2016 USBC Open Championship – Reflection

team
Well, it has been a long time between posts. There’s many reason for that but, I thought now was the appropriate time to put into words some thoughts and reflections I have coming off of the 2016 USBC National Championship held in Reno, NV and the year in general.

I have to say I truly enjoy bowling with the folks I bowl with. This was our second year bowling as a team and it’s a refreshing change from the norm for sure. I’ve mentioned in the past that I feel one thing which holds the sport back is the level of negativity and outright hostility displayed toward fellow bowlers. Well, there’s none of that with our team. Sure we’re a competitive group but there is positive energy and encouragement from all of us and that’s the way it should be. By its very nature the sport is mentally draining and there is certainly no shortage of people/players who are ready to tear you down verbally for no particular reason. I got to the point where I started to surround myself with just those folks who are positive and uplifting and eliminating those who have nothing good to say. It has started to pay dividends as I’m rediscovering the passion I’ve always had for the game.

I realized a while ago that before I can worry about competing at any reasonable level again I need to address my mental game. And removing the negative thoughts and those who would feed that monster from the outside needed to go. So, I cut way back on the tournaments I compete in, at least for a while, until I can be in a healthy state of mind. Slowly but surely I’m getting back to the place I need to be mentally. Once I’m there I can address areas of my physical game that could be beneficial. One point about the physical game; you can focus on that to the point of obsession. I’ve found that, in and of itself, can become a problem. Everyone has limitations; I prefer to think of them as “parameters” within which you can play. Some conditions will favor your game while others will not. Fine tuning your “parameters” is what I intend to focus on going forward. In other words, I’m going to stop trying to be what everyone else seems to think I should be and just improve on the things I do best so that I’m the best I can be at what I do well. I got away from that in an endless quest to change my game to try and be what I’m not physically capable of. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit this because I certainly don’t coach that way nor do I actually believe that changing a person’s natural ability is something that should be attempted. Nevertheless I did not practice what I preach which resulted in my drifting away from that core principle and belief which ultimately lead me to my downward mental spiral.

 

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So, on to the reflections of this year’s 2016 USBC National Open Championship; as I mentioned it was contested in Reno, NV at the National Bowling Stadium (above). Since I had never bowled at the stadium before I was excited to do so. I saw it as another milestone in my bowling career. So many great tournaments and accomplished bowlers have crossed the threshold of the doors there. It’s an honor just to compete in any event there. It did not disappoint for sure. I had a great time with my teammates and got to watch some of my local friends compete too.

Reno sign

I was not thrilled with Reno as a city but, just had to deal with that knowing the tournament was the primary reason I was there. The picture above is the famous Reno arch. If you recall watching the outdoor finals of the Queens event a few years back, this is the spot it was contested. Kelly Kulick won the tournament under extreme conditions complete with a dust storm that cover the lane surface making the conditions extremely challenging.

me

I had a great mental outlook going into the tournament and was mentally focused on every shot I needed to make. Clarity of thought was good and the game seemed to slow down. That’s really the only way I can put it. I find that when I’m in the correct state of mind everything seems slower and I can focus on the next shot and see the lane clearly. I guess you could call it being in the zone. Overall I was happy with the way I rolled the ball I felt I made good moves and equipment changes. Both of which were timely and helped keep me on track. The scoring pace for the tournament was generally low so, I was not obsessing with my score, just trying to knock down as many pins as possible with each shot. To me having a plan and executing successfully is a level of success in the sport. What happens on the pin deck is really out of my control, which really is the outcome since I can’t control what happens there. To that point, my successful execution did not net me huge scores though I counted my performance a success overall. Sure, there were a few bad shots, you have to expect that. It’s how you bounce back that matters. Like so many others carry was the issue of the day. I never shot so many 4 pins in all my life. It felt like I was so close to putting up some big numbers. But, at the end of the day it was about getting the ball through the pins at the right angle to produce the carry which is where I struggled. And that seemed to be the common theme as I watched others throughout the tournament.

Last year’s event I cashed in singles and the team cashed but, that was not to be this year. Each pin was difficult to come by and the opportunity to recover from an open by string 3 or 4 strikes was rare at best. So, we missed in all three events by a very small margin. I have to admit there’s a level of frustration that comes along with that but, I keep that in perspective by realizing the cash line has to be somewhere. It turns out I was just not above it…this time. I did cash in a few of the brackets I entered but nothing to really write home about. Like I mentioned overall I had a great time and came away with a positive feeling overall. I think that’s the feeling you get when you know you performed to your ability and did not leave much out there. I was able to get lined up in the second game of doubles and put up 191 and 211. We just missed a cash spot in doubles despite a valiant attempt.  I felt I was lined up for the singles event and scored 191 in game one. I had made the move to the DV8 Vandal halfway through the doubles event. A predictable move given that the Radical Guru I used had broken the shot down nicely. However, by game 2 of the singles event (game 5 on the pair), the shot had deteriorated and I found myself without a look. I was not able to continue an adequate scoring pace grinding through each game looking for a workable line.

 

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I’m already looking forward to next year’s tournament in Vegas. I like Vegas; I’m not a gambler but, there’s a lot to do there and it’s generally a fun place to be. And of course, I’m looking forward to bowling with my team again! I’ll be entering a few local tournaments during the upcoming season but, all of it will be to get me ready for next year’s USBC Open.

Through it all, I’ve come to realize I don’t have anything to prove at this point. I’ve accomplished a lot looking back and in many cases more than most people have. I really don’t need to prove myself or feel like I do need to and that’s a liberating feeling.

One Shot, One Frame, One Game

If you’ve spent any time around me, I’m sure you’ve heard me utter a specific phrase; “one shot, one frame, one game”. Those I coach understand the meaning of this phrase and I encourage them to keep it at the forefront of their minds when competing. I use this phrase myself so, I take a dose of my own medicine so to speak. You see, I’ve experienced firsthand and witnessed athletes come completely unglued in high pressure competitive situations. Through much research and reading I found there is a common thread running through all those athletes who are successful at composure and focus. This, of course, leads to being able to control one’s emotional state and stay focused even under the most trying circumstances. With that said, human beings are wired in such a way where we are governed by emotion. So, it is truly not possible to become like the Vulcan, Mr. Spock of Star Trek lore and be completely devoid of emotion. The key is to keep the emotion positive and to learn to channel it so it works in your favor. One point to mention here before we go any further is that it’s important to acknowledge whatever emotion you’re feeling. If you try to suppress the emotion, it will well up inside you and likely manifest itself at some point during the competition. There are always triggers that fire an emotional response. The key is to acknowledge the response and learn to channel it. Here are some examples of common triggers I’ve noticed:

Winning By Reputation
This trigger is very subtle and I’m willing to bet it has affected almost every person on the planet in one way or another. This trigger is brought about because of the perception that your opponent is somehow more deserving of a victory or is more entitled because of their athletic resume. So, there is a natural subconscious tendency to try and find your place on the natural hierarchy of relationships as it related to this individual. This translates to fear of facing someone you feel is far more accomplished than you. Well, let me let you in on a little secret… the mere fact that you are now their opponent is evidence enough that you worked hard enough to be there. Fear at this point is not a logical response.  I love the quote “Respect all, fear no one”. I picked that one up years ago in my tenure as a Softball coach and it applies regardless of the sport. These are great words to live by!

Self Fulfilling Prophecy
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, everyone no matter how successful, has their own personal demons and more times than not they surface as negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. Put simply, we tend to live up to our own expectations. There are times when we become a self fulfilling prophecy when we use bad performance, making bad shots or you name it to justify that we are just not very good. Thoughts go through our mind like, “see I’m just terrible at this game”. Does this sound familiar? Let’s face it, you have some things that you can do very well and yes you have limitations. And furthermore, those limitations may be a strong point in someone else’s game. How about the next time negative thinking invades our thoughts we try something new. How about, we focus on what we do really well and just acknowledge those areas that are weaker as points to be worked on in practice. I can’t think of a better way to slay a dragon.

Fear of Failure
Ever give away a sure win to an opponent? That’s this trigger in a nutshell. It usually manifests as thoughts of outright panic when you are way ahead and you want the game to end right now. Why, because you’re afraid that you’ll do something unthinkable and lose. Or you need to make a clutch shot in the 10th to win or shut out your opponent only to fail to execute and make a shot that is way out of character for you. Visualizing success on each shot is the best way to calm yourself and promote focus.

I’ll stop there but, I’m sure you get the picture and probably can relate to one or more of the above scenarios. They are all the triggers that creep into our thoughts and can do damage to our psyche. What do they all have in common you ask? Well, they are all examples of an under developed mental game. As I’ve discussed in other articles, Bowling is largely a mental game. And it is what separates the good players from the great ones in many cases.

So, what does “one shot, one frame, one game” have to do with all of this? Hey, I’m glad you asked! In short it is a formula that can set you on a path of success. Note, I can’t guarantee success but, I can give you some insight and point you in a direction. If you work the problem backwards you logically need to knock down more pins than your opponent at the end of the game; simple right? Well how do you get there? If you focus on that as your goal you could fall into any one of the traps above. No, games are won by only being concerned with the one shot which is in front of you right now. You need only be focused on that one small task and bring everything you have right now, on this one shot. Your thought process should be that right now, I’m the best this game has ever seen and I’m about to throw the best shot I’ve ever made… “one shot”. If all goes well you will not need another shot but, if you do you repeat that thought process on your spare shot… “one frame”. Producing multiple stellar frames together reinforcing the thought each time… “one game”. You cannot affect what your opponent does so maximize what you can do right now. Then look up after all 10 frames and see who is standing tall! Even if you did not knock as many pins over as your opponent, you still know you brought everything you had on every shot…and that my friend is a win not matter what the outcome.

