Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wheels Are In Motion

Over the past years, I've heard time and time again, complaints that there is no one out there trying to make our game better.  I cannot lie and say that I haven't thought the same at times as well.  This blog however, brings you hope from those feelings.  My girlfriend Jen got her hands on an interesting bit of reading material recently that I thought should be shared on here.  It seems that the Bowling Proprietors' Association of Canada (BPAC) are working hard at understanding our game in hopes to improve it in time.

The BPAC decided to contact the United States Bowling Congress Equipment Specifications and Certifications team (USBC) in hopes to shed some light on the equipment we use in 5pin bowling.  This team was called in to do some testing in Windsor, and more specifically Playdium, to do some primary tests on our bowling pins, their bands and our bowling balls.  While I won't get too involved in the specifics on the tests, I will say that the tests run on our equipment may really go far in the future into understanding what works in our game and where our game can improve. 

As previously mentioned, the tests were very basic to say the least.  They spent time testing the hardness of the equipment used with a durometer.  They used equipment brands that are commonly found in 5pin bowling centres to get an accurate read on conditions that we would see on a nightly basis in our leagues, or in tournaments.  Then, trying different combinations of pins and rubber bands, they tested how the pins reacted when impacted by a ball.  They recorded where pins landed through a high speed camera so that they could understand how hardness variations can affect how the pins react.  They learned that the harder the pin/band combo was, the less dynamic the reaction was.  This means that the harder the pin was, the less reaction the pin got when struck by a ball and the softer the pin was the more reaction the pin got when struck by a ball.  From their tests, they also concluded that the harder the pin/band combo was (wood pins registering the hardest) the more time the pins spent in the air.  Conversely, the softer the pin combo was, the more time it spent on the pin deck. 

Coming from a "power player" aspect, my thought is that I would prefer a softer pin/band combo as opposed to a harder one.  The speed of my ball will impact the harder pin in a way that would send it into the air, which would be a disadvantage to me.  Being a power player, I need to keep the pins lower in order to make contact with the other pins.  Striking the softer pin would give me this result.  I could also see how a harder pin combo could be more beneficial to a "finese player" with a softer pin dying on the pindeck, stopping it from striking other pins.

Another section in testing completed was on bowling balls and their effect on pin action.  They tested 2 ball sizes (4 7/8" and 5") and 2 different materials (phenolic and rubber) that are commonly found to be used in 5pin.  To no surprise, when tested with a durometer the phenolic ball was harder than the rubber one.  An interesting note however, was that the dynamic of the ball was almost exact on the 5" ball regardless of the material of the ball.  The 4 7/8" ball received a lower dynamic reading than the 5" balls.  Going back to my game, I have used a 5" ball longer than I can remember and although I have several 4 7/8" balls, I rarely use them.  I find that the pin action with my 5" ball greatly increases as opposed to my 4 7/8" balls.  (I also use the 5" ball over a 4 7/8" ball in Duckpin, strictly due to the fact that the 4 7/8" ball sends the pins too high to score well.)  Really, from the testing of the USBC, I have learned why I prefer the 5" ball over the 4 7/8" in my game.  To understand what works best for your game, will obviously help increase your chances at success. 

If anyone wants to see the specifics on the testing that was done by the USBC for the BPAC, shoot me an email at and I can find a way to send them to you.  I have taken the information that I have read from these tests and have applied them to how my game works for me.  I have used the 5" ball for it's dynamics, allowing for high impact speeds, and it's size to keep the pins lower to the pindeck.  With the information that I learned from the testing I can make adjustments to my game if I find that the conditions call for it.  If I find that I'm playing somewhere where the pins seems to be dead and dying on the pindeck, I know that using a smaller ball with a hard material base may lift those pins enough off the pindeck to keep them from dying and increase my scoring.

