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Top Tips - July 2012 - 3, 4 or 5 Step Approach?

This summer, I’m going to teach my 10-year-old grandson how to bowl. Should I start him with a 3-step, 4-step or 5-step approach?

Debbie Haggerty Answers...

BASED ON EVERYTHING I have learned as a professional coach, I would recommend starting a beginner bowler with a 4-step approach, whether they be a youth or adult bowler, or somewhere in between. The 4-step approach allows the bowler to use their normal walking steps to learn the tempo and timing. Both the 3-step and 5-step approach can be trickier to master and, therefore, more difficult with which to be consistent.

Your 10-year-old grandson should be able to swing a ball of the proper weight and be able to coordinate his feet with his swing fairly quickly. It is critical that the weight of the ball is not too heavy, nor too light. Have him stand with his knees slightly bent and his arm in the starting position. Set the ball gently in his hand. If he can hold it without any trouble, it’s the correct weight. A good way to tell would be that the weight of the ball should be approximately 10% of his body weight. Once his footwork is good, he can go to a ball that is a bit heavier.

Practicing swing drills in the stance will help him to learn the proper feel of a free swing. Incorporating the swing drills and then the footwork will promote the proper pushaway and timing, thus making it easier to imitate normal walking steps to the line. Having his own equipment drilled for his hand is obviously the best choice. The sooner a child has his own equipment, the less chance he would have to develop bad habits like squeezing.

Chuck Halfpap Answers...

CHOOSING THE APPROACH type for a new bowler depends upon their natural abilities. The 3-step is the easiest to learn, so it could be best when teaching a bowler who may not be very athletic. The 3-step has its limitations in that the bowler does not have time to get the armswing to its maximum length. Also, the 3-step has less momentum, which does not allow the bowler to create ball speed.

I prefer the 4-step approach for a new bowler, knowing that it could be changed to the 5-step without great difficulty. The reason the 4-step is preferable is the simplicity in the arm and footwork movement. Four steps synchronize with four positions of the armswing (out, down, back and forward), and allow the bowler’s pendulum armswing to complete its back and forward swing movement. These four steps give the bowler momentum, which is transferred to the ball at the release for more speed than you would get with the 3-step.

There are times when I find the 5-step approach necessary. By adding the additional step, a timing step, it will assist the bowler in synchronizing the armswing and footwork, also increasing the momentum, which in turn will increase the ball speed. Adding the fifth step can be done somewhat easily by having the bowler start with the opposite foot (left for right-handers and vice versa). It’s a very small step designed to get the bowler moving. Finally, when teaching the approach, make it simple, but mostly make it fun.

Debbie Haggerty, a USA Bowling Silver Level coach and 2009 David Dahms Coach of the Year, is the Youth Director and Tournament Manager for Strikes Unlimited FEC in Rocklin, Calif. One of Bowlers Journal’s Top 100 Coaches in 2008, ’09, ’10 and ’11, the NWBW’s 2007 Helen Duval Award winner for Outstanding Service to USBC Youth can be contacted at

Chuck Halfpap is a PBA Senior Regional champion and a Bronze level coach with more than 15 years of coaching experience. He is the Head Coach of Boys Bowling at Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.) and runs the Strike N Spare bowling camp. Halfpap is on the Beverly Lanes coaching staff ( in Arlington Hts., Ill., and can also be contacted at

Posted with permission from Luby Publishing