None Left Standing

None left standing… that should be the motto of every bowler whether it is on their first or second shot. And of course, that time for at least a brief moment, when you are the best the game has ever seen; when you have thrown back 120 pins on 12 consecutive shots. Yes I’m referring to one of the sport’s “Holy Grails”, the elusive perfect score of 300. Many bowlers never aspire to those ranks and say what you will about the number of perfect games increasing as technology has made its advances in the sport. But, once all else boils away, the facts still remain. A player may get lucky on a couple of shots but, much must be said for the level of skill it takes to accomplish the feat. I can say this with a great deal of confidence there is nothing like the feeling the first time you achieve perfection. With all of that said, there is one feeling, I must confess, is a very close second. And that would be watching someone you have coached for a very long time finally reach that pinnacle. I’ve had that pleasure on several occasions and I’m not sure I can quite describe the euphoria but, allow me to try. In that brief moment when the last pin succumbs and slams to the deck, time seems to slow down. The reaction of the bowler is awesome to see and, for that brief moment, I’m right there at the foul line with them. Then the second wave, suddenly you focus only on that athlete while the commotion ensues around them. Well-wishers, opponents, and those who have gathered to watch are delighted by witnessing the feat. In that moment, only you see the athlete deep inside them. You know the struggles, the hours of work, and the demons which have tormented them. But, what you see is the sum total of all that in this one moment in time where everything seems right and everything has come together to bring that specific athlete to this moment of destiny. As a coach, these are among the best times, when you get to take the back seat and just revel in the moment watching someone you’ve mentored come of age. It’s moments like this that make me realize why I do what I do. Coaching is not about me, it has never been about me and I’ve understood that all along. It’s about giving back to a sport that I love deeply and to simply do what I can to help others enjoy it at whatever level they aspire to. I’ve known this all along but, what I was not prepared for was a whole other level as a coach. I’ve experienced a rare and wonderful feeling that not many have had the opportunity to experience and the funny part is I never saw it coming. This happened to me on exactly October 11, 2014 and here is that story.

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Chris Green – 2nd, Courtney Parenteau – 1st

It was a typical Saturday morning where I found myself in a familiar setting working with some Junior bowlers in our program. The scratch division was on a particular tricky sport condition and they were having issues with consistency. So, as I do most Saturdays after they are finished, I worked with them to help them see what they had been missing. I set up our targeting system on the lanes and reinforced seeing the lane from the foul line to the pins as well as from side to side. Once they had settled in and could hit the targets they began to do much better and their confidence began to return. After an hour or so, I relieved my daughter in the pro-shop so she could make the trek southward to Alley Katz where she and my wife would bowl in a Rhode Island Ladies Classic (RILC) singles tournament. I arrived some time later at around the begging of game 2 of the 5 game block to find my daughter Courtney bowling well and comfortably within contention to make match play. I am usually the tournament director for these events but, due to circumstances on this occasion, was a little late. Luckily, my son in law, Ian was at the ready to fill in for me. Courtney was throwing a Brunswick Vintage LT-48 and had a really good look with it as long as she was mindful of managing her ball speed. We spoke briefly and she mentioned she had made the move from her IQ Tour Fusion to the LT-48 just recently due to lane transition. It was clearly the right move given it kept her on the scoring pace. A quick check of her scores confirmed that for me. Out of the gate game one she put up a 248 where game two was a 208 marking the transition and ball change. Game three she bounced back with a 236 and was well on her way to a solid block and a berth into match play. When it came time for match play, Courtney was savvy enough to realize the lanes she would be competing on were fresh and made a bold and confident move back to her IQ Tour Fusion. That was experience talking right there. A lot of bowlers may not have had the foresight or confidence to make that move; often times that is what costs them in the end. During match play it was clear she was on point and the strongest two throughout match play progressed to the title match. I had set up the video camera for the title match as I always do in anticipation for putting another quality ladies final on youtube for all to enjoy. Courtney faced Chris Green in the final who is a veteran bowler in the area and has a great deal of experience locally and has bowled on the national scene. Most times in the past it would have been a case where Courtney has the least experienced but, that can hardly be said at this point. She has competed collegiately and has 4 years of post-collegiate bowling under her belt. Courtney has been exposed to more than most bowlers are in a lifetime. She has bowled many national high level women’s events including; Queens, Team Trials, and the US Open. Courtney has also bowled regionally against a consistently strong male dominated field in the New England Bowlers Association (NEBA) tournaments. When you look at it from that point of view, she has seen a lot and has fought her way through it. Most people, in our area at least, are shocked when the actually see a female throw the ball as well as she does. Although the novelty and “cuteness” factor has started to wear off a bit. The two of them locked horns in the title match and it turned out to be one for the ages. Through six frames, Courtney was perfect and Chris had left the door open for her. I watched as did the growing collection of spectators as Courtney threw each shot with poise and an unshakable confidence. The first six shots in that match had been executed flawlessly each a mirror of the previous. And the result the same, 10 straight back. Her 4th shot leaked a little wide but, flushed nevertheless. Then shots 7 and 8, same story … flush. Shot 9 was a little bit of a tug but held for yet another. The match was over by the 8th frame but, things had suddenly gotten serious…9 straight strikes without a sign of it stopping. I thought to myself, “The first shot of the 10th is the hardest”. I noticed a slight pause, I assumed Courtney was trying to compose herself. But, as with the previous 9 shots poise and confidence prevailed and she had the front 10. Was it going to happen this time? By now a noticeable crowd had gathered as was evident by the sudden outburst of applause as if they knew the importance of getting by the first shot in the 10th. It was then someone mentioned that a lady had not bowled a perfect game in that house since 1981. I was astonished but my mind could not take that in at the moment. I was focused on how Courtney would react to the situation. The title match and on camera in a singles tournament format added to the pressure. It was without a doubt excruciating to watch as she prepared for the next shot. Everything was as before, just as she had been trained, pre-shot routine intact and focus on only the shot in front of her. Poise and confidence to the line but, it got right off her hand a little faster than the others. “C’mon ball!” I yelled from the back and it responded as if somehow it heard me. I’m sure Courtney was talking to it all the way down the lane as well. It just caught the head pin and sent it to the side wall. The 2 pin was standing late and something tripped it forward, number 11! Applause erupted from the crowd as we all waited in anticipation of the outcome of the last shot. As Courtney waited for the ball to return, I could see the focus. She drew a slow deep breath with along exhale, no doubt trying to calm her nerves. As she set for the final shot I caught myself uttering very quietly, “c’mon kid one time, like you’ve done thousands of times before, just one”. To the line one final time but, again the ball leaked right quickly and I yelled “C’mon ball”, it must have heard me again. It got back to the pocket flat. The 7 and 10 stood defiantly but, two pins from each side wall toppled them too. The crowd erupted and I no doubt screamed the loudest. As for Courtney, she pumped her fists in triumph and probably a little defiant rage. Then the well of emotion gushed and tears were produced abundantly.

courtney 300

None left standing… Courtney Parenteau’s reaction after the 10 pin is the last to hit the deck!

Chris Green was the first to embrace her no doubt expressing her congratulations. I along with others added our affection and acknowledgement of the moment in time where Courtney was perfect. Her legs must have felt like rubber as shed collapsed onto a nearby chair face in her hands. This had been a long road with many near misses but, the ending could not be more story book like… match play finals for a title, on film, and in a house that had seen a 33 year drought between 300 games thrown by a lady.

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The only two ladies to throw 300 at Alley Katz Bowling Center. Courtney Parenteau (left) – 2014, Linda Chiaradio (right) – 1981

Amidst all the commotion, a few minutes later Linda Chiaradio, the only other lady to throw a 300 in that house, came down to the center just to meet and congratulate Courtney. It was an awesome moment and one I’m sure Courtney will never forget.

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Joey Transue was quick to update the board in the center

2014 Junior Gold – Flyers Come Up Big on Day 3

What an exciting third day at Junior Gold and an outstanding showing for not only the RI Flyers but, Rhode Island and Southeastern Mass.! First and foremost I would like to take a moment to acknowledge all of the bowlers from our area who participated in the tournament. Getting here is an accomplishment by itself. Well done everyone!

Jewel Dumond made both cuts and has advanced on to match play in the U15 Girls division. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Jewel and coaching her for several years now. It’s incredible to watch her progress, over the past year or so her ability has really skyrocketed.

Going into the last block of the U20 Boys squad both Tyler Perry and Bryan Bourget needed huge clutch performances to give themselves a chance. The character and resolve in both of these young men shined through yesterday as Tyler went +85 and Bryan +22 to move on to the advancers round. At the time of this writing (7am), they await the start of their block at 8am.

These three juniors who bowled for the Flyers and in Tyler’s case, Southeastern Mass., during the regular season are certainly not strangers to all of us in the Flyers program.

Others known to the program from our area who did well and made their respective cuts are Jadee Scott-Jones and Qwadaris Rembert of Providence Senate.

The format for the Junior Gold tournament is very challenging. Three WTBA Sport compliant patterns of varying length in three different houses across three days with a 1:7 advancement ratio is what makes this so difficult. And for a tournament of this caliber, it should be this difficult. Any junior who qualifies to be here really is among the best our nation has to offer. This year both the U20 Girls and Boys were the largest fields I’ve seen in the many years I’ve attended this tournament and the field was extremely talented as well.

As I mentioned to each of the bowlers the night before the first squad, each bowler has to have a goal for this tournament that stretches them. That goal is different for each bowler and they need to see that goal in front of them taking each day as a new tournament. The format is more of a marathon than a sprint. For those that did not make the cut, success really is what they defined it as. Jess Marcure met with success by improving her performance this year and seeing her spare conversion rate increase. Yousef El-laham put in a +18 block on the last day to recover from an otherwise difficult week. Curran Desjardins turned in two 900+ blocks for the tournament, realizing she was one solid block away from contending for cut. Rebekah Varin turned in her highest block ever with a 914 performance on the second day putting her within striking distance of the cut. Samantha Gitschier improved her performance over last year realizing the progress she has made over the past season. Tori Porter playing through some kind of cold/virus turned in a gutsy performance on the last day of qualifying. These are just some of the examples of the “back story” on the athletes who may not be in the limelight today but, also deserve to be recognized for their hard work and determination.