I think that this testing is important to learning your game and what equipment changes affect pin action.  However, I think that the MOST important thing about the testing is the testing itself.  Steps are being taken to better understand our game and improve it in the future.  The BPAC does care about our game and are trying to take steps to making the game better down the road.  This is proof of that and I believe this is only the beginning of what they have in store for us.  Happy New Year everyone and look for my next blog on Monday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Productive Practices

This blog is the first of a series of articles by Tom Paterson of Saskatchewan.  If you want to make the best of your practice sessions, take a read of this article.  For Paterson's bowling bio, check out the right side of the screen.  I'll post up the bio everytime I use one of his articles, and hope that I can get other bowlers' bios for when they post articles for me.  Here is Paterson's first installment for this blog titled, "Productive Practices"

My favourite word is productive. What I like about productive is it means you are making the best use of your time. Many a bowler has traipsed out to the lanes to practice. Often times following on some gut sense that their game needs sharpening. It may be because their league play has been off, or possibly they see a tournament in the future that they want to prep for. Practice is most certainly the path to improvement, and to that end this article is going to skim the surface to practice and provide a couple of drills. Everyone and their dog, (wish I had one) likes the top ten list idea so…how about SIX ? Help yourself to the following six very important criteria for establishing effective practices.


This seems to make so much sense but…it is probably the one area that many can improve on. It is important to have a specific goal, not just one of “I want to improve”. Set a goal for the practice, (i.e.) will it be to work on spares, or some aspect of your deliver AND…(name that aspect)


Five minutes before league play begins is a great idea in getting you ready for the league night BUT it will not induce improvement. Improvement requires repetition; repetition without the hindrance of waiting 4-5 minutes between turns.


I firmly believe that you do not need to keep score to measure your success. In fact…if your measurement of success is based principally on score and results than your road to success will lack reliability. This will also enhance your opportunity to get in touch with the feel of your shot.


This is a nobrainer – MODEST change that you can establish as reliable requires a consistent effort. It has been my experience both as player and instructor/coach that to affect change requires a minimum of a 3 week commitment for basic rudimentary change to occur. What MIGHT the basics be?

Holding your follow thru until the ball hits the pins.
Slowing down – simply reminding yourself to take a slower smaller first step
Lift (after essentially 6 practices you will be getting the ball consistently past the foul line but…not necessarily to the same distance on each shot (that takes considerable more practice).


Make your practices real. Come to practice with the intention you give to tournament play. By doing this you get away from simply throwing balls. I call this Narrowing the Gap. It is an important essential to productive learning. This leads to another topic for another day….FEELING IT. All successful athletes use their feel for the game to both elevate and maintain a consistent level of performance.


Doing the same thing over and over again is BORRING!!! AND IF you don’t believe me just ask your sex therapist.  Improvement is aided by the variety you bring to the practice. You may have 1 or 2 drills you do at practice but…finding other ways to get the same thing done helps aid in keeping yourself attentive and interested in the dryer repetition necessary to improve. The following drills will provide you with some variety for practicing spares.

Five Ball – Individual or Competitive Drill

Objective of the Game:

To practice pin conversions
To knock down the best pin count with five balls


Begin with a full set of pins
1. Knock down with each ball, whatever remains standing.
2. Keep track of the total pin count you achieve after 5 balls. (the max is 5 strikes or 60 points)
3. The goal of each ball is to clear the deck whenever realistically possible.
4. Repeat three or more times.

SP. 10

Object of the Game:

Knock down with one ball all pins standing. If unsuccessful deduct one point from player’s existing total


1. Starting Game –
2. Each player is given 10 points to begin the game.
3. Player one throws for a strike.
4. If successful no point is taken, if unsuccessful player loses one point from their current total.
5. Player Two – must convert with one ball any remaining pins left standing by the player ahead of he/she. If previous player was successful and a full set of pins is up then player two must throw a strike. Continue this process through the list of players involved in the game.
6. Winner is declared when only one person remains with points.


Continue point deduction method and add; Award one point each time a player successfully converts their shot. Player cannot gain more than 10 points.
Attempts made with unspareable shots If successful with traditional cleanup with their ball deduct no point or… award a point for successful execution.

The 3 Point Game

Object of Game:

Develop value of spares.


1. Play a regular game format
2. Scoring award per frame
One point for a strike
Two points for a spare


Subtract point for each spare not converted.

Format Options

Make this a competitive game by challenging others with the game.

