League Play: March 17, 2021

March 18, 2021

While on the one hand Tom Paterson has encouraged me to get out of my head and connect more directly with the physical sensations of bowling, on the other I can't pretend that I have perfect mechanics, and so I will need to pay some attention to mechanical changes. The trick, for me, seems to lie in not letting mechanical changes ensnare me at the cost of attending to other aspects of the game. When John Willock contacted me over Facebook and offered some suggestions based on my 2021 PEI Open playoffs match video, I was simultaneously interested and concerned: interested because I'm open to suggestions and concerned about falling prey to obsessing about mechanical issues once again.

Good news, everyone! I think I managed to incorporate some of John's advice without losing the gains I've made in the past few months in my mental approach. I'm encouraged. Now I just need this damn shoulder to calm down.

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John's observation has to do with my pushaway. He suggested that I push my arms out too far compared to my foot, which creates balance problems for me. I immediately made sense of this, because I'd noticed something my approach the week prior: speeding up too much on my second and third steps. Worse, the more I tried to slow down, the bigger the imbalance and the worse it got! When John told me this, I imagined that my feet were falling behind in the first half of my approach, then rushing to catch up in the second half, creating uneven rhythm. On its own, this might be fine, but I suspect it makes my approach harder to repeat than it might otherwise be. Why volunteer to play the game on a harder level?

I got here in part because I wanted to take pressure off my right shoulder. I felt like I had been yanking the ball through my swing, rather than letting gravity do the work. I remembered watching Geoff Born and noticing his straight arm and loose pendulum swing.

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I wanted that swing. When I tried, I felt like my feet were going too fast, so I shortened my first step in an attempt to slow down. By this time, I was combining a short first step with a long, straight-armed pushaway. That's what John saw in the video of my 2021 PEI Open playoff match. And that's what led him to suggest that I was taking myself off balance. I had become too robotic, pausing too much at the end of the pushaway. I'd noticed that myself and had thought that I merely needed to get used to it and the fluidity of the motion would come. Evidently, it hadn't! When I asked him whether I should shorten my pushaway or lengthen my first step, he mused that it didn't much matter; I could do one or the other.

Momentarily, images of Adam Kemp and his first step ran through my mind.

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I didn't think that would feel quite comfortable for me, but I bet myself that if I tried to do a little of what Adam does, I'd find a comfortable spot somewhere in between what I'd been doing and his first step.

So I tried it. I got up in my living room, where the floor is just slippery enough to slide in socks, and I tried about 20 "shots" alternating between my habitual first step and a longer one. I tried to stretch my first step far enough that my left foot seemed just about as far as out as the "ball" in my pushaway. I noticed something wonderful!

Balance.

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As my weight shifted from my right leg over my leg, I felt balanced. Solid. Under control. It actually really surprised me the first time it happened. You know that feeling when you do something so unexpectedly well that you freak yourself out a little? That happened to me.

When I tried going back to my shorter my first step, my right leg felt like it was rushing to get over my left foot; but when I lengthened my first step, my right leg casually and calmly stepped past my left foot and landed firmly but gently onto the floor. I felt balanced. And my arm swing felt easier. Not quite Geoff Born, but noticeably better. It seemed that I was on to something. Moreover, when I slid, I found it easier to finish my slide without falling over. Everything felt stabler.

This was promising.

So I tried this in league play. The first game went quite well: I shot 274; I didn't have any big string of strikes; I made spares. Everything felt calm and easy. I'd struck gold... for a moment.

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I'm so damn sick of my left shoulder. I've written about it here before. You're bored with it; I'm bored with it. Sadly, it started yelling at me in the second game. This made it hard for me to stay balanced and I found it difficult to put out of my mind. Why didn't I pop a Motrin before bowling?! (I've set a reminder for next week.) In my second game, the recurring pain led to some imprecision that manifested as head pins instead of missing the middle. Four of them, in fact. Add to that a missed corner pin spare—and a particularly painful one at that—and I ended up at 180. Even so, I hit the middle quite well, so it seemed that the mechanical changes were compensating somewhat for the distraction that came from the pain.

Finally, half way through the third game, I shoved the pain out of my mind. I steered into the skid. I focused most of my energy on the first step while keeping a little bit left over to put good rotation on the ball. After 109/6, I banged out in 9 and 10 for 259. I finished with a 713 triple that felt more like 800. (Yeah, yeah. It doesn't work that way.) And nothing felt particularly special. I could easily do that again.

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I have the distinct impression that this change in my approach will help me even out my steps, keep my balance through the point of release, and generally become significantly more repeatable. I expect to have a greater margin for error on my timing. I certainly hope so!

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Well...

Tell me!