I’m not sure how the day will end but, this is certainly a tournament for the books and makes a statement that the future of bowling in the remote and often forgotten Northeast corner of the country is alive and well. These young bowlers represent a future force to be reckoned with for sure. Well done everyone!

2014 Junior Gold – Buffalo, NY – Day 2

Day two of Junior Gold is always the day which separates the field. Those who have done well enough over the past two days view day 3 as the block where they can move up high enough to advance. For others it is about bowling for a different reason, to maximize the learning experience and identify those areas of their game that need attention. At the present time Rebekah Varin has an outside chance to make the cut. It appears that the averages are slightly higher than in previous years. Rebekah helped herself today by posting a solid 914 block. Although she is still within striking distance, the 914 total could have easily been much higher leaving her with a more manageable task for day 3. Rebekah will need to be in the vicinity of 1050 tomorrow and may need a little help. After the way she threw the ball today, she may be able to pull a block like that together. Curran Desjardins lead the Flyers scoring pace today with a solid 924. Jewel Dumond continues to do very well in the U15 division. Her performance had her near the top of the pack and is in great shape to make that cut. With respect to the boys today, the pattern beat up most of the competitor thus, not allowing them an opportunity to make up any ground. Although they fought hard, the pattern today proved to be too much for most.

2014 Junior Gold – Buffalo, NY – Day 1

Front Row: Rebekah Varin, Jewel Dumond, Samantha Gitschier, Robert Labossiere, Tiler Levesque, Bryan Bourget, Yousef El-laham, Back Row: Tori Porter, Jessica Marcure, Jeff Marcure, Alex Burbine, Ben Burbine Missing: Curran Desjardins, Tyler Perry, David St. Pierre, Nathan St. Don

Front Row: Rebekah Varin, Jewel Dumond, Samantha Gitschier, Robert Labossiere, Tiler Levesque, Bryan Bourget, Yousef El-laham,
Back Row: Tori Porter, Jessica Marcure, Jeff Marcure, Alex Burbine, Ben Burbine
Missing: Curran Desjardins, Tyler Perry, David St. Pierre, Nathan St. Don


It’s pretty late as I write the first blog post from Buffalo. This is very familiar to me as I sit and consider all that transpired today. After so many years of working with our area’s youth to prepare them for this event and to do what I can to shape their future in the sport, I find that I’m once again exhausted. But, this kind of tired is the good kind. Sometimes as you work alongside the juniors and feel their struggles, a part of you struggles along with them. The exciting part is to be part of watching them grow as athletes and ultimately watching so many of the leave to bowl at high levels in the sport. I especially feel very proud of those who go on to bowl in the collegiate ranks. There’s one thing I know for certain after doing this now for so long and that is there is a huge value to those who go on to bowl in college. Not just from the perspective of their bowling but, the education they receive in the process. But, focusing on just the bowling aspect of this for just one minute, I mean after all this is a bowling blog. It’s very clear to me after watching so many compete at this level that there games are accelerated and they quickly grow beyond what they otherwise would be capable of had they stayed home and joined the rest of the local talent, by some measure, too soon. The evidence I draw on is to watch those who are now beginning to return from college and looking at how far their games have come as a result. So, it is very clear to me that the rigor of the classroom, physical workout schedule, strenuous practice and competitive schedule is what sharpens these athletes’ skills. I really am humbled and feel a sense of satisfaction in their accomplishments for whatever small way I may have helped them along their chosen path. I would not trade it for the world, I take the responsibility each of these athletes and their parents have entrusted in me very seriously and I’m honored to be part of their journey.

Area Juniors Representing the Flyers and Rhode Island

Area Juniors Representing the Flyers and Rhode Island

This year is certainly a new high point for not only the RI Flyers program but for junior bowling in our area. This is certainly the largest number of bowlers from our area to represent our state and is the largest number of bowlers from the RI Flyers league and Summer Sport program to date. That’s just a shout out to all of the players, parents and those involved in the Flyers for their part in making the program a success once again. Special thanks to Ed Ianni for collecting the cash each week and keeping the books straight. To Mike Pastore, general manager at AMF Cranston Lanes for really rolling out the red carpet and going above and beyond to assist the juniors. I can’t forget Courtney Parenteau for her assistance in coaching and putting together the Jr. Gold packets each year, and a thank you to Billy and Nicole Trudell for helping out on Wednesday nights. I get to be the head coach so, my role is very visible but, these are the folks who really make this happen. I know it sounds trite but, it is true. Without these folks volunteering their time, this would not be possible.

Well, the first day is usually a tough day, it’s always marked by significant ups and downs given all the athletes have to adjust to. First off, they are tired both mentally and physically due to getting used to new surroundings and coming off of 2 days of practice and sorting out how to approach each shot used in the tournament. We have a pretty veteran crew here this year so, they knew what to expect for the most part. My job is to keep them as grounded and focused as possible going into the first day. As I mentioned to the athletes last night, try to view this as three separate tournaments and try to reach your goal (whatever that is) on each day. Trying to turn this into a sprint as opposed to a marathon is a bad idea.

Left to Right: REbekah Varin, Tori Porter, Jewel Dumond, Samantha Gitschier, Jessica Marcure Missing: Curran Desjardins

Left to Right: REbekah Varin, Tori Porter, Jewel Dumond, Samantha Gitschier, Jessica Marcure
Missing: Curran Desjardins

On the Girls side, some of them  were on Tokyo today and in a house with pretty worn wooden lanes. The scoring pace was low for those blocks on that pattern. Other blocks were on the medium pattern and some of the athletes we know who bowled on it reported scores which were much higher than Tokyo. So, maybe it’s a good thing we got that one out of the way early. In terms of the Flyers members, Bekah Varin came out the best today although there was certainly some room for improved scores. She did not bowl her way into a hole and with two solid blocks has the opportunity to fight her way back into contention. Bekah had one 200+ game in her block but, was not able to catch traction during the block. That added to some missed spare opportunity kept her score at a modest 851. Other youth from our area did well today. Both Gazmine Mason and Jadee Scott-Jones are positioned well going into day 2. The breakdown on the pattern was tricky since there was a defined out of bounds and the midlane broke down considerably forcing many players well inside which is generally out of their comfort zone. The breakdown played into Gazmine’s “A” game and Jadee is strong enough to generate speed to miss the breakdown in the mids.

Left to Right: Yousef El-laham, Bryan Bourget, Jeff Marcure, Alex Burbine, Ben Burbine

Left to Right: Yousef El-laham, Bryan Bourget, Jeff Marcure, Alex Burbine, Ben Burbine

Most of our boys were on Mexico City today and that also played them tough. Like Rebekah, Bryan Bourget and Yousef El-laham  had modest scores and with two strong blocks could battle their way back into contention for cut. Bryan was plagued with some carry issues late in the block while Yousef got off to a slow start but, ended on a strong note.

All in all I am proud of the way all of the players battled today. They showed a true warrior spirit and I’m looking forward to tomorrow to see what that brings. Tomorrow’s blocks will really tell the story in determining if any of our juniors will be in position to move on.

Jess Marcure and Curran Desjardins To Bowl For Franklin Pierce University

Curran Desjardins and Jess Marcure with their parents

Seated Left: Curran Desjardins, Seated Right: Jess Marcure

The Rhode Island Flyers Elite Junior Program continues to produce players who catch the attention of many collegiate Bowling programs across the country. The Flyers see two more players, in addition to Alex Burbine, head off to make an impact at the Collegiate level. Jess Marcure and Curran Desjardins have signed letters of intent with Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire rounding out a talented roster for the University’s first year program.


Coach Kim Berit
, no stranger to Collegiate Bowling, is at the helm for the Ravens after a successful run as a player at Adelphi University. By all accounts, Coach Berit has signed some very impressive talent and is well positioned to enter next year with a formidable team with some depth as well. The University’s decision to allow Berit to spend the past year recruiting talent for the upcoming season may prove to be a wise model for other programs to consider.

Rebekah Varin

Rebekah Varin

In addition to Marcure and Desjardins fellow RI Flyers teammate Rebekah Varin will be transferring from Monmouth University adding some needed experience to the young lineup. To say that Coach Berit “hit the Trifecta” would be an understatement with the acquisition of these three talented ladies.

Both Marcure and Desjardins spent significant time in the Junior ranks in Southeastern Mass. before finding there way to the RI Flyers. With the reputation of producing many Collegiate caliber players, the Flyers provided the opportunity for growth both players were looking for.

Curran, Rebekah, and Jess at the recent Flyers/FPU signing party

Left to Right: Curran Desjardins, Rebekah Varin, Jess Marcure

 

 

Jess Marcure is no stranger to hard work on and off the lanes. She has taken the difficult path academically by taking many honors and Advanced Placement classes. Jess will major in English Education. The last several years have marked a time of continuous explosive growth with respect to Marcure’s physical game. Her work ethic has been outstanding and all of the hard work has begun to pay dividends. Recruited by four programs, Jess settled on Franklin Pierce because it was the right fit academically and athletically. She attributes her passion for Bowling to her older brother Kyle (also a former member of Southeastern Mass. and an RI Flyers standout). His example is what sparked Jess to pursue her game as well.

Curran Desjardins is certainly the newest member of the RI Flyers now in her second summer season 20140525_181212with the organization. But, she has been faithful to her commitment making the 35 mile trek from home to AMF Cranston Lanes each week to hone her skills. Curran will be majoring in Health Studies at Franklin Pierce where she will be applying her never quit attitude both on and off the lanes.

Marcure and Desjardins will join myriad current and former members of the Flyers to enter the collegiate ranks. Many Rhode Island Junior Bowlers and some from nearby Massachusetts who have entered the collegiate ranks have been active members of the Flyers organization, enjoying the benefits of the rigorous program that develops a player’s physical and mental aspects of the game.

