Bowlers can resolve to do better

Now, I’m not somebody who normally makes New Year’s resolutions, but I thought I’d give it the ol’ bowlers try, to borrow from a tried, true and worn-out phrase.

I don’t expect to follow through on all of these items, and probably not stick very long with any of them.

But I figure it’s worth a shot. A few of my current bowling habits weren’t resolutions and I didn’t come up with them around the first of January, but despite dating back 20 or more years ago, I’m glad I still follow them today.

One is throwing a straight ball at all my spares, and I mean ALL of them. Acutally, I’ve backed off from that the past two or three years and introduced a hook ball at some double-wood combinations where one pin is standing directly behind another.

Some other day, I’ll tell you about my odyssey with the straight ball, but suffice it to say, I feel much more confident shooting spares this way.

The other habit I picked up was writing down what line I play on the lanes. Ask anybody who knows me from bowling, and I’m sure it’s one of the first things they’ll say about me – my little scratch pad I’m always writing on. That and non-stop chatter, that is.

Let’s save the details about this for another day, too.

I’m hoping I can learn some more good habits – and unlearn some other bad ones – and maybe you can too with these ideas:

  • Not giving up when lane conditions are tough. Not every game can be, nor should be, 200 if that’s what you’re averaging, or 150 if that’s what your skill level is too.

But turning a potential 175 game into a 135 by not caring costs your average and your team’s score the same 40 pins as if a 279 becomes a 239.

That’s why they call it an “average” and not “lowest game of the year.”

This is certainly easier said than done, and on some nights, I know I’m not in the mood to battle hard just to reach mediocrity. But, say, if half the time you don’t give up when you’re sorely tempted to, that will go a long way to upping your scores without doing anything physically to improve.

  • Concentrating and focusing. Sometimes I’m so distracted, I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing when I grab my ball off the rack. Needless to say, things often don’t go right.

I’ve caught myself standing on the wrong dot on the approach or repeating errant shots I just discovered from the previous shot.

The whole time up on the approach waiting to throw and then actually throwing is only about 30 seconds, so use those seconds wisely.

  • On the other hand, relax and let things happen when you’re under pressure. This and the last item sound like opposites, but I’m lucky enough to be afflicted with both at various times.

Putting undue pressure on yourself to do well is a guaranteed shot-killer. Maybe the team needs your strike to stay in the game, or you simply don’t want to get hung in a beer frame. Have you ever done well when you tell yourself, “Don’t screw up”? I know I haven’t.

Instead, you need to employ whatever Zen Buddhism-style practice you know. Slow down, take a deep breath or two, or think about the one thing – that’s just one single thing – you need to do right to make this shot a success.

I have something I’ve done that works, even though it sounds goofy describing it. It’s only on rare occasions that it even occurs to me, but it almost always works when I’m under pressure.

Relax your face. Silly, eh?

All the time when you’re talking, you’re listening or you’re thinking, your facial muscles react, contract – they do something.

Just sit there right now and try to let your jaw just hang, then your cheeks unclench, then try to get your forehead to go slack. Hard to do, isn’t it?

When I do it, I have to let all or almost all of my other muscles hang loose in the same way. And that’s what you want when you’re getting tight.

I’d actually recommend throwing a practice or warm-up shot this way before employing it under duress. If you’re good at this, you might actually overrelax, as impossible as that sounds to most of us.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful, and I’m getting a few more percolating in my head, too, but the boss says I gotta stop now. So let’s revisit this topic sometime in January.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.