Back in the day, timing and mechanics were the keys to success. Equipment was barely a blip on the radar and lanes conditions were inconsistent at best. I remember vividly spending hours working on techniques barely needed these days on most of these lane conditions.
This puts bowlers in a tough situation; how far along will you have to go before you find out you have to change? It's common for someone to bowl just a few years and average over 200. Common for someone to have an honor score early in their career. How do you tell someone who is satisfied with their game there's something wrong with them? If the conditions always cover up the bad timing, poor release, inconsistant speed or the most common, strike enough to overcome missed easy spares, how will you ever reach your full potential?
I believe one of the problems is that most bowlers aren't exposed to the diverse lane conditions that exist. Our enemies to higher scores aren't bowling balls but oil. Trouble is, oil is invisible. Golf lets you see the bunkers and water and trees. Fairways aren't as wide as driving ranges so there's some tension when you see that tight shot and trouble looming. Gets you unbalanced, nervous, unable to execute. You can feel the wind and its influence on your shot. Easy house conditions let you just whale on your ball. Throw it all over the place and let you score.
Beginners to intermediate bowlers think that if they stand where they usually do and throw their ball at the usual spot and it doesn't do what it's suppose to do, either the ball is wrong or the bowling center screwed up the conditions. It's unfortunate but we've created this problem over the years. Most of the variables in lane surface, oil and stripping have now become expected. So much so, honor scores are less meaningful and the basic beginner can with a new fingertip ball raise their average significantly overnight. Go to any center and see a 300 game every week. At least a bunch of 250 to 279 games. We can't appreciate the greatest bowlers in the world anymore. How can I watch a pro shoot anything less than 250 and not be bored.
The answer is Kegel Challenge conditions. I'm happy to see many centers locally going the route of tougher lane conditions. It puts the integrity back into the sport, allows us to compare ourselves to the same conditions pros use and makes us aware of our short comings. Like I keep hammering into everyone, fundamentals are so important to this great sport. The ability to duplicate your speed, revs and maintain balance; to read lanes and make well educated adjustments. That's the beauty in this sport! To have a poor look and adjust to a great angle with good ball reaction and strike. That's what make's me feel good about bowling. It shouldn't be easy, it's been WAY too easy for too long.
So the best thing that can happen is a reality check. Find challenging, more realistic lane conditions to push you to throw it better, to raise your level of expertise. To loosen up that muscled swing and let the ball roll off your hand cleanly. House patterns are nice to pump up your ego but realistically, it's just an illusion. Reality requires hard work and sacrifice and that, in a nutshell, is the big picture.
Stop by White Plains Bowl any Tuesday evening at 9pm and watch some of the best bowlers around challenge themselves. 36 top amateur, collegiate and juniors bowling on difficult conditions which will expose their weaknesses. It's what all athletes do... push themselves to be better. With luck in years to come, more will push themselves so we can get the game of bowling back to the sport of bowling.