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The Perfect Game
by Steve Felege

There is no magic wand you can wave to knock down a stubborn ten-pin. No mystic amulet exists to prevent those annoying "taps." Rabbits feet won't cure "snake-bite." Rub your ball until you're blue-in-the-face, but no genie will appear to help you convert a split. Eating Lucky Charms for breakfast won't guarantee lucky strikes that night. Spells won't work; prayers won't either.

Bowlers tend to be a superstitious lot, ever hopeful that "Body English" or some inanimate object will make a difference when they deliver important shots. Here's a news flash: Once that ball leaves your hand there is nothing you can do but watch. If you "choke" when the pressure's on, it isn't because you forgot to wear your lucky shirt. The real reason is lack of preparation.

All bowlers have weaknesses in their delivery; we're human. Eliminating those shortcomings is the key to improving your scores. The bottom line is this: You can't simply wish you could bowl better. Improving requires some effort, but the process isn't hard.

It may begin with changing the way you think about practice. For many bowlers that means rolling a few extra games, after all, practice makes perfect. Right? WRONG! Doug Weidman said it best, "Practice doesn't make perfect; practice makes permanent!" In other words, rolling a few more games cements both the skills AND the flaws in your approach. It doesn't improve them.

Improvement begins with identifying a specific flaw in your delivery, then learning how to fix it. Once that's done it's time to roll those extra games. Right? WRONG AGAIN!

Games are rolled for scores which are meaningless during practice. While trying anything new, your scores should be awful. You must practice one shot at a time until comfortable with any modification to your technique! Let the meter keep track of how many frames you've rolled.

But what if you don't have time to go out and roll those extra frames? What if money's a little too tight to afford that luxury? Does that mean you're just out of luck? Absolutely not!

The quality of practice time is more important than the amount. Let me explain. Prior to the start of competition, bowlers are allowed about five minutes of "shadow-bowling." THAT IS PRACTICE TIME! Make the most of it! Here's an effective routine:

Step 1: Warm up a few minutes before the machines are turned on. Stretch a little, swing your ball a few times and perform a few false slides along the foul lines to check for sticking problems. Don't waste valuable practice time doing these things.
Step 2: Once the pinsetters are turned on, ignore the pins. They're meaningless during warm-ups. Your first ball should be your standard shot at the pocket. No matter the result, the next two shots must be for a ten-pin, then a seven-pin. This sequence allows you to rehearse and read the condition across the lanes.
Step 3: Continue to ignore the pins standing before you. Spend the remainder of shadow-time working on the weakest part of your game. That may mean trying something new, or shooting only at a corner pin again and again, even when it isn't there or a full rack of pins is tempting you. This also develops discipline.

When competition begins, you'll be as ready as you can be. Right? Right! Practice time will be over. Right? WRONG.....AGAIN! Five minutes of shadows has changed the lane condition. Every first ball is now practice as you fine-tune your standard shot to match the ever-changing oil pattern. Get it? Good, because there's more.

Let's say that despite your best efforts, you come down with a case of the dreaded "snake-bite." You hit the pocket over and over but leave every split imaginable (we all have those nights). What do you do? Practice adjusting! When your standard shot isn't working, change something! For example, you might move your stance closer to, or farther back from the foul line. If that doesn't work, you can try using a higher or lower push-away. All four of the basic bowling skills can be modified, but you must never change more than one at a time. That is critical to learning "cause-and-effect." Don't be afraid to fail. Success only comes to those who do. Let's move on.

When facing an impossible split like the 4-6 or 7-10, go for the pin that is harder for you to convert. That is practice, too. If you're in a close match, ignore that advice and go after the pin you are more likely to hit (close games are often won or lost by that one pin).

Finally, the third ball in the tenth frame can be used as a practice shot also, particularly if you feel the need to test a different line. Again, your decision to do this is determined by the margin by which you, or your team, are winning or losing.

Disclaimer: Practicing while competing is only acceptable when done to legitimately solve a bowling problem with the intent of improving your scores. It should never be used as an excuse to hold down your average. That's called "sandbagging" and is the greatest sin a bowler can commit.

To summarize, if you truly want higher scores, the only thing you can rely on Improvement of your game can happen overnight but requires effective practice, patience, discipline and realistic expectations. Good practice = good bowling = good scoring = good memories.

NOTE: Long ago, a simple device was invented by the Lamex Company in Whiner,* New York. It's a bowling aid for anyone too lazy to put some effort into improving. It's called the "Cuse" and is becoming more popular than ever as bowlers turn to technology for higher scores. The Lamex-Cuse is particularly useful when a game is on the line and a single-pin spare is missed by the second shot in the tenth frame. Unfortunately, like a talisman many rely on, it has never worked either.

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* pronounced "Winner"................ (Yeah, right!)

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29 February 2020

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