Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bowling Lessons

Debbie Haggerty is my doubles partner in my bowling league. She's also one of the best bowling coaches in the world. My friend Tim is a fine bowler with a simple style that enables him to be accurate and consistent. He loves the game and is always looking to learn more about it and improve his skills. One skill he wants to improve is his ability to roll a more powerful ball so that he can get more strikes. So, when I told him about Debbie, he resolved to take a lesson with her. Yesterday, he was finally able to drive here from the Bay Area and make good on that resolution, and I accompanied him to the bowling center.

He and I practiced for 90 minutes before Debbie arrived. Then she watched him carefully and videotaped him from several different angles. After that, she replayed the videos for him in regular, slow, and very slow motion showing him what he's doing right and what he's doing wrong and gave him suggestions on what he can do to improve, especially in the way of generating a more powerful roll on his ball. She then watched him try out those suggestions. Tim's a quick learner, and he was soon knocking down pins with more forcefulness than I was accustomed to seeing from him. I have no doubt that what he learned will make him a better bowler, because it will enable him to throw a more powerful ball without sacrificing the effective simplicity of his game.

Even though I didn't ask for it and didn't pay her for a lesson, she also videotaped me from the back and side and replayed it for me. It was a revelation. I've seen myself on videotape before, but never as clearly in regular and slow motion as I did yesterday. I was actually somewhat pleasantly surprised at how graceful I looked in some respects. Nevertheless, my game bears the somewhat archaic signature of someone who began bowling in the late 1960's with its long slide and extended follow through. And I was doing something blatantly wrong that was affecting my ability to be consistent. I was holding and pushing the ball slightly to the right of my trunk when I began walking to the foul line, and this caused me to swing the ball slightly left behind my back in my backswing, forcing me to try to get the ball back on line in my forward swing. She told me to hold the ball a little further left and make sure I push it straight out rather than to the right and that this should enable me to achieve a straighter, more consistent backswing which, in turn, should help me to be more accurate and consistent. She also made a suggestion about how to hold the ball before I begin my approach so that I can effortlessly generate a more consistent and powerful release and ball reaction leading to more strikes.

I was very pleased with what I learned and look forward to trying it out. I've always had difficulty understanding biomechanical principles and following instructions. This is why I've never sought out coaching and haven't asked Debbie for advice when we bowl together in league. But I understood the simple suggestions she gave me yesterday and think they will help me a lot. I think I'll now be less reluctant to ask her for advice when we're bowling together, and I may even hire her for some formal lessons.

Perhaps it's not too late to teach an old dog or, in this case, old bowler new tricks.

No comments: