Working through a slump


          Every bowler at every level goes through a slump now and then. A slump is not just having a bad night at the lanes but several bad nights. It is not unusual to hear a bowler say that he has been in a slump for several weeks or even months.

            Slumps are not bugs you catch like the common cold but they can infect your game without warning. You canít feel the slump coming on it just happens. All of the sudden you just start bowling badly and your not sure why.

There is always a reason however. Something has changed. In order to work your way through the slump you have to find what has changed. First we have to analyze what part of your game has changed. I suggest you go through a quick check list.

# 1 Are you hitting your targets? Notice I said targets and not target. If you read my previous 3 part series on using your breakpoint as part of your targeting system you will know why. If you missed them then read them on my website.  If you donít know the answer to question #1 then you may have solved your problem already. Often people donít know if they hit their targets because they have stopped looking at them. You may start out looking at your target but somewhere along the approach you start looking somewhere else. Sometimes people look up at the pins too soon or they look down near the foul line as they deliver the ball. Looking down near the foul line is fine if that is your normal target, but if you are supposed to be looking at the 3rd arrow and you look down as you deliver you ball you will loose accuracy. Accuracy at your breakpoint will suffer most and usually to the inside. If the answer to #1 is NO then there are many other possible reasons, most of which will be covered in the other questions.

# 2 Is your ball rotating the same way it always has? I am a strong advocate of always watching your ball rotate as it travels down the lane. If you are in the habit of watching your ball rotate then you will know if your rotation has changed. Is your axis tilt and rev rate the same?  If your ball is not rotating the same then there may be several causes. The cause could be a release problem, ball fit or timing issue. The most common release problems are turning the ball too early or trying to put too much ďstuffĒ on the ball. If it is a struggle for you to put revs on the ball then stop trying. The reason you are not successful is because you are not doing it right. I have seen lots of bowlers bowl badly because they have seen better bowlers turn the ball more revs or hook the ball a lot,  so they try to incorporate that into their game. High revs are more technique than brute strength. There is an article on my website that shows how to release the ball if youíre after more revs or want to stop turning the ball early. If your ball seems to be rotating the same but just not have as much power as it used to, then have the pro shop clean it. You would not believe how much reaction your ball looses over a 100 game period if you donít take care of it.

A common problem for PBA quality bowlers is squeezing the ball. The reason I say PBA quality is because lower average bowlers always squeeze the ball. If you are a PBA quality bowler then check to see if you are squeezing.

# 3 Are you stable at the foul line? If you are normally well balanced at the foul line are you now falling off of your shot? If so then check your slide step. Many times a bowler will simply stop stepping in on that last step. You have to step in so your slide foot ends up in the center of your body in order to be balanced at the line. Also make sure that you are not turning your slide foot sideways at the line. Some people just get in the habit of turning their slide foot toe in. Some do it because they are forcing the ball too much. Both are bad. If you are stepping in and sliding ok but still falling off then check your timing. If your timing is the culprit then most likely your timing is too early. That means the ball is getting to the foul line too soon. Try taking a shorter first step or speeding up your footwork a little or pushing your ball away a little later. Early timing will often cause you to pull the ball inside your target. Sometimes itís a good idea to just move up or back on the approach a foot in order to give our bodies a new cadence.

#4 Have your changed your swing plane? This simply means you may be pushing the ball away in a different direction than normal. Everyone has a different shape to their swing path so itís not as simple as just saying push the ball straight out in front of your shoulder during your push-away. Experiment a little. Try pushing a ball more toward the 7 pin for a few shots and see what your ball does. Then try pushing the ball toward the 10 pin for a few shots. You can learn a lot by doing this. You only have to push the ball a little in ether direction for it to make a big difference in your swing. You may find that on some of your shots you have been pushing the ball one way or the other not meaning to.

#5 Is your foot work consistent? Bowl an entire game using the same line and make note of what board you slide on each time. Often bowlers over time will develop sloppy feet and start drifting different amounts.

#6 Are you trying too hard? A very common problem is bowlers will start throwing the ball harder and trying to force the ball to hit their target. The worse they bowl the harder they throw. Try just letting the ball flow. Did you ever notice that sometimes during league practice you canít miss the pocket but as soon as they start counting the score you canít hit the pocket to save your life? Thatís because during practice you were not really trying. You were just letting the ball flow. As soon as it counts you start trying to ďplaceĒ the ball and make sure you throw it well.. Just let it flow!

#7 Is your push away getting lazy. Sometimes bowlers will get a little lazy with their push away. This will shorten the swing cycle and tend to make the bowler have early timing.

#8 Are you letting it fall? Make sure you are letting the ball fall freely from the push away. The more pressure we have on us the more we tend to hold the ball back. We would be better served to just let the ball flow and not try to control it.

#9 Are you staying in the ball too long. This goes along with squeezing the ball. Bowlers sometimes get in the habit if staying in the ball too long. This creeps up on them and they donít realize it. This will cause you to loose accuracy and have an under-over ball reaction.

#10 Are you missing more spares? If so check the fit on your spare ball if you have one. Bowlers often will let the fit get bad on the spare ball and just live with it. It is costing them spares in many cases. Are you trying to throw too hard at spares? Often bowlers will get carried away with ball speed on their spares and start missing them. Again just let the ball flow and you will be more accurate.

Bowl great!

Ron Clifton

I can be reached by email at