By Ali Strader
This season in league, I won the most improved award by raising my average over 25 pins. I wanted to write this blog to share a little bit about my experience and my takeaways from the season.
First, a little about me. I am the Vice President of Operations for Creating the Difference. Because of my position in the company, most people would assume I grew up in bowling - or I have at least been bowling for a while. However, this is only my second season of league bowling. I started last season throwing a straight ball with an average under 100. I finished the season with an average of 106. This season, I increased my average from 106 to 131. There are many things that I can attribute to this improvement. I will touch on some of the key moments here.
The first thing I did was practice. I signed my daughter up for Kids Bowl Free over the summer and purchased the family pass to go with it. This gave us each 2 free games every day over the summer. We didn’t go daily but we went at least once a week. If you don’t have a kid, you may not be able to take advantage of this option. However, bowling centers are always running specials to bring people in during the summer months. Watch out for inexpensive ways to get some practice in. Practice is the fundamental way to improve your scores.
It’s important to note that you should NOT focus on your score during practice. For me, practice is all about repeating a shot. Since I can’t control the lane condition when I go practice, it does me no good to practice trying to strike. Instead, I work on targeting. I pick a spot on the lane and just work on hitting it over and over and over. I may move my feet and work on hitting it from different angles just to see how it changes my ball reaction. But my sole purpose is just to get better at repeating a shot. I often take a little bit to practice throwing my spare ball straight at the corners as well. I’ll take a few frames and just practice throwing the ball straight at the 10 pin and straight at the 7 pin.
The second thing I did was get some coaching. This part was REALLY hard for me. About a quarter of the way through the season, I had a coaching session. At this point in the season, I was consistently shooting 150+. My coach recommended I shorten my first 2 steps in order to have more momentum at the line and increase my ball speed. For the next 2 weeks, I was struggling to shoot 100 again. My timing was off and I was throwing balls in the gutter. I was BEYOND frustrated at this point. I wanted to revert back to how I threw the ball before my coaching. But I knew that my coach had me do this for a reason. As long as I could get over the hump, I would be better. I felt like I was letting my team down and I was miserable. But by week 3 of doing what I was told (and practicing outside of league) I was able to get consistently back into the 140s.
About halfway through the season, we had another coaching session. In this session, he recommended I get a Storm C-2 Glove to help get me some more revs. Although I had learned how to hook the ball, it was baby hook. I was maybe getting a few boards in the backend. Once I added the C-2 Glove and changed my release, I really began hooking the ball. But like the first change, I struggled...a lot. I was back to barely shooting 100 again. The glove changed my grip so I kept dropping the ball. Once I realized my problem, I added tape to my thumb holes. This enabled me to at least keep the ball on the lane. But now I had this hook that I didn’t know how to control. At one point, I literally, took the glove off and threw it on the table because I was so frustrated. Then I remembered I’d have to take the tape out of my balls and I didn’t really want to do that. I also had to remind myself that this is just another step in getting better. So I put my glove back on and finished out the night. The next week, I practiced 2 days instead of 1. This helped me to understand how to control my newfound hook.
In practice, I still focused on repeating the shot. Only now, it was less about hitting my mark and more about getting my release right. My coach showed me how to rotate my wrist right before release. As long as I could do that, I could throw the ball all the way out to the gutter and get it to come back. But that was a new motion for me. Sometimes I didn’t quite get the release right and my ball wouldn’t recover the way I had intended. After focusing on my release for a few practice sessions, it felt more natural and I was confident to support my team at league the following week.
So really, there were 2 keys to my improvement during the season:
Unless you’re a prodigy (and even if you are), the only way to get better or even maintain skill is through practice. For a beginner like me, targeting is the most important thing to practice. If you can’t repeat a shot, you will never have consistently good scores.
I really wanted to throw in the towel when my coach’s recommendations caused my scores to go down. I wanted so badly to revert to my old way of doing things. But I also knew that I had hit a wall by doing things my way and that my coach wouldn’t have told me to do something that wasn’t going to make me better. I was committed to getting better and stuck with the plan. In the end, I shot my highest sanctioned game while bowling TN State Tournament and beat everyone on my pair, including my coach, for that game. I also cashed in the singles event.
Creating the Difference is about growing bowling through education and innovation. You don’t have to bowl multiple leagues and tournaments or average over 200 to benefit from what we are doing. I only average 131 and I am excited about my gains and look forward to seeing more in the future. If you want to learn more tips and tricks for improving your game, be sure to follow us on social media at the links below. Looking to take it a bit further? Consider joining our free regional staff by clicking here.