The Discard Pile

You've moved left. You've moved right. You've looked farther down the lane. You've targeted the dots. You've changed balls three times. You've tried forward roll. You've tried side roll. You've changed speeds. Now you're more confused and frustrated than you were before you started making all these adjustments. The pressure to hurry up and score is incredible. Can you feign an injury?

There has probably been a time in your bowling career you have been so frustrated you thought "I've tried everything I know and nothing has worked." If you have been there, you know how to define the word panic. When your evil non-bowling twin, Mildred, says that to you, she is putting all your adjustments in the discard pile instead of back in your deck. With all the things out there working against you, (you, your opponents, lane conditions, where the moon is, etc), you need every edge you can get.

The more you know about your game, the more weapons you have available for your use. Whether you do it or not, you know in your heart that practice is the best way to get intimate with your game. Practice is not two four-letter words! You can get to know your game in competition, but the price you pay is much higher.

Don't just try something in practice once and blow it off. Try it again and again. Make sure you give it a fair chance. After a while, you'll probably begin to see what difference and what benefit the experiment might have for your game. New things aren't awful or uncomfortable. They feel different, not wrong. When you work with a change in your game and get comfortable with it, it becomes part of your total weaponry as a player. You may not have to use it often. You only have to know two things about its impact on your game: what it will do and most importantly, when to use it.

When you try something in competition and it doesn't work, your tendency is not to try it again. You know whoever finds it first wins. There is great pressure to get lined up so sometimes we tend to try something and eliminate it too quickly. After all, it didn't work, why try it again? The fact is that it didn't work AT THAT TIME. That doesn't mean it won't work now!

With modern lane conditions and equipment, there is constant transition on the lane. Whatever oiling pattern was put on the lane before anyone started bowling has nothing to do with now. A lane pattern is developed. Every ball thrown on a lane changes that lane. A ball that didn't work in practice may be just the thing by the middle of the second game. (See The Lanes They Are a Changin').

Let's say a ball didn't get up to the headpin in practice. Back in the bag it goes and out comes a ball with a little more back end reaction. What are you going to do when it begins to finish sooner because of the breakdown of the oil or the amount of play on the lane? How far left will you go? How hard will you throw it? How many splits are enough? Meanwhile that ball in the bag is giggling at not having to go to work. A day off, yea! You just shot 226, 180, 168...

What if you have decided, based on your reaction in practice, to use forward roll? When you tried side roll in practice, the reaction was not what you wanted, but forward roll got the job done. When your shot starts going a bit longer, the 2 is a little slow to fall or a weak 10 stands, what will you do? You've already tried side roll and it didn't work, so now what? Change balls? Change lines? Move your eyes? Move your feet? Both? How many frames will your opponents wait for you to find it?

None of us are smart enough to remember everything we know. One of the most beneficial things I have found that you can do for your game is to list every single adjustment you know - everything from moving your wrist 1/4" in the starting stance to moving three arrows with your feet and eyes, from targeting the reflection of the heads of the pins to targeting the foul line, from taking your thumb out 1/8" to changing equipment.

The problem comes when all those adjustments you've tried have been discarded and you are out of options. If you had put those adjustments back in your deck, you'd still be playing with a full deck. You would not be out of options and what you tried early might be just the thing now.

Sometimes you get confused by all the things you know. Instead of helping you conquer the condition, you just become more befuddled. In the heat of battle, it's sometimes difficult to remain clear-headed. The list will help you stay focused and calm as it provides an organized and comprehensive resource of what works for your game.

When making this list, you will find it helpful to also note when you might use these adjustments. For instance, name all the things you know to do for no back ends. You can tuck your pinky, spread your index finger, set the ball down early, use more loft, etc.

What other condition might elicit the need for one of these adjustments? Well, you might need more loft if the heads are dry or you might want to get the ball down sooner if the heads are oily. Tucking your pinky might help you stay behind the ball longer or spreading your index finger might give you more side roll.

Most adjustments can be used to accomplish more than one thing. If you make a spreadsheet of the adjustments you know and all the different times you might need them, it can help keep more clearly in your mind what to do and when to do it. My spreadsheet has all the conditions I might face down the left side column and every adjustment I know across the top.

I have been on conditions where I struggled as we all have. The list can help. Let's say the heads were really flying and I couldn't seem to get the ball far enough down the lane. I thought I had tried everything I knew and was still frustrated and ineffective. When I looked at the "dry heads" condition and checked every adjustment to see which was applicable for me, a revelation! No wonder I was getting confused. I had forgotten some things and was overusing others.

Making the list is an interesting task and you might be surprised at all the things you know. Sometimes you don't know what you know. Listing them can make them more real and therefore they will be more viable for you. Some of them are instinct moves. Don't forget to list them. Besides, if you list them all, you won't forget any of them when the heat's on and you're uptight or scattered. No more driving home thinking, "I should have tried..."

Elite players have hundreds of subtle adjustments they use constantly. Their inventory is huge but more importantly, it stays huge. If what they tried didn't work, they put it in reserve for later. If they discarded everything they tried that didn't work, they would be reducing their options. They would never give that advantage to their opponent. Neither should you.

The elite player diligently and frequently practices adjustments so they'll know what each will do and when to use it. Therefore, their adjustments generally work because they are so very familiar with what those adjustments will do on the lane. You can attain this same confidence in what to do and when to do it with practice - an exercise that will be worth it to you when it's showtime and you make the right move at the right time instead of a mindless 'let's try this and see if it works'.

The following chart is by no means a complete list of either adjustments or all the things they can be used to combat. These are just a few adjustments and some of their possible uses. Not all adjustments work for all people. For instance, forward roll might work for some folks when there are no back ends but not be the correct roll for you. Hopefully, the list for you will be much more extensive and will help you stay focused on all the possible adjustments you have in your arsenal to deal with lanes and their transitions.

  Forward Roll Untuck Pinky Open Shoulder More Skid Close Inedx Finger
Oily
X
       
Dry
X
X
X
X
X
No Back Ends
X
       
Dry Heads
X
X
X
X
X
Wet / Dry
X
 
X
   
Reverse Block  
X
X
X
 

Big Back Ends

X
X
X
 
X