Scoring Options

In a competitive match – Award

One point for highest pinfall at the conclusion of a game
Two points for the person with the best spare percentage for the game played

Thursday, December 23, 2010

5 Pin Bowling At The Beginning

First off, I'd like to wish everyone a safe and merry Christmas.  You may have already noticed a trend on my blog.  I am trying to keep to a consistent schedule of posting every Monday and Thursday for the time being.  I'd like to thank everyone so far that have sent me stuff to contribute to this space, especially Tom Paterson and John Honeyford who have a lot of content to share.  The following blog is the first contribution from 5pin bowling historian, John Honeyford.  I hope you enjoy this great read, about how 5pin bowling started.
Bowling has existed in Toronto since the city was created in 1834 – in fact 2 bowling alleys are recorded as being in existence at that time. Until the 1890’s, bowling was played in saloons and hotels and was basically a basement-dwelling, cigar-smoking pursuit of men wanting to imbibe and wager a bit of money.
In April of 1892, the Athenaeum Club was opened at 167 Church Street (the front of this property is still there as part a newly-developed condo project) and it was the replacement site for the Toronto Athletic Club. It had 8 lanes for bowling, and this site, along with the 6 lanes installed at the Liederkranz German Club, built in 1894 at 255 Richmond Street West (the Scotia Bank Theatre is now there) were the first 2 bowling ‘clubs’ that existed in the city. They were private clubs for men only (the Athenaeum’s membership was $3 a year). The Armories on University Avenue (where the Court House is now) had 6 lanes that were installed in 1894 for the use of the soldiers, and there were a few other places like the Gladstone Hotel on Queen St West., and the Toronto Rowing Club (near the Boulevard Club on the Lakeshore) that had lanes. Lanes were normally no longer than only 50 feet in length. There was a 12 team ‘city’ league in Toronto at that time.
A group of the more competitive bowlers became dissatisfied with the conditions, as these men would play challenge matches against teams from Buffalo, New York City, Detroit and Chicago, who played on 60 foot lanes under newly established ABC rules which placed the Toronto men at a great disadvantage. 
In 1905, Tommy Ryan was operating at Billiard Hall at 106 Yonge Street with his partner John White. John was involved with the Dukes Hotel at 56 Adelaide Street East, and it is believed that there were bowling lanes there (Dukes Alleys have been quoted in old news archives). Tommy lived at the Grand Union Hotel at 180 Front Street West, and had been involved in competitive 10-pin bowling. During the summer of 1905 Tommy became involved in the pursuit of a new bowling club location that would accommodate 60-foot ‘American alleys’ and after being originally turned down by the City Board of Control in September, 11 new alleys were installed on the fourth floor of the Boisseau Building, at the south corner of Yonge and Temperance. Ryrie Birks Jewelers was on the main and second floor. d Edmond Boisseau, who had owned a wholesale tailoring firm there, was on the board of directors and Tommy became the Secretary Treasurer. On Monday, Oct 16/05, the first bowlers meeting was held at the new Toronto Bowling Club. It was incorporated (capital $10,000) in November, and in December 4 of the 11 lanes received pin-spotters (manual/pulley operated). The pin decks sat right in front of the east windows, facing Yonge Street. There was a full lunch cafeteria and it was a private club. The 11th lane was later covered in favor of spectator seating.
Business grew, and it is well published that it became the lunch time home to many of the men of 'influence' in downtown business, who bowled a game over lunch hour, and then bowled leagues in the evening. John Craig Eaton, of Eaton’s and some of his employees bowled, along with Alderman Sam McBride, later to become Mayor of Toronto.
By 1909, there were a number of other bowling alleys in the downtown core, and Tommy Ryan began to look at other options to stay competitive. He was quoted years later as saying he never made money in the game, and was also involved in baseball, tour excursions, and boxing promotion. Family members James, John, Percy, and Patrick also became involved with the management of the Bowling Club, and they all lived in a house at 11 Grosvenor Street. 
The game of Duckpins had already been experimented with in Toronto, as a less physical alternative to 10-pin, ideally to be played in the warmer weather with the lack of air-conditioning. Many bowling alleys simply closed up in the summer. In the spring of 1909 the Brunswick Alleys up on Queen Street West were going to launch an 8-week duckpin spring league after the 10-pin season was over in April. Other novelty games such as ‘back-row’, which was actually also called ‘five-pin’ (using the 5,7,8,9, and 10 pins), and cocked-hat (the 1, 7 and 10) were also reportedly tried by Tommy, all done with a smaller ball. So, these different combinations involving fewer pins may have been the catalyst for Tommy Ryan to try something unique.