Coach Fran with Jess, Rebekah and Curran

Left to right: Jess Marcure, Coach Fran Varin, Rebekah Varin, Curran Desjardins

Jess and Curran the Flyers’ coaching staff is very proud of your accomplishment and your example to all of the bowlers in the program and to those that read this article.

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

 

 

A Stroll Down The Lane – Lane Oil

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PBA dyed lane oil illustrates the pattern and how it breaks down

 

In my first discussion regarding the playing surface, we took a look at the topology of the lane surface itself. Next, we’ll take a look at the infamous “oil”.

Bowling, like many other sports, has gone through and may still be in the throws of a technological revolution. The science involved in designing modern bowling balls is staggering and the “missiles” we use to blow out a rack of pins is light years away from the spheres we used to throw when I was a boy. Increases in strength and aggressive high friction cover stocks have brought about a situation where the dressing (oil) applied to the lane surface had to evolve as well.

But, first let’s take a step back and ask why this oil is applied to the surface to begin with. Well, back in the day it was discovered that the wood, especially in the front part of the lane, was taking a beating from bowling balls constantly pounding the surface. So, to try and combat the wear and tear on the lane, a coat of oil was sprayed on part of the lane as a protective barrier. Over time, savvy players discovered they could use this to their advantage. So, the application of oil as a lane dressing became an integral part of the game.  

Fast forward to modern times, automated lane maintenance machines have advanced to a point where exact volumes of oil on various parts of the lane can be applied with pinpoint accuracy. Buffing in forward and backward directions can also impact ball reaction. And yes, the way in which the oil is applied can drastically affect the scoring pace by either raising or lowering the scores.

The problem is that no one can actually see the oil and therefore every bowling lane looks identical. Typical “house shots” have become increasingly soft over the years and when coupled with the changes in ball technology has contributed to record honor scores as compared to the much more challenging Sport patterns.

But, as if that were not enough, the oil itself is basically derived from a Mineral oil base sometimes including additives to either increase or decrease friction. The oil has a property known as viscosity, just like the oil you put in your car. Viscosity is essentially a measure of the oil’s resistance to flow. Low viscosity oil would be very runny oil and thus migrate more readily about the lane’s surface. This would be in contrast to high viscosity oil which would resist movement across the surface. Now, let’s factor in the weather conditions in and around a typical bowling center. Such things as humidity and temperature play a factor in how the oil performs on a specific lane and can influence the Oil’s viscosity. So, have you every wondered why in some houses lanes play tighter in the winter or seem to dry out quickly in the summer? These factors are at work in such a case.

Let’s now add in the notion of lane topography into the mix. From our earlier example, what would be the outcome if I used the same oil pattern and lane maintenance machine in the two hypothetical centers but, used different viscosity oil in each center? If you said the shot would likely play and breakdown differently, you would be correct!

Are you beginning to see why a shot, even in the same house, from week to week can change? If not, add in the weather as a factor from week to week and you can begin to see that the center is really not messing with you. Rather, you are falling victim to these variables at work.

So, the next time you hear someone complaining that there is “too much or too little oil this week”, you can chuckle to yourself because you now have an understanding of these principles and can begin to work them into your game.

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net  

A Stroll Down The Lane – Lane Topography

I’m going to spend some time discussing the characteristics of our playing surface, i.e. the lane and its preparation. So, let’s sit back and take a stroll down the lane.

Here in New England we’re used to extremes in weather. Summers can be hot and humid and winters, well just plain frigid. All of these changes in weather take a toll on our roads. In fact, jokes about the condition of our roads are almost legendary. It’s not hard to understand why. Asphalt is used to coat the road surface mostly because it is the least expensive covering and can be applied and repaired fairly quickly. But, that surface simply does not hold up. Frost heaves and pot holes develop over time because of the constant stress on the material caused by the changes in weather. In the summer the surface is soft and the weight of cars and trucks also wear grooves into the surface simply from the constant weight of vehicles rolling along the highway. In short the surface is never really flat for long. In the case of pot holes, work crews apply cold patch to cover the holes but, that patch never matches the original surface. So, we end up with a very bumpy and uneven surface. We often have to dodge holes and cracks in the road for fear of damaging our cars.

So, by now you’re probably wondering where I’m heading with all of this. Well, the lane surface is not that far removed from the above example. New synthetic lane surfaces have a friction rating from the manufacturer and are relatively flat when applied. Over time however the constant pounding of bowling balls hitting the lane and them rolling on the same area of the lane surface, they don’t stay flat for long. What makes this worse is that of course over time no two lanes in any center have the same inconsistencies in their surface. The industry refers to this phenomenon as “lane topography”.

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The inconsistencies in the lane surface which develop over time from games played on the lanes, lane beds settling, weather etc. all play a factor in the topography of the lanes within every house. Of course this is a factor to consider when playing in a particular house and is one reason why any specific pattern may play different from house to house. Yes, there are other variables that will make patterns play differently. But, let’s assume that I had the very same lane maintenance machine, the same lane oil and the same manufacturer’s synthetic surface in two houses. When I apply any pattern to the surfaces in these two houses in our hypothetical example, the pattern would still play and breakdown differently due to the only variable left, lane topography.

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This is a phenomenon that cannot be seen. It can be measured and charted and in fact the USBC has done exactly that. Lane topography is real and it also plays a significant role in our game. Unfortunately many bowlers do not even know it exists. If you were one of those bowlers, you now know about it and can now begin to realize why certain houses may be tougher than others. And you understand at least one reason why the same pattern can play very differently house to house. If you would like to learn more check out this link: http://www.kegel.net/V3/ArticleDetails.aspx?ID=75

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net  

RI Tournament Committee Off To A Striking Start

As some may be aware from having kept up with events in Rhode Island over the past 6-7 years there is a ground swell which is starting to get the smallest state a lot of attention. Through the efforts of a few in a grass roots movement, many competitive bowlers have started to come out of the collegiate ranks from the area and they are the product of Junior programs within Rhode Island.

Well the story does not end there Rich Goetz, Bryan Rhodes and Chuck Burr formed the catalyst for a grass roots movement to revitalize and bring back quality competitive adult tournaments. Over the years Rhode Island has witnessed an erosion of participation in tournaments offered at the state level. Some bowlers sight disapproval in the quality of the events and sought other opportunities to compete and some stopped competing altogether.

This grass roots movement has a vision where bowlers will be involved in planning and managing the events. To that end the organizers mentioned above brought together players who they felt would constitute a balanced cross section of bowlers from across the state. There are many members of the committee so, I won’t waste ink naming them here but, their contribution is no less notable than those organizing the tournament committee.

This group fully understood the task ahead of them and knew they had to restore credibility and quality in tournaments. In January the committee rolled out the first of what they hope will be many quality events. The Rhode Island Singles tournament hosted by Walnut Hill Bowl in Woonsocket was an over the top success. The committee recognized that one of the reasons some bowlers do not participate is because they feel they cannot compete with some of the higher averaged players in the area. So, the committee’s answer was to create two divisions. A 200 and under division and one for players who average over 200. Both division crowned their own champions and had their own individual cash spots. They also ran a bracket system which was very popular among the participants. 51 bowlers competed in the 200 and under division which is proof that the division system worked well. Both divisions were highly competitive as a result.

The under 200 division cashers results:

2014 RI Singles Under 200 Standings

The over 200 division was equally successful with 97 players competing in the event.

The over 200 division cashers results:

2014 RI Singles Over 200 Standings

divisions bowled four game blocks where both scratch and handicap totals were tallied. Participation at this event is the best Rhode Island has seen in years. In fact, it was noted that participation on the first day of competition outpaced the total number of players for the previous year’s tournament.

I can say first hand I was impressed with the efficiency with which the tournament was run and the professionalism displayed by all the volunteers. James Bessette was running scores for most of the blocks. Greg Gent, Bryan Rhodes, Kelsey Marks, and Crystal Hagemoser handled the brackets and registration. Mark Blanchette verified averages. Mark Laramee was in attendance in an official capacity representing the RI USBC.

The RI Tournament Committee is not resting on the laurels of this early success. There are two additional tournaments in the planning stages. Next up will be the RI Association Tournament to be hosted by Lang’s Bowlarama on March 8-9 and 15-16. Next, the committee will reintroduce the Rhode Island Masters Tournament to be contested on June 14-15 and hosted by Lang’s Bowlarama.

It’s awesome to see such a team of players who are passionate about quality competitive bowling in our area. It is in one sense yet another sign that Rhode Island is alive and well when it comes to bowling. Thanks to the organizers and committee members for stepping up and taking a stand!

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

Alex Burbine To Bowl For Hastings College

Alex Burbine signs letter of intent

Alex Burbine signs his NLI along with his parents and coaches
 

Alex Burbine, has only been part of the RI Flyers program for a short while. But, during his tenure he has become known as a player who has great potential with high career aspirations. Just recently Alex was accepted at Hastings College where he will be a Pharmacy major.

Prior to joining the Flyers organization two seasons ago, he bowled as a member of the junior program at North Bowl in Southeastern Massachusetts. Since that time Alex has bowled with the Flyers and developed a growing passion for competitive bowling. “Going to college in general is a dream of mine, but now that I can bowl there too is unbelievable. It means the world that I can do what I love and get a quality education.”

Alex’s journey has been one of constant refinement and learning the details of the competitive side of bowling. But through all the hard work and concentration required to excel in such a rigorous program, Alex will be joining his brother Ben as a Bronco at Hastings. Both of them were recruited heavily at the Junior Gold event in Detroit, MI last summer. “I chose this school because it is a new team so the kids would be in the same situation I am in, just trying to learn.”

