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Step 1 in Learning Lane Play: Find a Center That Offers a True Test – April 2009 – Par Bowling by Tom Kouros

IT'S TIME TO GET SERIOUS. YOU DECIDE you're really going to work on your game. Enlisting the services of a local coach, you spend countless hours and bowl thousands of games. You're averaging 222 and 225 in two different leagues. You're ready. With your newly minted PBA card in hand and hopes high, you enter your first Regional event.

Finally, at the end of the day, you're sitting alone in a coffee shop trying to Finally, at the end of the day, you're sitting alone in a coffee shop trying to understand why you averaged a rip-roaring 178 for your first block as a pro.

More than other sports, a lack of credibility seriously threatens the progress and even survival of competitive bowling. In this regard, no bigger problem exists than the one concerning lane conditions.

Some disagree and attribute bowling's current recession to the influence of unmanageable forces found outside the industry. Such logic clouds perception, dissipating the resolve to deal with the sport's critical needs. Yet it can't be overstated: Our biggest problem concerns an attack on the integrity of the game.

The nature of lane conditioning requires players to adjust their technique and skill to best accommodate that challenge. Ignoring or failing to comprehend the way the condition plays, or not having the proper equipment to navigate its challenges, inevitably leads to a negative performance.

Further, if the condition is not demanding, it can deceive one into adopting a less skillful style of play... a style that will eventually invite disappointment. Many "house" conditions qualify under this assessment.

My advice to aspiring bowlers who've become disenchanted is to first find a bowling center that offers a true test. Then consider the following adjustments and directives as preliminary, basic concepts to begin your library of lane play options.

Initially, try not to change the target spot at the arrows if it appears to be the most effective (as demonstrated by others). Adjust by moving your feet left or right as needed.

If you still find the line unproductive, move your feet back to your original position and adjust by moving the spot at the arrows left or right. If still not getting a good result, make a drastic move by moving both feet and target to a more inside or outside line, for example.

If the ball is breaking too early, look for an area on the lane with more oil and move your ball line over it. If the ball is breaking too late, on the other hand, move to the heavily played area of the lane, or play more of an outside line.

If you are hitting the pocket but unable to strike consistently, try tightening your line with a "one-and-one" move (one board with the target and the feet). This can be made in either direction and calls for a corresponding one-board shift with both the target board and the feet.

When the lanes begin to break down (the oil depletes), be prepared to move toward the center of the lane as play progresses. A bowler can often adjust to this type of progressive change in the lane condition by making "two-and-one" moves to the left (for right-handers) each time the ball begins to hooktoo strongly. A move of this sort progressively changes a 10-to-8 line (standing with your left foot on the 10th board on the approach and aiming at the 8th board at the arrows), to 12-9, 14-10, etc..

Finally, above all, find a qualified coach. Once you are satisfied with his expertise and the compatibility between your personalities, listen to him/her --- and to no one else --- for three reasons. First, "eyes on the bench" are vital if you are to fulfill your potential. Second, if there is an emotional bond between coach and student, the learning is enhanced in every key respect. And third, though at times they seem to refute traditional methodology, most capable coaches have their own way of "telling it like it is." In the quest of best serving communication, that's the way it should be.

Reprinted with permission from Bowlers Journal International