In November of 1909 he brought the newly done pins from the lathe out for the first time, and it was at the end of this 1909-10 season that Tommy Ryan placed 5 little 7-inch pins (the scribes used to call them ' little wooden men') on the decks at the Toronto Bowling Club, and his idea of having a faster, less demanding game with that same lighter duckpin-sized ball, was born. Supposedly 7 pins went through the windows out on to Yonge Street the first day they were played. In October 1912, the rubber bands were added by Tommy to prevent balls from passing between pins for no count, and to increase overall scores as few people averaged over 130. The new game spread to other Toronto houses like the new Athenaeum on Shuter Street in the spring of 1912, and then to the other bowling cities like Hamilton soon after at places like the Iron Duke on King.  

Tommy Ryan sold the Toronto Bowling Club in 1913 to Jacob Saunders (renamed Saunders Bowling Academy) when he could not renew his lease. Jacob was a billiard hall owner at 96 Yonge Street just 5 doors down from Ryan’s place that he sold in 1911. Jacob passed away in 1917, and the business was later taken over by Karry’s in 1924 and then Acorn Central who had in until it closed at the end of the War. It had 22 lanes on 2 floors when it closed.
Tommy moved the Toronto Bowling Club Businessmen’s League to the College Bowling Academy (College/Bathurst) for the 1914 season, and then bought the Turtle Hall Hotel at 36 Church Street for $55,000 (renamed Hotel Ryan). He opened a new Toronto Bowling Club in September of 1915 in the Bond Building, at 66-68 Temperance Street (at Sheppard) on the 5th floor. By 1918 there were 6 bowling clubs in Toronto, and fuel rationing had kept the clubs closed on Monday nights towards the end of the war, by order of the City. The end of the war in 1918 brought the first boom to the game, as over 500 new lanes were built in Toronto over the next 6 years. By 1921 though, Tommy Ryan had moved on to managing the family furniture business at 422 Yonge Street, after the loss of his hotel business due to prohibition. 
Some early pictures can be seen at my ‘History of 5-Pin Bowling in Toronto’ Facebook group.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't Let That Dream Die

I thought I'd put up a story that I felt should be shared.  It's a story that shows that if your drive remains strong through the tough times, your goals can be acheived.

Josh LeClair hails from Windsor Ontario and has been involved with the Open provincially as a coach for a few years.  Despite his attempts to qualify as a bowler over several years repeatedly came up short, his dream never died.  This is what I hope to be several great stories that I'll post up here. This is Josh LeClair's story.

