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Clean Up Washouts

by Kim Terrell-Kearney

I always considered myself a pretty good spare shooter. Not necessarily the best, but above average, particularly making washouts. The washout, for right-handers, is the 1-2-4-10. It’s a relatively common result when your strike ball comes in behind the head pin. Like most bowlers, I always shot the washout from the right.

Using your strike ball, the logic was that you would line up to get the ball to hook early and clip the left side of the head pin. The head pin would slide across to take out the 10, and the natural path of the ball would knock down the 2 and 4.

The inherent problem with this is that you need to be lined up properly on the lane to make that shot. Obviously, you’re already not lined up properly by the fact that you’ve left the washout to start with! Now you have to make a double adjustment to pick up the spare. First, you have to figure out what you needed to do to get your strike ball to the pocket. Then you have to hope you make the right adjustment to get the ball to break early. That holds true when using your strike ball for any spare. It requires that you are lined up.

The benefit of using a plastic ball for spares, whether it is for the 10 pin or anything else, is that you take the lane out of play. For me, it’s pretty universal from pattern to pattern. Still, even after I started using a plastic ball for spares, I shot the washout from the right, as tradition dictated.

About four years ago, Team USA coach Rod Ross introduced a new concept to Junior Team USA at training camp. His argument was that taking a parallel line to the washout increases the surface of the head pin and allows greater margin for error. Rod always makes the analogy of shooting pool. If the head pin was the object ball and the 10 pin was the corner pocket, you’d never shoot it from the right side of the table because the surface of the target is reduced.

For simplification purposes, forget the 2 and 4. The focus should be on kicking the head pin into the 10. If you make contact with the left side of the head pin, the natural path of the ball will take out the 2 and 4.

At first I was skeptical, but I went back to Delaware State, where I was starting my second year as head coach, and decided to try it with my team. At first my bowlers said it was a difficult adjustment and that it just didn’t feel right. But halfway through the year we were by far the best spare-shooting team, particularly with washouts.

That summer I started practicing again and decided to give it a try. I immediately thought, “Wow! I’m a believer!” I usually line up at 22, which is just two boards to the left of the center arrow. I want to be square to the lane and square to my target. We’ve talked before about turning your body to the target on single-pin spares, but in this case you want to be as direct and straight up the boards as you can.

People who try this approach sometimes line up a little too far to the left and throw diagonally at the head pin. This may be successful, but the head pin can react a little differently. Ideally, you want to get the head pin horizontally toward the 10, greatly increasing its chances of taking out the 10.

Taking this approach to the washout might be a little uncomfortable at the start because it is so different than what you’ve always done. At first you might feel a little closed down, but you’ll see how your odds of making the spare increase and you’ll get comfortable with it pretty quickly. The same philosophy holds true for another relatively common spare, the 3-6-7-10. The most common approach is to shoot it from the far left, crossing the front of the 3 and hoping it slides over into the 7. Now we’re suggesting you can shoot it straight up the right side of the lane, still getting the 3 to slide into the 7 while the ball takes out the 6 and 10.

The key to this process is to get you to better understand your angles, regardless of what spare you’re shooting. A better understanding of how you move your feet and how it affects the ball down lane is a valuable learning technique. It will make you more cognizant and careful about where you stand.

— Kim Terrell-Kearney is Assistant Head Coach of Team USA and the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas.

To read more articles from the November 2011 edition, flip through the provided electronic issue below!