Alex has a high ceiling for growth in the sport and competing at the collegiate level is his next logical step. However, with all of the success he has had both on and off the lanes he always remembers his roots. “I would like to thank my mom for putting up with me through the years and coach Fran Varin for guidance on how to keep my head in the game.” Alex realizes he is a role model to the younger bowlers in the Flyers program and offers the following words of advice for those striving to follow in his footsteps. “I would say that the key to bowling is to play like it’s for fun and not get angry.”

The Flyers will miss his easy going personality off the lanes and his competitive nature on the lanes but, with the knowledge that Hastings College will be getting one of the most coachable athletes around with a high potential for further growth in the sport. We are also confident that Alex will have an immediate positive impact as a Bronco.

Alex, the Flyers’ coaching staff is very proud of your accomplishment and your example to all of the bowlers in the program and to those that read this article.

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

2014 Team USA Team Trials – Day 3

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Bekah Varin on the Bowl.com live stream courtesy of Nicole Trudell

 

WTBA Stockholm played as expected today. Courtney threw it well again for the third day but, the score did not show it. She had some problems with equipment match up today which did not help matters. We’re going to have to see what we can do to address that aspect of things going forward. We have some ideas on how to proceed with that and we’ll be looking to address that as we proceed. It’s tough to watch someone putting everything they have into each shot, making some brilliant shots but, just not translating to score. There is not much to do in that case except do your best to grind through  since we don’t have the luxury of drilling up equipment base on how a specific shot plays in a given house.

On the brighter side of things, Bekah is have a successful tournament based on the goals she set for herself in her first attempt at Team Trials. She again averaged over 180 which meet her goals for the tournament. Her aggregate average for the 18 games so far is also just over 180 which match her goals. She’s a bit distraught to see her ranking though. But, as I’m quick to point out this is a very strong field and the scores she is putting up are on par with the cut line in most Jr. Gold events.  

Tomorrow is the longest pattern of the tournament, WTBA Mexico City. Each time I’ve seen this pattern it has played well with a fade. If you can move in on it, you generally have a defined path to the pocket. It is deceptive since most people somehow don’t believe you can get that far in and still score. So, they typically don’t get far enough inside to make themselves successful. If you fall for that trap the pattern typically please very tight and you don’t as much of an opportunity to control pocket. What I’m most worried about is the amount of juniors with an extreme amount of surface on their equipment. We’re concerned that this may be somewhat of the miserable experience on Tokyo. Hopefully Bekah and Courtney will be able to get left of them out of the gate and stay there. Otherwise this may be another long day. Truthfully, I’m hoping that some changes are made to the tournament to limit the number of juniors in the tourney. They play the lanes completely differently than the ladies do and that, in my opinion is causing some issues with respect to how the patterns are breaking down.

There are 12 remaining games and two patterns left in the tournament. Both Courtney and Bekah have solid resolve to do whatever they can to end on an up note and finish strong over the next couple of days. All in all the tournament has had its successes for both of them. Courtney was absolutely brilliant on day one and has thrown the ball very well. That is certainly something to build on. And Bekah has turned in three solid days in a row. Again, something to build on as well and a stepping stone to her last Junior Gold Tourney this Summer. 

2014 Team USA Team Trials – Day 2

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The Orleans Bowling Center

 

The WTBA Tokyo pattern played everyone in the women’s block very tough today. To say that the leaders flipped completely would not be far from the truth today. There were many seasoned veterans who had difficulty fighting the pattern today. In fact, many of those who struggled are nearly household names in the bowling community.

A sign of things to come was the large number of juniors competing in the tourney who used extreme surface on their equipment and essentially played in the track area. This brought about a situation where the mid-lane broke down very quickly causing equipment to read early. This combined with the back-end of the lane tightening up as a result made for tremendous issues with regard to carry. If a player moved left the extreme angle back to the pocket usually left a corner if it made the corner to the pocket at all. If you tried to play a little right, you were in danger of the ball over hooking. At the beginning of the block the pattern played very tight and a fade was the best option for those who could pull it off.

Courtney Parenteau threw the ball consistently well today but, suffered from the above nasty breakdown as described. She battled hard but, like so many others was just not able to find a consistent line to the pocket. Unfortunately, she did not fare well and is currently sitting in 54th position over all. There is still a lot of time left in the tournament for her to fight her way back into contention. It’s going to take three solid days for that to happen and she will need some help from the other players above her as well. But, if anything can be said about Courtney, she will battle to the last frame of the last game. She just never gives up and just keeps on coming at you.

Rebekah Varin improved her position by exceeding her goals for the tournament. She averaged 188.5 which put her in 48th place for the block and is sitting in the 60’s overall. A very solid performance today and she is optimistic tomorrow will yield another solid block.

Bryan Bourget showed moments of brilliance beyond his years again today. While his scores are not huge, we need to remember he is just 15 and has a huge ceiling for growth in the sport. This experience will only serve to allow him to continue to grow.

Tomorrow is day 3 and the pattern is Stockholm, the short pattern for the tournament. It’s kind of rough that these players will have fought so hard on the much longer Tokyo and now have to shift their thinking and how they see the lane tomorrow as the compete on a short pattern. That’s quite a jump and it will no doubt challenge most of the athletes. 

2014 Team USA Team Trials – Day 1

2014 Team Trials Day 1

2014 Team USA Team Trials – Day 1 Leader Board

With the start of a new year comes the opportunity for a fresh start. Courtney Parenteau and Rebekah Varin, my two daughters were looking to do just that. The interesting thing I’ve come to learn about team trials is not only the strength of the field but, the demanding format. 6 game blocks on different patterns each day is difficult enough. But, adding to the difficulty is the scoring system. Each day players are ranked based on their total pin fall for the block. The points assigned are based on that daily rank and accumulated across all five days of the tournament. So, in other words, the top seed earns one point for the day and that is added to the total for the four days of the tournament. Players are ranked based on that aggregate total. The players with the least amount of points are at the top of the list. This format eliminates the possibility of a player having an enormous day and running away with the tournament. It’s very challenging in deed.

Today was contested on WTBA Atlanta a 38’ foot pattern that places a premium on shot making. Courtney got out of the gate with a 254 followed by a 215 then a 198 and was in 4th place most of the block. The transition in game 4 was problematic and caused her to drop to 14th overall. She battled back with a 194 game but dropped to 18th. She put up a 224 in the last game and finished in 12th for the day. She was able to stay on her Brunswick Aura Paranormal all day (thanks Parker Bohn III). Courtney continues to mature as a bowler. All of the exposure to advanced tournament situations (nationally and regionally), bowling in challenging leagues, practicing on WTBA patterns, and working with Kim Kearney and Rod Ross at the ITRC has started to pay dividends. To say I was proud of her today would be an understatement. She was simply awesome today. I know this is a long format for a tournament and so does she. And we both know anything can happen in this tournament. But, if today is any indication of how her week is going to progress, this could be a breakout tournament for her.

Rebekah had goals of her own. This is her first attempt at team trials. Let’s understand something out of the gate, while there are a lot of Junior bowlers here this year, this is a very talented field, as it always is. So, while her numbers and current rank don’t look that impressive, she had moments of brilliance today. First off, she averaged 175 for the day. While that does not sound all that high, consider that averages around 180 usually make the cut for the Girls U20 division at Junior gold. Save for her last game she was averaging around 186; that in and of itself is success. She had a goal to average around 180-185 for the tournament. She is not far off that mark. She caught a couple of pairs today she had trouble with. Other than that she bowled very well. Her high on the day was 226 and at one point was ranked as high as 21. And as for the 175 average, that is the highest she has averaged in a national tournament to date. So, she has nothing to hang her head about whatsoever.

Bryan Bourget continues to impress as well. While he is not ranked all that high it’s just because he ran into a couple of snags today. I watched him for a little while this morning for all of game 2 of the block. He got off to a slow start with a 150+ score in the first game. But, Bryan roared back in game 2 with a 254. An impressive score to say the least but, what is most significant is his poise under such pressure. I’ve seen many players cave in mentally after such a start. I’m confident Bryan will be just fine tomorrow.

All in all a successful day on the lanes for our Rhode Island crew. Tomorrow they will be challenged with the 43’ Tokyo pattern. I’m excited to see them all do well tomorrow.

Who Are You Anyway?

If you’re a fan of the Lord of The Rings trilogy (as I am) and have taken the time to read the books then you may know there is intricate detail, life lessons and allegorical meaning woven all through the story. Ever wonder why when the ring of power is placed on a finger, the wearer becomes invisible? The hidden meaning there is the wearer traded who they are for the promise of the ring, ultimate power and control. Eventually as is the case with Gollum, the ring becomes your only obsession in life and who you are is lost forever. An English teacher I had in High School all those years ago tried to teach me a life lesson. We had read Lord of The Rings and analyzed it. Her inscription in my senior year’s year book read: “On your quest through life, may you never become invisible”. It was a personal inscription which was much more than the typical “good luck, in whatever you choose to do” kind of inscription. At the time, I read it and just dismissed it. But, it stuck with me all these years. How is something as profound as that related to Bowling? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out.

Recently, I’ve been through a time with my game where nothing seems to work well. I guess you could call it a slump. The irony is I’m throwing the ball well, just not scoring. Trusted people I know watch me roll the ball and tell me it looks really good. So, after some thinking on the subject, I resolved to accept their observation leaving the only thing left as my mental game. I returned once again to Dr. Dean Hinitz’s book “Focused For Bowling” since I had decided to start there. I came across a quote that I had read many times in the past. This time, however, it jumped off the page at me. So, much so that I posted it on Facebook for others to consider; “Championship quality performance does not depend on calmness, excitement, super energy, or even who has the biggest hand on the ball. The X-factor is who you are at the line.”