My first time at the Open was in 1995, my last year of YBC. I went to watch my friend’s father play the Men’s Team for what was then Windsor Zone W, one of 24 zones at the time. I had never seen such a massive tournament, and the loudness and intensity was incredible. Well, wouldn’t you know it, that men’s team won that year. I was inspired. This was something I HAD to do. Next year, my first year out of YBC, I’m going to play THE OPEN, I told myself.
I never want to say that someone isn’t good enough to try The Open, but truth was, I wasn’t nearly as good enough as I needed to be to qualify as I only averaged 204 my last year of YBC, but I didn’t care, I wanted to do this. So tried I did, and as soon as I started to fall behind, the wheels fell off and I just went through the motions and finished my 20 games, still in awe of the scores the men were shooting to qualify, in what seemingly was light years ahead of where I was. My failure to qualify did not deter me from going to Hamilton almost every Easter weekend to watch this spectacle. And without fail, every year I went, after all the competition was done, I was inspired to try again. Listening to Walter Heeney introduce the stepladder competitors was the ultimate moment for me. I always thought, “Man, what does it take to be that good?”
So I tried again the following year. No dice. And the year after that. And the year after that one too. This annual event turned into a Christmas present from my Mother, paying my entry fee when I couldn’t afford the $100 or so while I was going through school, or just starting a job out of college. Even through my failures, I still loved the idea that I had a chance to do what that Windsor Men’s team did, so I kept trying.
Over time I became a better bowler, averaging in the mid 230’s. By about my 9th try (I think I lost count) I was finally in the thick of things after the first 10. I shot 2538, and sat 4th. The next week, I could not relax, I was so nervous. I thought negatively, playing not to lose, and slowly worked my way down the standings the closer it got to the end. I put myself in a position that I needed a strike in the last frame of the tournament to qualify for the first time in nine or so tries. Headpin. I missed by 9 sticks. I was devastated. I let my nerves get to me all day, and I did just enough (or didn’t) to just miss out. Having obtained my Level 2 coaching certification, I ended up being an assistant coach for the Men. I thought, I want to be a part of this so bad, I guess this is all I’ve got for now. But I was glad for the opportunity to get involved.
After taking a year off from playing while my wife was pregnant for our 2nd child, I returned to redeem myself. I played ok, was within 100 sticks of 9th after the first week. I would be damned if I let my nerves get to me again the next week. So I started the second week off decently, playing myself back in qualifying position. With two games to go I was right in the thick of things. After a low 200 game in the 19th game, I went into the last game, and my nerves got to me a bit, and I putzed through it, picking a 3 on a chop spare in nine and watching my closet competitor throw a strike to pretty much seal it. I fired three angry strikes in ten to miss by 10 sticks. Again. To the brother of the competitor who beat me out the last time. In the same bowling alley. I couldn’t believe this happened. AGAIN. Devastation was not the word to explain it. After all this I still didn’t want to miss Easter Weekend, so again I coached.
I took yet another year off the following year and just stuck to coaching, thinking that I couldn’t put myself through this again. I came back the next year and was just dreadful, barely shooting 4000. Some people asked me when enough was enough. I started to question myself too. But my desire to accomplish this never waned. I still went to Hamilton that Easter, coached again, and was inspired as usual. Some of my best league nights over the years were the week after I came back from watching a ton of great bowlers, and learning a few things. I again took another year off, as my wife got back into bowling and played (most who know us both will tell you that she’s the better bowler in the family, to which I haven’t proven otherwise).
