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Early Timing

Excerpt from Bowling Fundamentals - Second Edition By Michelle Mullen


Early and late timing refers to the position of the ball in relation to the body. Early timing is when the ball gets ahead of the body; late timing is when the body gets ahead of the ball. For simplicity while addressing timing issues, let's assume a standard four-step approach. (if you take a five step approach, consider the first step a zero step; then refer to proper timing from the key step on, which is the equivalent of a four-step approach)

Just about every bowler I have ever met, professionals included, has a timing issue to start. This is, we all have a tendency to be either early or late; it seems that no one is immune to this tendency. This is why professionals often work on their starts practically every day to manage their tendency and develop a better start. As many have said, " A good start leads to a good finish!"

Causes Solutions
Starting to push the ball too soon Push the ball with the key step, not before.
Pushing the ball downward too much Hold the ball lower in the stance. Push out and slightly up
Pulling the ball back into the swing

Keep the push-away out longer than usual; then just let the ball drop into the next step.

Taking too large a key step

Shorten the key step. Use the proper weight transfer by keeping your weight back.

Standing too far back on the approach and having to rush Adjust stance position to start closer

Early Timing in the Start

Early timing is when the ball swings ahead of the body. A good checkpoint is to identify where the ball is on the second step. If the ball is already past your body on the second step, rather than being straight down, then you have early timing --that is, the ball is ahead of the body. The table below lists a few common causes of early timing in the start, as well as solutions. To address early timing, you need to consider when you start the ball, how you start it, and the shape of your start.

Starting The Ball Too Soon

Pushing the ball out before you take the key step causes early timing, simply because you are pushing the ball early. If you are a four-step bowler, push the ball on the first step, not before. If you are a five-step bowler, push the ball on the second step.If you are a five-step bowler and have a heard time waiting to push the ball on the second step, that might be a good reason to try four steps- so you can push on the first step.

Pushing The Ball Downward

If you push the ball down too much, rather than out, you likely will be early on the second step. Try to create more of an arc to the start by pushing the ball out and up before it comes down. Because you are used to pushing it downward, it will feel like you are pushing it out and slightly upward. Try holding the ball lower in the stance to help you create this upward motion. Over-exaggerating and thinking upward will help you combat the tendency to push downward while fighting early timing. This will create a more circular motion, rather than a direct line toward the floor.

This arc should take two step to complete. When you do push the ball out rather than down, wait until the second step to let it drop down and complete the arc. Pushing it out but letting it drop during the first step is another way the ball can get into the swing too early. Delaying the drop until the second step can be particularly challenging because your tendency is to be early. You need to keep your push-away out longer than usual, and then let the ball drop down to your side on the second step. Remember, out on one, down on two.

Many bowlers I coach who get early in this way have to over-exaggerate and feel as though they are holding the ball out in front of them for almost two whole steps. When I take a photo and show them what is really happening, they cannot believe that they are not really holding it that long. What they think they are doing is not what they are actually doing.

Pulling The Ball Back

Using the muscles of your arm to pull the ball back into the swing is another way the arm can get ahead of the body. Rather than accelerate your arm back, learn to let your arm relax and swing like a pendulum. Your swing arm should be relaxed as you let the opposite hand do all the work to push the ball out and create the proper timing in the start.

Taking A Long Key Step

Taking too big of a key step gives the ball too much time to drop early into the swing. You want the ball to go out with the key step and drop with the next step. The longer the key step is, the more likely the ball will be to drop during that step, because you can hold a heavy ball out in front of you for only so long! When you tend to fight the earlier side of timing, take a smaller key step as you push the ball out, so that the step is over sooner. This will make it easier to delay the drop until the next step.

It is easy to take too big a step when you shift your weight too far forward as you take that step. The imbalance of having your body lean forward creates a need for your feet to react and catch your balance. And because you are leaning your weight forward, you have to take a bigger step to get your legs back under you for balance. The result is a larger-than-natural step. Keep your weight centered as you take your step. You may even have to think about exaggerating your weight over your heels to keep from shifting the weight too far forward over your toes before you take your step.

Try this; get into a stance position as if you were practicing your start, and, just before you go, shift your weight forward over your toes and then take a step. Now, try again, but this time, keep your weight centered over the heels or center of your feet and take a step. Notice that you are in much more control of your step , and its length, when your weight remains balanced.

Standing Too Far Back On The Approach

Taking a stance too far from the foul line has the psychological effect of making the approach feel like a runway you have to negotitate to make it all the way to the foul line. Your body sees a greater distance to the line than it could cover by taking natual steps. Therefore, you will throw your weight forward and tend to drop the ball early into the approach, which will make it feel as through you have to run to catch up. Because running steps are larger than walking steps, this is your body's way of making up the extra distance. I would estimate that about 80 to 85 percent of the students I see stand too far back. I am not saying that all have early timing, but standing too far back is a very common mistake.

Mullen, Michelle. Bowling Fundamentals- Second Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2014.

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