The magic this time around is in that last phrase “The X-factor is who you are at the line.” That moment at the line when you release the ball is like the transition from night to day. It’s that flash of time when you decide who you are right now meaning are you going to throw this one specific shot like it is the only shot you will ever make? With total resolve to execute and bring everything you have right now in this very moment or will you feed the monster and bowl scared? On every shot we get to choose who we are! Now that’s refreshing, liberating and just plain awesome! The monster in this case is your negative mental game. We are all well aware of our shortcomings as bowlers we know too well where our game is weak. Our doubts, fears and feelings of inadequacy if allowed to go unchecked all feed the monster. The more we feed it the bigger and stronger it becomes until like the ring of power we become invisible or worst, lose who we are forever.

There are plenty of bowlers around ready to rip you apart with callus comments. “Oh, how did he/she possibly win, they’re not any good”. What does that mean anyway? By what measure are you applying “good”? It certainly can’t be average since averages in bowling are absolutely meaningless. “…it’s why we play all ten frames.” I have to credit Jon Van Hees with that last quote. Whether he knew it or not at the time he displayed profound wisdom in a conversation with another bowler on this very topic. Jon recognizes that anyone can defeat anyone else, regardless of who they are, on any given day. If the outcome were a foregone conclusion, what would be the point of bowling in the first place? Or perhaps, “you know, you don’t really get a lot on the ball.” As if rev rate was a prerequisite for playing the game in the first place.

I see it every day at every level of the sport, from juniors to adults to those who should know better. All of these comments and negative feedback over time can wreck havoc on your psyche. The trick is to remove yourself from the company of such people. Surround yourself with positive, affirming people who are there as a support system and want to help. Leave the “negative Nancy’s” to wallow in their own stench. My best advice, find a certified coach…we get it!

Now just to show you that coaches are vulnerable too, remember I started this by describing my own personal struggle. Yes, I know all of this, I coach it, I’ve lived it but in this case sadly I let it get ahead of me. In short, I fed the monster. So a profound “thank you” once again to the sage of the bowling mental game, Dr. Dean Hinitz. The monster will always be there but, if I have my way it’s going to go hungry for quite a while. So what about you? Who are you anyway? Who will you be the next time you’re at the line? I’m going to turn that inscription around for you; “In your bowling quest, may you always be visible.”

Author
Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

U. S. Open – Day 4

Holiday Lanes

Holiday Lanes

7/24 – Courtney was at Holiday Lanes today for her final block at the U. S. Open. First of all I feel compelled to say how really proud I am of her. I watched a true warrior all week fight with every ounce of strength she could muster. Her scores did not show it but, I’m here to tell you she threw it very well this week, remained calm, level headed and “in the moment” on every shot. Her moves this week made complete sense including ball changes. She saw the lane very well.

It was just a crazy hard condition to score on. I saw many seasoned bowlers having extreme difficulty scoring. So, she was not alone. She did not have the luxury of drilling equipment after the practice blocks or between competition squads. What she brought was a complete guess and she had to make it work. Some would say that is a disadvantage and maybe they would be right. But, what I saw was an athlete who was able to get the most out of what they had. I don’t see any room for regret but, some areas that need to be worked on for sure. I can only hope she is able to look past all of this and see it for what it is; a very solid and courageous performance with moments of sheer brilliance. Before the block today I had to open a few thumb holes for her. Her thumb was swelling a bit and was on the verge of breaking open. This combined with the busted fingernail, and splits in both middle and ring fingers made for an interesting tournament. I managed to patch her up for her final block.

Holiday Lanes Sign

Holiday Lanes Sign

Holiday lanes is an interesting house, I have never seen a house which has three sides. Yes that’s right it is a split house of 16 lanes on each side with an additional 16 lanes on a third wall. I remember when we went to check out the houses, I walked in thinking it was a very small house. Then I turned a corner to find the bathroom and there was an additional 16 lanes. I was caught off guard for sure. We laughed about that for a while through our astonishment.

As I mentioned yesterday, this was supposed to be the highest scoring house of the three. I didn’t see it that way based on what I observed with Courtney and all of the other bowlers in the block. Let’s consider that this was the last block of the qualifying rounds plus the practice blocks. So, that means the pattern had been applied at least 8 times. What I saw was that the pattern played tighter and became less forgiving as each day passed. Today was the worst I’ve seen. I saw many excellent shots simply not carry. Stringing strikes was extremely difficult at best. Still, there were several high scores. I don’t want to say they caught lightening in a bottle. I think it’s more like the folks who put up the big scores are just that good. When they see something repeatable they are good enough to pull it off.

Courtney and I discussed how we need to approach the next few months of practice in order to address the issues we discovered today and get ready for Team Trials in January. Tomorrow we will be watching match play starting at 8am. Leanne Hulsenberg and Kim Kearney made match play so, we’ll likely be following them around. Also, a big shout out to Alex Aguiar, he also hung on to make cut and will be there tomorrow as well.

U. S. Open – Day 3

Columbus Western Bowl

Columbus Western Bowl

 

7/23 – Today Courtney competed at Columbus Western Bowl. It has been recognized as the lowest scoring house of the three being used for the tournament. In addition, the upper last 10 lanes or so have a peculiar trait. We found out the pin deck is actually slanted slightly toward the pit. This causes your ball to actually speed up slightly having a negative effect on pocket entry angle. We put this theory to test and sure enough, scores on the high end were lower. In fact Courtney had to compensate right a bit to try and regain the entry angle.

There are a couple of “take aways” from this tournament experience we will be working on when we return. It’s amazing I continue to learn as I observe and coach bowlers on various tournament conditions about what works and what does not. So, as usual, it’s a learning experience for me too. Courtney continued to grind it out today. Overall, she is throwing the ball well just not able to string any strikes and is throwing a ton of spares. She missed some today which cost her some pins in total. She has a solid spare game but, clearly to compete at this level it needs to be an automatic thing. We’ll be working on that to further cement in her spare game.

Women break the pattern down differently than men do. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of opportunity for her to compete with just women very often back home. So, she has developed a ball roll similar in shape to the men’s game which is somewhat of a disadvantage sometimes when bowling with a field of accomplished female athletes. It’s a complicated matter but, we’ll need to work on having her alter her ball roll when she needs to. The ability to go back and forth between the two will be a great asset to her. She can get further in than most of the women but, that’s not always to her advantage. Basically she is used to rolling the ball away from her and needs to a refine a shot where she keeps the ball in front of her at all times. In other words, the ball should never be outside her shoulder.

In terms of lane play today, the lanes were hooking way more than yesterday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. She started with her Aura but, quickly moved to her C-System Versa Max where she stayed for the remainder of the block. The condition deteriorated quickly as the mids opened up very fast so, she had to chase it in. At the end of the block she was standing around 35, playing the middle arrow to around 10 at the breakpoint. That is much deeper than she is accustomed to playing. She did a nice job of it considering it is clearly not her “A” game. Scores did not show it but she was on pocket for most of the shots. The problem is when you give away the pocket that much it makes carrying the corners difficult. She probably could have used a good pearl equal in strength to her Versa Max. That would have generated more angle off the break point probably resulting in a higher carry percentage.

After we finished the block today, Courtney had a short nap and we met up with our friends Kim Kearney and Leanne Hulsenberg for dinner and a movie.  On the way home we stopped and got Courtney some muscle cream. She is sore and a little banged up after both blocks. She has a split in the crease of her ring finger that we keep patching with new skin. It ripped open in game two of today’s block. We’ll be keeping an eye on that to ensure it does not get any worse.

Tomorrow we have the final block of the qualifying round at Holiday Lanes. It is said to be the most forgiving of all three houses. Given what I’ve seen of this shot, I’m not sure “forgiving” is a word I would choose to use. The shot is brutal and I give a tip of the cap to anyone who does well on this condition.

U. S. Open – Day 2

Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. Location for today's block

Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. Location for today’s block

 

7/22 – I have witnessed one of the most deceptively cruel shots I’ve ever seen. Ball roll looks good but consistent carry is another story. The scoring pace is low, as expected and as it should be for the U. S. Open. After Courtney got over some early jitters she threw the ball well but, was just not able to string strikes and catch a few breaks. It was one of those nights where you know you bowled way better than what the score indicates.

There were some very positive takeaways from today’s block. Courtney threw the ball extremely well today. Of course there were a few errant shots but, overall she looked super. Ball choice was on the money. She started throwing an Aura Paranormal which was able to read the pattern well and break down the lane a bit. Courtney moved to her Aura when the Paranormal started to burn up a bit around the end of the 2nd game of the block. Her Aura looked really good for about a game or so and then it started picking up on the lane a bit early and finished really hard. Next she moved to her C-System Versa Max and was able to stay on that ball for the remainder of the 8 game block. The moves were in using the same breakpoint down lane at around 10, essentially just changing the angles in the front of the lane to get the ball to face up to the pocket at the breakpoint. The transition was very fast and staying ahead of the moves was tough. We need to do a better job of that tomorrow since in looking back at it we were a little slow to pick up on the transition. The other thing she did really well was keep her composure. Many bowlers would have panicked and started pressing for score. Courtney really stayed in the moment on each shot and treated each frame as an isolated thing. It’s hard to do over 8 games especially when there is a premium on strikes. Courtney’s spare game was on point today as well. She only missed a few makeable spares and believe me she threw a lot of them today.

All in all, she had a solid block even though it did not translate to big scores. This is her first time on such big stage and she held her own today. We are hoping to take this experience and leverage it tomorrow. Let’s sit back and think about the quality of the field. First off there are numerous current and former female PBA members who have significant experience bowling at this level. Also, there are many international and regional players here who are used to bowling under pressure on demanding conditions all the time. This is what she is surrounded with and to hold her own against some of the best in the world is a great first step. On a positive note, the torn fingernail did not bother her bowling tonight so, we may have dodged a bullet there.

As I mentioned, we’re looking to take what we learned today and apply it tomorrow. Courtney has the early block tomorrow so, when we finished the block we left right away and got some dinner. She will need a good night’s sleep to be ready for tomorrow squad at Western bowl.