This brings us to this year: I believe my 12th attempt, 15 years after my first. I hadn’t committed to playing until a few days before, with the failures in the back of my mind and the idea of coaching a pretty good team also a possibility. But that desire was still there. I thought “What kind of regret will you have if you give up, not knowing if you kept trying if you would ever qualify or not?”. So I made up my mind. Give it another go I thought. I played decent the first week, with 2419 and sitting 5th, 140 back of first, less than 100 ahead of 10th. It was tight. But I wasn’t going to let it get to me the next week. If I didn’t qualify, I’ll probably coach a pretty good team, if I do qualify, then great. So after playing the first seven of the 2nd week I remained in 5th, with a shot at singles and a pretty good cushion on 10th. But I remained focused on what was ahead of me instead of looking back. I started with a strike in game eight and felt more confident then I had in the whole tournament. I got this I told myself. Then the picks showed up, in droves. 186 game 18, 214 game 19 and 135 through eight frames game 20. I must have had at least 10 picks in those three games. My closest competition was 95 behind going into that last game, but 50 ahead of me through eight frames. I couldn’t help but wonder why this was happening to me yet again. I didn’t feel any different than the rest of the day, didn’t change my mindset, wasn’t nervous, but something changed. After watching my closest competitor throw a strike in nine, I knew I was right back in the same situation I was in the last two times I just missed out. I buckled down and managed to find the pocket and match him. I wasn’t sure where that left me, but felt I needed another in ten to make it. In the same bowling alley as the other two close calls, I had to do what I couldn’t do before. I told myself, if you pick, you pick, but get that ball out to the spot and hit the headpin. Well, I got it out, hit the pocket and got that strike. I was so relieved and elated that I wasn’t even sure where I was and I walked over into the next lane and bumped into the score machine with my hip. Turns out I finished 9th by 32, and I didn’t need that strike in ten, but I didn’t know that at the time. I finished the last three with 585, but I got there.
After 15 years of being a spectator, cheerleader, coach and most of all a fan of this tournament, I’m finally going to participate. I’ve seen perfect games, watched my wife finish 7th in singles in her rookie season, coached a singles champion in the stepladder, saw the province go from 24 zones to 14, seven bowlers on the mixed team to six, add a Seniors division (of which some of my childhood coaches are two-time defending champs!!), seen records shattered and watched the Windsor Men’s team win it all in the past 15 years. One of my teammates on the mixed team is a girl I coached when she was a Bantam in YBC. I knew I could do it, as I’ve seen bowlers that I feel are my equal, and some even below my ability be successful in qualifying. It’s great to get that huge monkey off my back.
I’ve been asked how I’ll feel when I throw that first ball Easter Weekend after everything I’ve been through over the last 15 years. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be nervous at all. I can’t imagine too many people have had as much “Open Experience” as I have without actually throwing a ball. I’m excited and grateful for finally getting the chance to do this, and I’m going to appreciate every shot I throw, because who knows how many chances I’ll get in the years to come. I hope for a lot more, but for now, I’ll concentrate on this year.
If you know anybody who is struggling to accomplish a goal in this game, please share my story. Don’t ever give up, especially if you know you have the ability and other people around you reinforce that. Look around at the people who have been successful at what you are trying to accomplish. See what they are doing. Talk to them; ask what their thought process is. Practice. But don’t quit. Trust me, you’ll regret it, because the wait made the accomplishment that much more gratifying.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don’t Think Smart, Think Consistent: Making Sense Of It All

