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Questions on accuracy, Mark Roth and condition breakdown – November 2008

Q: I have a terrible time hitting my target; I’m missing it 20 percent of the time or more. It’s getting very frustrating. Any suggestions?

A: Work on allowing the ball to swing the arm from the pushaway through the downswing, through the backswing, and all the way through the release. This will help create muscle memory and, with practice, enable you to repeat shots and hit your target more consistently. During your approach, point your opposite arm toward the wall; this will help keep you in balance.

Q: If you were going to recommend one of the bowling camps, which one would you choose? I am a higher average bowler and I want to improve to a level where I can compete successfully in tournament competition.

A: In the intererst of full disclosure, I have not been to all of the different bowling camps, so I’m not an expert in this area. That said, I feel confident recommending the camps run by Dick Ritger and Mark Baker. You can be confident in the expertise of the instructors because you’d be learning from people who have have actually experienced the pressure of top-flight professional bowling competition. That means they know what it’s like to throw the ball when all the chips are on the line. No matter how much knowledge or even what type of certification an instructor has, it can’t replicate the experience that comes from needing to throw one strike with tens of thousands of dollars on the line. Ritger and Baker have both been there. The Kegel Training Center also receives high praise from a number of pros. It has a an excellent staff of coaches and is packed with high-tech teaching aides that also could help you get to that next level.

Q: I recently bowled in a tournament where I was throwing the ball all over the place. Sometimes I missed the headpin, and other times I was through the nose. I think I was playing the right line, because some of the bowlers who shot well also played that line. Do you have any ideas for my situation on that type of lane condition?

A: When I am faced with this type of situation, I try to eliminate one of the problems by changing my release. For instance, if I  wanted to stop missing the headpin on the pocket side, I would hold my hand in a handshake position throughout the downswing and release. It's very difficult to throw the ball too far toward the gutter side of the pocket when you do this.  Once you've narrowed your "spray area," you can begin to make other small adjustments — such as where you’re targeting — which will help you hit the pocket consistently.

Q: I am relatively new to the sport, and have been reading a lot about it. A number of bowlers have said that Mark Roth changed the game. Can you tell me what Roth did differently that set him apart from other professional bowlers?

A: Roth’s two main influences had to do with his timing and the manner in which he released the ball. Most of the bowlers prior to Roth would strive to release the ball in conjunction with their slide; this was considered proper timing for bowling.  Roth did not have much of a slide, however, and his slide foot arrived ahead of the downswing — this generated a leverage point for the ball.  Secondly, Roth cupped his wrist so he could increase the amount of rotation on the ball. Put these two actions together, and it gave Roth tremendous hooking power on the ball and hitting power at the pins. He represents the beginning of the transition of bowling from a game of accuracy to a game of power.

Q: I bowl in a league, and it seems that the line to the pocket changes drastically from the first game to the second. What is the cause of this drastic change in how you have to play the lane?

A: Most centers now condition their lanes just prior to the evening league session.The lanes are cleaned, and then fresh conditioner is applied. Thus, you have a clean and conditioned lane when the first ball is thrown in practice. But today's bowling balls carry this new conditioner down the lane with every delivery. As a result, the line is really changing on every ball thrown, but it takes a number of shots before that change becomes apparent. Many pros now actually change lines slightly even when they’re on a long string of strikes — in anticipation of conditioner movement impacting their next shot.