U. S. Open – Day 1

7/21 – I’m ready to do this again. As I sit in my hotel room just outside of Columbus, it’s time to reflect on a few things before the whirl wind of the next few days. Today was practice day for the US Open. There is a certain surreal feeling to this. Courtney Parenteau is competing on the largest stage she has attempted up to this point. Sure, after a very solid collegiate career, bowling locally in NEBA against a strong field, and bowling tournaments like Queens and Team Trials she is certainly ready for such a step. I’ve watched her mature as a bowler over the past few years and her progress in that area is impressive. I think it’s all that background and the experiences they represent that have her very calm and focused going into the first day of competition tomorrow. To say I’m proud of her would sound trite and probably and understatement. I’ve been there every step of the way helping her along and I know very well the road she has traveled to get her to this point. She has come so far and still has not reached her ceiling in this sport. I’m hopeful and confident she will do well this week and am looking forward to watching her and helping where I can.

So, as I mentioned today was practice day. The tournament is being contested on the 2013 US Open Pattern and consists of three blocks of 8 games each. Each day will be in a different house. Todays practice sessions were 2 hours long with one block in each house on the tournament shot. Courtney’s first block will be tomorrow at 4pm. I’m not sure how long the block will take, I’m guessing in the vicinity of 4 hours.

As we assumed the pattern plays pretty closely in each house, there are no drastic changes. I guess that’s a good thing. We did notice that the pattern played tighter as the day went on. That’s likely not due to the characteristics of each house but, more than likely due to the pattern being applied several times. The memory from the house shot is starting to fade. In speaking with Bob Learn, Jr. today we both recognized this and Bob remarked the pattern will likely play tougher as the week progresses. Courtney and I talked through that a little bit and feel we’re ready to handle that situation. In terms of the practice session, it went well. Courtney was has a look with several balls and knows her current equipment well. Early in the day she was using her C-System Versa Max quite a bit along with her Aura. Her Orange and Blue Misfit looked pretty good too. She got the opportunity to see some of the transition as well and was able to adjust well to it. Once the last block got under way, we noticed the Aura was laboring a little. The Aura Paranormal however, was the right ball. At the end of the session she was back on the Aura and Versa Max.

We did have one mishap, during the first block she reached into her bag to grab a ball and broke the fingernail on her pinky finger. It bled for a while and is pretty sore but, not to the point where it interferes with her ability to roll the ball effectively. She is going to take advantage of the late block tomorrow and get some needed rest. After the long drive Saturday and right into practice starting at 8am this morning, she is exhausted.

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Here is a picture of Courtney’s pinky finger showing where her nail broke.

 

2013 Jr. Gold – Day 3

7/17 – Day 3:

It’s been another long week at Junior Gold here in Detroit. What I can say about this year is that it was very productive. I know firsthand that most if not all of the athletes learned some valuable lessons this year. There is an interesting human trait, you can hear something said and taught but, in some cases, until you experience that very same thing you really only learn it intellectually. Then once you’re burned by something you own it from that point going forward. It seems to me that if we just took it to heart the first time, it would be much more efficient. But, I guess that’s why they call it “experience”.  Such was the case for some of our athletes this week. There were some valuable lessons learned, ones that I will likely not have to work too hard to get them to embrace and work on in the coming months. Each year is like this and that’s why events like this are critical to the growth of not only the sport but, the careers of these young bowlers. I’m proud of each of them, all of them struggled at times but ultimately prevailed. This year was a very good specifically for Rhode Island as we had the following bowlers make the first cut:

Bryan Bourget – U15 Boys, carried a 204 average over the 15 game qualifying round and is currently in 6th place overall.

Gazmine Mason – U20 Girls, carried a 187 average over the 15 game qualifying round and is currently in 57th place overall. Gazmine was in 18th after two blocks but, the short pattern (Beijing) was very tough this week and gave her some trouble.

Jadee Scott-Jones – U20 Girls, carried a 189 average over the 15 game qualifying round and is currently in 45th place overall. Like Gazmine, Beijing gave Jadee some trouble and dropped her down in the rankings. After two blocks Jadee was in 20th overall.

Nicole Trudell – U20 Girls, carried a 192 average over the 15 game qualifying round and is currently in 25th place overall. Nicole is an experienced mature bowler. Her collegiate experience at Sacred Heart has been very clear for the past several seasons. When you speak to her it is obvious she views the game in ways that far exceed most other bowlers.

I’m privileged to have known and worked with these fine Juniors. Some of which I’ve known for years and it’s really cool to see them succeed.

But, that’s really not all that happened this year for Rhode Island and Southeastern Mass. I’m very happy to say that we had a record number of participants in the RI Flyers Sport Scratch Division and in the Summer Sport Challenge league. Here is a list of those bowlers who competed in Detroit and participated in one or both of those programs (in no particular order):

Ryan Franz Bryan Bourget
Jewel Dumond Jermaine Dumond
Chris Williams Rebekah Varin
Jeff Marcure Jess Marcure
Tori Porter Curran Desjardins
Jalen Scott-Jones Jadee Scott-Jones
Gazmine Mason Nicole Trudell
Katy Barnes Sam Gitschier
Qwadaris Rembert Yousef El-Laham
Robert LaBossiere Nick Sauve
Ben Burbine Alex Burbine
Doug Moore

It’s funny to me how we measure success. Typically we have a pretty narrow vision of it. We see success as winning. If that were the case there would be exactly 4 athletes in this tournament who achieve success out of over 2000 who participated. Let’s put this in perspective, the 2000 athletes here represent some of the best junior bowlers in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. I don’t know how many junior bowlers there are in those three geographic areas but, it is certainly a huge number. This is a very talented field and simply qualifying for this event is an accomplishment. As I mentioned to each of our bowlers success is measured by the individual. I challenged them to set a lofty goal for themselves in the tournament and then try to achieve it. In short, success is personal and comes in all shapes and sizes. Let’s not get hung up on the narrow definition of success.

The 23 names above are not just numbers and nameless faces to me. In some cases I’ve known a player for years and others just a few short months. But, in all cases I’ve taken time to understand them and how they think as a bowler. They are quality young folks who have a passion for the game and are not afraid to challenge themselves in ways that most adult bowlers will not. I have a level of respect for each one of them and am proud to be called their coach.

So, parents, friends and relatives if you happen to run across some of these players please take a few minutes to acknowledge their accomplishment.

2013 Jr. Gold – Day 2

7/16 – Day 2:

After day two of Junior Gold is the time when you see some separation between the players. What I find most interesting is the talent level at this event. Over the past few years there have been some changes to the format and the introduction of a 15U age group. Next year a 12U division will be introduced. The tournament is absolutely huge at this point. I just wish there was a way of cycling more Junior bowlers through the ITRC too. Since the numbers have increased in participation it seems logical that the next step would be to expand how many bowlers are afforded the opportunity to attend a camp at the ITRC with Kim, Rod, Steve and the rest of the staff. It would provide a wonderful opportunity which right now is essentially for Team USA only. I realize they are really busy with managing the two teams but, it would be awesome to see.

Anyway, today was a day of ups and downs for most of our local area youth. Some held par, others struggled and some did very well.

In the U20 boys division, some players were on the infamous WTBA Sydney pattern which is widely believed to be the most difficult WTBA short pattern. If it does not play on the outside (1-3 boards) then it is next to impossible to control pocket. This year Sydney was put down in an AMF house which meant a lane surface with a high friction rating. Unlike last year, players had the extreme outside line early in the block. As the pattern broke down it required change in hand position and/or a move inside while still maintaining the extreme outside breakpoint. It was a very demanding shot indeed. Yousef El-Laham is just 56 pins out of the cut and with a good performance tomorrow could land him in. Behind Yousef is Qwadaris Rembert, he is 95 pins out of the cut. He will need a big day and likely a little help to pull up above the cut line. While not impossible, these two U20 boys are in position to advance.

Here is how the U20 boys performed (* indicates short pattern today):

*Yousef El-Laham     939
Qwadaris Rembert    911
Jalen Scott-Jones      907
Nick Sauve                   892
Jermaine Dumond    866
Doug Moore                 811
Jeff Marcure                756
Ryan Franz                  729
*Alex Burbine            728
*Ben Burbine              706

In the U15 boys division, Brian Bourget remains in the cut. Unfortunately at the time of this post, the USBC server did not have the scores posted after 10 games. Chris Williams posted an 881 series which shows some progress over yesterday’s score.

The U20 girls, on the other hand is a much brighter prospect with some respect. Three of the four players who were within cut still remain. Gazmine Mason rolled a strong 1047 to position her in 18th. Right behind her is Jadee Scott-Jones who recorded a 1034 good enough for 20th. Nicole Trudell in 21st rounds out the top performers from our area.

The 7pm squad on WTBA Atlanta played very tight and played tighter as the squad progressed. Initially the pattern played around the outside of the track area (7-8) but, that quickly went away as the pattern tightened up down lane. Finding a defined area of the lane to play on became the challenge for the rest of the block. Some pairs played better than others introducing an element of confusion for the players.

Here is how the U20 girls performed (* = Atlanta):

Gazmine Mason         1047
Jadee Scott-Jones    1034
Nicole Trudell            987
*Tori Porter                889
*Rebekah Varin         827
*Curran Desjardins   819
Katy Barnes                 787
*Jess Marcure            708
*Sam Gitschier           696

Entering the last day of competition, some still have a cut to either aspire to or protect while others are looking to post solid scores to improve their overall position. Regardless of the situation, each competitor has fought hard thus far in the tournament

2013 Jr. Gold – Day 1

7/15 – Day 1:

Today proved to be a very challenging day for the players. Some of our U20 boys were on London, their long pattern. It was contested at a split house with wood lanes. The pattern played tighter down lane than it had during the practice block. And also broke down in ways unexpected to the talented field. By Yousef El-Laham started the block with his Marauder and eventually moved to his Strike King toward the end of the block. The mid-lane had burned up halfway through game 3 making it difficult to get the ball right and hold pocket. By the end of the block Yousef had moved to an extreme angle on the left side of the lane in an attempt to get the ball to hold and still make a strong move to the pocket with giving up needed angle. It was an up and down block and a tremendous grind. Yousef ended strong with a 211 to finish with a 907 block which landed him in 377th. Jeff Marcure had a very solid day on this difficult condition and lane surface posting a 954. He finished in 206th overall, the highest ranked U20 boy from our program after day 1. Others competing in the boys’ side of the tournament include:

Jermaine Dumond  906
Ben Burbine             897
Quadaris Rembert  896
Jalen Scott-Jones    880
Doug Moore            798
Alex Burbine            797
Nick Sauve               770

In the U15 boys tournament Brian Bourget is sitting in 10th place with a solid 1013 block. Chris Williams turned in a 761 and hopes to improve his position tomorrow.