We all know the brain is a complicated thing.  It is our computer that makes us run.  Every aspect of our lives involves our brain, and bowling is no different.  We always hear competitors, coaches and idols talking about having a tough mental game.  You need to be able to think smart to bowl good.  I prefer to use the opposite. 
If you really want to break down how everything works, you’ll find that your brain will both help your game, and hinder it.  Getting really scientific with matters, your brain controls your nerve fibers which in turn control your muscles.  This is where the term “practice makes perfect” comes into play.  It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I learned that this term was only partly right.  I decided to try to research some sports psychology and stumbled on a really good read.  In this book, it explains what that term really means and how you can really go about excelling at a sport.  The key is something called “Myelin” or as it’s more commonly known as, “white matter”.  By doing repetitive actions, your brain creates Myelin which insulates your nerve fibers.  The more Myelin you have insulating your nerve fibers, the easier it becomes to do that action that this specific nerve fiber controls.  To simply put it, the more Myelin, the less you have to actually think about doing the action or to add to the earlier term talked about; Practice makes Myelin and Myelin makes perfect.  (For anyone looking to read more into this concept and to enhance your mental game, I urge you to read “The Talent Code”, by Daniel Coyle)  The more that you work at your game, the better trained your muscles become.  In Bowling School we refer to it as “muscle memory”.  This is what makes practicing so important to helping your game.  No matter how talented you are at the beginning of your journey in bowling, you must still work hard to stay at the top of your game.  I think NBA basketball player Kevin Durant puts it into words the best.  When asked about any advice he could give to others looking to follow in his footsteps his simply said “Hard work beats talent if talent fails to work hard.”  Work hard at your game, and success will come.
If you look back to the beginning of this blog, I said that your brain can both help and hinder your success.  Obviously we’ve touched on how your brain will aid you in your bowling game.  But now I’d like to spend a large portion of this blog talking about the ways your brain can hinder your game, without putting a negative spin on things.  While practicing your game will make the motions feel more natural, your brain still craves control.  It seems determined at times, to take all that hard work and mess it up.  This is especially true in some pressure situations.  In my mind, there is too much pressure to “have to” throw the shot when needed.  Where does this pressure come from?  Well, if you’re looking to pinpoint the origin of that pressure, simply look in the mirror.  We put all that pressure on ourselves.  The truth is, we don’t “have to” throw the shot at all.  I’ve recently practiced a new part of my mental game that I’ve only recently unlocked in my head.  I’ve stood on the approach with the ball in my hand and put things in perspective.  I’ve found that since I’ve played out the following idea in my head, my rate of success has increased greatly.
My new mental exercise isn’t some positive reinforcement or anything technical.  It’s about as basic as you could possibly get.  I think of where bowling stands in the world.  If I’ve ever thrown the shot that I “had to” throw in the past, I’ve never been given a raise, become a celebrity, been knighted or anything that has ultimately changed my life.  Conversely, I’ve never been fired, lost my house, put in jail or sued if I missed.  Success or failure in the game of bowling doesn’t alter my everyday life at all.  At the end of the day, bowling is a game where you roll a ball down wood and try to knock over plastic sticks.  That’s all it is and all it ever will be.  Don’t get me wrong, I obviously love the game and have great passion for it.  But at the end of the day, I realize that there shouldn’t be an overwhelming pressure to succeed in bowling.  I cannot give myself full credit for this mental trick that I’ve unlocked for myself since it was really one particular team event that helped me get this thought started.  My teammates and coach during the 2009 Ontario Open were the ones that were instrumental in changing my way of thinking.  Having such a trust in my teammates allowed me to no longer be afraid to miss or fail, knowing that if I did miss, they would have my back.  Since then, I’ve just taken that concept further and adapted it more to suit my mental game to help me and help me improve into a better bowler.  It’s important to not only trust yourself that you’ll get the job done but also to have trust in those that are on your team battling in the trenches with you.
I’ve always told people “If you can throw one strike, there’s no reason why you can’t throw 16 or 17 in a row”.  Sounds kind of silly considering it’s something that you don’t hear people doing very often but I believe in that idea.  It’s your brain that realizes that you’re on, say, 5 or 6 in a row and starts messing things up.  It’s a mental wall that you create for yourself that has the ability to hinder your game.  Speaking for my own game, I’ve always found that I would play in tournaments like The Open or other tournament formats that didn’t keep a running tab of my individual score.  Not seeing my scores game to game didn’t allow me to notice that I was playing really well and scoring high, or not scoring well and getting down on myself.  I realize that some people play better seeing their scores and knowing where they stand in a tournament but for myself, I’ve learned to play dumb.  Some might chime in and say it’s easy for me to play that way, but the truth is, I try to if I ever get the chance to.  I go up on the lane with the idea that each and every frame is its own game, taking only the good things from the previous frames to the next and shedding your mind of anything bad thrown previously.  This allows me to get into a routine and get myself on a roll.  I set my sights at recreating what gave me success the frame before.  Let’s face it, this game is about routine.  From an early age coaches are teaching young bowlers to throw a consistent ball frame after frame.  What gets lost in the mix is the importance of THINKING consistent as well.  Muscle memory gets your muscles trained to do consistent motions over and over and using your mental game consistent as well will compliment what your muscles accomplish.
To sum everything up, it’s important to use your brain to achieve consistency, but to not use it too much.  Overthinking can lead to tight grips that cause flat shots or trying to force the ball into place.  Use your head to get things rolling and then put it on repeat.  Everyone has certain triggers that work for them to throw great shots.  Find yours and have confidence in yourself to repeat the process over and over.  More importantly, don’t take the moment too seriously and don’t take yourself too seriously, because at the end of the day, it’s still just a game.  Even if it IS a fun one.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My introduction

