Expanding Your Comfort Zone
Excerpt from Bowling Fundamentals - Second Edition By Michelle Mullen
Many bowlers try to adjust over the same arrow (namely, the second) and change angles by just moving their feet. Sometimes, however, the shot is not there but elsewhere on the lane. In some cases you may need to slightly adjust the trajectory of the shot to effectively play the oil line to get the best ball reaction. Learning to expand your comfort zone, play different parts of the lane, and adjust your line is important to being able to stay in form and score. You have to learn to follow and adjust to the oil line as it changes during play. And you have to learn to trust the shot and the fact that you have moved left or right for a reason (to find more or less friction) because the ball was either sliding or hooking too much.
When you practice, take time to play different parts of the lane. For example, practice lining up and playing the first arrow. Then, do the same for the second and third arrows. Take some time to play targets between the arrows as well. Keep in mind that you may not strike of even hit the pocket, depending on lane conditions. This is fine because neither one is your goal. Being able to line up to play different targets and areas on the lane and make good shots is your goal. You have to be willing to practice without the reward of scoring or even hitting the pocket. Focusing on your performance rather than on the outcome at the pins requires discipline.
Many bowlers are uncomfortable playing different parts of the lane. However, this definitely hinders their ability to score. Just as a golfer has to play within the fairway, the bowler needs to line up on the lane where the shot is to create the most room for error and still hit the pocket.
When she came out to coach with us at a PBI clinic, the great Carolyn Dorin-Ballard advised students, “If you really pay attention, the lane will tell you where to play. It will reveal itself to you so you can make the proper adjustments when you make good shots.”
However, too many bowlers like to play where they like to play, which limits their adjustment range. Although you can try to drill equipment that will match the friction to the area that you like to play in, sometimes you just have to move to another part of the lane. You cannot always hover around the second arrow and move your feet to hit the second arrow from different angles. You have to be able to move and keep up with the changing oil line, especially when there is more play on the lane.
You may blame your execution when you are now bowling well, but the problem could be strategy. You tighten up when you do not have a good reaction on the lanes. Remember, you cannot outperform a bad ball reaction. If you feel as though you are tight and fighting things, consider changing your strategy. It may be difficult to think about changing strategy when you aren’t throwing the ball well, but it may make all the difference in your performance. When you are not scoring well, make a move!
If you continue to play the wrong part of the lane where you are comfortable but have no room for error, you will start forcing your reaction, which will tighten your swing. Although you may realize that you are bowling badly, what you will likely fail to realize is that you are throwing it badly because you are not lined up properly on the lane to create some room at your target to still hit the pocket. Furthermore, adjusting may also involve making a ball change. Once in match play while on tour, I looked down the lanes to watch a particular player who looked flawless to me. No wonder she was having a stellar year, in contention for Bowler of the Year honors.
Then it was my turn to bowl against her. Now, I got to witness her shots from behind. Although she was bowling great, I got to see how she created a little room for error and did not have to nail her target perfectly every time to hit the pocket. She was in the right part of the lane and had good ball reaction. Her lane play strategy was brilliant, giving her some room for error. I say some, because at the professional level, that is not much. However, it was an observation that I never forgot. Although execution is very important, the game is not about being perfect. In fact, you’d rather be loose than be perfect. It is about playing smart enough to create some room so that you can relax your swing and get the ball off your hand cleanly enough to carry all 10 pins to strike.
I say in lessons, “When you are throwing the ball well but have a poor ball reaction on the lane, if you do not adjust, the only alternative is to start throwing the ball badly!”
Mullen, Michelle. Bowling Fundamentals- Second Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2014.