Teaching Old Dogs (Part 1)

            I have had the pleasure recently of giving lessons to a few senior bowlers with some outstanding results. One such sixtysomething year old senior named Bob drove from New Jersey to my home center in North Carolina , about a 10 hour drive. He came in hoping he had the stamina to make it through one of my 2 hour sessions the next day, maybe 6 or 7 games.

            I took a little time showing Bob my methods of using the acceleration of the earth’s gravity instead of the acceleration of his own muscles.  I demonstrated how to set up his footwork to work “with” the motion of the ball instead of against it and to hold the ball with a relaxed grip instead of the Kung Fu death grip.

He was able to bowl effortlessly and with more pin crunching power. After 17 games, he got in his car and drove back to New Jersey .

            He reported back to me a few days later via email that he didn’t have the pains and discomfort he used to get after bowling a lot of games. All his recent scores were above 200 as well. He is re-drilling all his equipment to the thumb pitches that I had suggested during our session so he would never have to return to the Kung Fu death grip.

            I have been paying more attention to seniors and the way they bowl lately. This may be because I am not too many years away from getting my discount card and joining their ranks. Most of the seniors I have given lessons to are very surprised at how much they can improve their scores with much less effort on their part. Too many seniors assume they are too old to learn new ways. The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” does not apply here. You “old dogs” can learn new and better ways to bowl.

Changing your grip

            The first thing I suggest is to take all your equipment into the pro shop and have your fit checked. Most seniors have not changed their thumb and finger pitches in many years but their hands have changed a great deal. The science and art of drilling holes in bowling balls has changed a lot in recent years.

If you have a little extra Social Security money tucked away along with an old ball you don’t use much, take it into the pro shop. Tell the pro shop operator you would like to experiment a little with your thumb pitches and try a little forward pitch. I guarantee that 90% of you have ¼ inch or more “reverse” pitch in your thumb hole right now. I also guarantee you that 80% of you should have ¼ inch or more “forward” pitch in your thumb hole instead. The more “reverse” pitch you have in your thumb hole, the harder you have to squeeze the ball to keep from dropping it.

I will warn you that a lot of pro shop operators are a little behind the times and will try to talk you out of “forward” pitch in your thumb hole because they think the ball will hang on your hand. Just ask them to humor you and give it a try.

  Once you have your newly drilled ball in hand hold it like a baby bird and don’t squeeze at all during your swing. If you get the thumbhole pitches and size just right, you will find that the ball stays on your hand until the bottom of the swing and releases smoothly all by its self.

If you squeeze the ball, it will stay on your hand too long causing you to perform a late release. This will kill your rev rate and cause you to pull the ball inside your target. This will also open the door for a skeptical pro shop operator to say “I told you so”.

You want the ball to leave your hand at the bottom of the swing and land smoothly on the lane. If you learned to bowl 25 years ago, you were told to “lift” the ball and “throw it out on the lane.” Today’s high-tech bowling balls are not too happy with that kind of release. A lifted (lofted) release will cause an unpredictable breakpoint on all but the easiest lane conditions.

Next month I will go into a few more things that can help seniors and most others. In the mean time get those balls checked out.

Be sure to check out my website www.bowl4fun.com for more tips and details as well as a live bowlers’ chat room each night after 11 PM Eastern Time. My email address is rclifton@triad.rr.com