For the first of what I hope will be several blogs, tips and stories, I figured I would write what to me, seems like the perfect introduction.  I’ve always been asked this same question, whether it be at a bowling function like bowling school, or sitting around with friends that have never taken up the game. 
“Why do you bowl?”
I think for myself at the beginning, it was pretty clearly a family thing.  My parents were both active bowlers, and my grandparents before them.  I grew up in the bowling alley.  I was around the game so it was natural to have taken up the game myself.  I remember the family outings to Mohawk Lanes down the street from my parents house in Hamilton.  I still remember the score tables with the track ball, the dim lights and the tiger stripe house balls.  The bowling alley has since long disappeared but the impact that place had is still strong. 
If I really take a step back and think about it, that is still a main reason, but it’s not a clear cut winner anymore.  It has, over the years, evolved into something much bigger.  I still after 28 years of bowling, enjoy the game.  More importantly, I enjoy the people associated with it.  I’ve frequently heard from people that no longer play events such as Masters or the Open don’t miss the game as much as they miss the people.  Every year I go out and try to qualify for the Open.  While winning has always been a top priority for me, I think seeing those familiar faces each Easter at our provincial Open is a greater factor to me.  Winning medals and trophies is great, but it’s the people that create the memories.  My childhood friends have come and gone and my high school friends have come and gone.  While some of my bowling friends have disappeared over the years for various reasons, many still remain seeded in my life.  I think that has a lot to do with the people, but a lot more to do with the game itself.
Imagine this scenario:  At a baseball game, a batter steps into the batters box against an opposing pitcher.  The pitcher heaves the ball past the batter, with the batter waving at the ball helplessly as it lands in the catcher’s mitt.  “Beautiful pitch” the batter proclaims to the pitcher as the catcher throws the ball back.  “Don’t worry, you’ll hit the next one out to right field” replies the pitcher.  The pitcher launches in another pitch and the batter connects, hitting a home run.  The pitcher applauds the batter as he rounds the bases, and meets him at home plate to shake his hand. 
Sounds wildly far fetched doesn’t it?   But if you take the same idea and apply it to the game of bowling, it’s something that is seen as frequent as on a daily basis.  Bowlers high five their opponents after frames both good and bad.   In victory or defeat.  That’s the type of thing that quickly creates a closeness amongst competitors all the way up to the national level.  We are trained to welcome the competition with open arms and look at your opponents as friends, not enemies.  Over the years I’ve lost countless matches to people that had quickly become my friends.  I’ve accepted that their best had beat my best fair and square, and perhaps a rematch will come along down the road.  More importantly, it’s a memory shared and perhaps a friend made.  
I’m quite sure he’ll never remember the match I played him, but I was lucky enough to bowl against a legend in the bowling world in only my second or third year playing the tournament tour with Masters.  I remember it so clearly that I remember the exact lanes it took place on.  I played Fraser Hambly at Echo Bowl in Brantford on lanes 3 and 4.  Fraser had the lead on me after nine frames.  I’m sure there have been hundreds of previous bowlers that he had in the same position.  I picked up my ball to throw the tenth, stepped off the lane and took a breath.  The game could still be won but chances were slim.  I feel a hand on my shoulder, stopping me from stepping onto the lane.  The words were so simply said, but so unbelievably confusing to me at the time.  “You’re dropping your shoulder.  Keep that shoulder up.” was all he said.  Two simple sentences that impacted me more than he’d ever imagine.  The reason why I believe he’d never remember that exchange was simple.  It’s probably something he’d done all the time.  No different than the last time he said something similar to an opponent.  But the first time I’d ever heard something like that.  I’ve tried to take that, and do the same to others I’ve crossed paths with.  I’ve lost games from telling someone something they were doing wrong and I’ve joked that I need to learn to stop doing that because I get burned every time.  The truth is I won’t stop because that’s just the way we as bowlers have been taught to play.  Maybe that’s why I feel the need to start a type of media that I hope someone will find useful.  Whether they take the stuff that’s been written and apply it to their game to improve it, or to just have something that they find to be a good read.  I’m not sitting here thinking I’m the one that will give you all the vast knowledge needed to take your game to whatever your desired level is.  I’m surely not bright enough to make that happen.  I do, however, hope that with some help from other bowlers, that this spot here can make a difference.  I hope that when it’s all said and done, I could have some impact to another bowler along the same lines as Fraser did with me.
I know there are a lot of people that have something that can be contributed to this project.  I’m only one person and I know that strength is in the numbers.  I’d like to dedicate this space to everything to do with bowling.  Whether it be something from bowling’s past, upcoming tournaments or current tournament results, tips and techniques or latest happenings in the bowling world.  I know there’s a lot of material out there across the country that can be put to good use.  I urge anyone with any ideas, information or suggestions to please feel free to send me an email to  We could use a common resource across the country and my aim is to provide that.  While you’re at it, pass this along to other bowlers and maybe we can start something worthwhile.