That would put your laydown point on 11 or 12. The ball would be on 11 at the dots and 10 at the arrows, etc.

> It is more important that you practice frequently than that you practice for long periods of time. Thirty minutes a day will get you closer to your long-term goals faster than 2 hours on Sunday. Take breaks while you practice, at least a minute every ten. Get a drink or sit down and plan your next few minutes. Just step away and get a different perspective.

> Practice tasks in segments. Mindless, undirected practice is unproductive. Never keep score in practice. If you're keeping score, winning matters. If winning matters, you're not practicing. Have specific goals you want to accomplish in your practice sessions. Five minutes on the feel of a good push off, five minutes on follow through and you don't think about your push off in the follow through time slot. Your foundation must be built on the bricks of individual components - strong and linked together with repetition and muscle memory. You don't want a foundation built on sand that will crumble under the slightest pressure.
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