 

 

The U20 girls age group also competed on a couple of different shots. Beijing, the short patter, played very difficult as well. The outside line which was there in practice was not as playable during the short block forcing players in a bit making it difficult to control the pocket. By the end of the block those having the most success were throwing strong balls with a lot of surface using the outside line as a hold area.

Nicole Trudell competing on the medium pattern rolled up a score of 985 to secure 24th place and our top honors after day 1. Jadee Scott-Jones put up an solid 940 followed by Curran Desjardin who had a tremendous day with the help of a 232 game pushing her total to 934 and a 75th place spot. Right behind her on the bubble is Gazmine Mason with a 932. Gazmine competed on the medium pattern so it is not possible to compare the scores side by side. Others competing in the girls’ side of the tournament include:

Jess Marcure     860
Katy Barnes       802
Rebekah Varin  785
Tori Porter        779
Sam Gitschier   707

 

Jewel Dumond competing in the U15 girls division recorded an 824 and is sitting in 89th place.

Tomorrow will be another day and a pivotal one at that for all the bowlers. Day 2 often makes or breaks many competitors in this difficult format

2013 Jr. Gold – The Night Before The First Day Of Competition

Here we are again on the eve of another Junior Gold tournament. This year we have a lot of bowlers from the area who participated in the Summer Sport League at AMF Cranston. I’m proud of each of them because each has worked incredibly hard to hone their skills over the summer to get ready for just this event.

This year feels a little different to me. Maybe because there are quite a few “veterans” participating and they have a quiet confidence. And what’s awesome is that they have taken the younger bowlers under their wing. Tonight we got together briefly just to set their experience thus far and to try and set perspective for the next few days. I know from experience the next few days will challenge them in ways they do not anticipate. In the end, win, lose, or draw they will have grown stronger from the experience. As for me, I don’t anticipate much sleep over the next few days. After our meeting we went across the street to Dave & Busters to let the players blow off a little steam and think about something other than Bowling for just a bit. I felt it would do them all some good before the event starts.

I’ll be running between centers trying to keep everyone focused and performing their best. Up until now it has been a whirlwind already. Yesterday, I spent the day in the Collegiate Expo representing Bryant University. In addition to the Juniors I’m coaching, I also need to follow up on some of the potential recruits I met yesterday. Tomorrow night after all is said and done, I’ll no doubt play the day’s events over in my head trying to rethink the day’s events and choices made. It happens all the time. We have an 8am block tomorrow morning. It’s the Girls block I’ve got a half dozen or so young ladies to coach. It will be a busy block. Right now, it’s about 11pm. I’ll need to turn in shortly and try to get some much needed sleep.

Who’s In Control Here

Some time back I wrote a series of articles on the aspects of the mental game. I received a lot of positive feedback on the series and was asked if I would continue to write on that topic. So, after having thought about it for a while I decided to discuss the topic of what is within versus outside of our control.

In order to really do this topic justice we first need to consider what happens during a single normal shot while bowling. I’m not focused on the shot cycle as was the topic of the series on mental game. I’m speaking of breaking down one shot in an isolated manner. We spend a lot of time working on our physical game to the point where our movements are concise and repeatable and on gaining knowledge and experience on the lanes. Randy Petersen refers to the latter as “Maple Moxie”. But, often times this knowledge is at the expense of more subtle and elusive but, just as important, parts of the game.

To begin, let’s freeze time right at the bottom of our swing when the ball is off our thumb and is just hanging on our fingers slightly. OK, now that you have that picture in your head picture the ball leaving your fingertips. At that very moment what do you get to control about the ball’s path to the pins? Answer: absolutely nothing. Now, freeze the ball just as it touches the headpin. At that moment in time what do we get to control regarding the ball’s path through the pins and off the pin deck? Answer: absolutely nothing.

The problem here is that all of us look to the result at the pin deck as the measure of success or failure on every shot. We are programmed as people to be result oriented and so we transfer all of our focus on what happens at the end of the shot; in other words the outcome of the shot. When we don’t get a satisfactory outcome, we become frustrated and in some cases down right angry. Have you ever had one of those days or nights where you know you are throwing the ball well but just not scoring? Well, here is music to your Ears; you probably are throwing it really well. You probably are executing your plan.

Fact, once the ball leaves our hand we control absolutely nothing about the rest of the shot. Our sphere of control is limited to the few feet we travel on the approach and our goal is to execute the shot we planned. I suggest to you that this should be our measure of success. Did we roll the ball the way we intended?

Here is some additional evidence in case you’re still not convinced. Have you ever thrown a shot that is clearly awful and produced a strike? If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is an emphatic “yes”. That’s living proof of the principle at work here. Consider that the ball must navigate an ever changing oil pattern and find its way to the pocket. During a pocket strike the ball will come in contact with four pins out of ten. We must rely on the pins moving all over the pin deck to knock down better than half of them in what is more or less a chain reaction.   

In order to start really experiencing the game at a different level we have to realize these two points. First, success is executing the shot we intend. In other words, rolling the ball as we set out to. Second, what happens on the lane and ultimately the pin deck is outcome. When we make a good shot and do not get the outcome we expected (or thought we deserve), we need to be sure to recognize that we made a great shot. Once we’re in that place we’ve slain many mental Dragons, clearing our thinking to understand what the necessary adjustments might be to better our chances of a great outcome.

Once we truly make these principles our own it is very liberating. It opens doors of possibility that before we had kept lock due to our own constrained thinking. It might take you some time to actually implement this idea. After all, old habits die hard but, once you do, I’m confident you will begin to score more consistently and find you enjoy the game more than in the past.

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and BryantUniversity. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net 

Yousef El-laham To Bowl For Stony Brook University

Yousef El-laham to Bowl for Stony Brook Universtiy

Yousef El-laham to Bowl for Stony Brook Universtiy

The Rhode Island Flyers Elite Junior Program continues to produce players who catch the attention of many collegiate bowling programs across the country. Yousef El-laham will join myriad current and former members of the Flyers to enter the collegiate ranks. Many Rhode Island Junior Bowlers and some from nearby Massachusetts who have entered the collegiate ranks have been active members of the Flyers organization, enjoying the benefits of the rigorous program that develops a player’s physical and mental aspects of the game.

Yousef has been a mainstay of the Flyers’ program and is a shining example of the kind of player the Flyers produce. He possess a strong work ethic on the lanes and in the classroom excelling as an athlete and a student. Through his hard work, determination and dedication, Yousef took himself from a casual recreational player to one of the region’s finest junior Bowlers.

His consistent record of win after win, competing in some of the most rigorous competitive situations made him a highly recruited collegiate prospect. El-laham considers his greatest achievement to be his performance at last year’s Junior Gold tournament. “My performance at the 2012 Junior Gold championships stands out. I improved over 400 places and learned a lot about lane play. Improving that much instilled a lot of confidence in my abilities and hopefully I can apply it to this year at Junior Gold. I now know that I can do well at junior Gold thanks to my last experience there.”

In the classroom his work ethic also garnered him stellar grades and lofty goals. Yousef will be entering Stony Brook University in the fall majoring in Physics.

His Bowling journey speaks for itself on the local, regional, and national scene. When it came time for him to search for a college he was not alone help was at his fingertips. Yousef and the Flyers’ coaching staff navigated the treacherous waters as a team, like they always had.

“I would like to thank coach Fran Varin and coach Courtney Parenteau for guiding me throughout my years as a youth bowler. My coaches really got me on my feet in terms of bowling and without them I wouldn’t be the bowler I am today. To rephrase that, I would have never even considered bowling in college. Thank you for everything! I would also like to thank my parents for supporting me throughout this stressful process and my friends for always being there for me.”

After sifting through many collegiate opportunities three schools remained which first met his academic needs and second could provide a Bowling experience where he could continue to grow his skills. In the final analysis, Florida State University, West Texas A&M, and Stony Brook University were the front runners. It was a difficult decision for Yousef but, he ultimately settled on Stony Brook University as the next part of his adventure. El-laham is ready to meet the challenge before him; “I’m excited that I will be able to receive an excellent college education and simultaneously be able to bowl for Stony Brook’s team. This opportunity will teach me more about working as a team and also help me develop individually as well. I am confident that I will be content with the end result of my years as a collegiate bowler.”

As Yousef’s skill translated into success on an off the lanes, he was always aware of his filling the shoes of a role model within the Flyers’ organization. El-laham can always be counted on to volunteer to help where needed. As an example of his desire to give back, he has also dedicated himself to coaching younger bowlers and is an inspiration to many. Reflecting on his journey, he offers “If you have an ambition, don’t be afraid to pursue it. It may be tough to make a decision for which college you are going to attend but don’t get caught up in the stress. Make a decision that’s going to make you feel relaxed and happy at the same time. Work hard and never lose sight of your goals and ambitions. You never know what’s waiting for you after you walk the stage on graduation day.”

Yousef, the Flyers’ coaching staff is very proud of your accomplishment and your example to all of the bowlers in the program and to those that read this article.

 

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

Ben Burbine To Bowl For Michigan State

Ben Burbine to Bowl for Michigan State

Ben Burbine to Bowl for Michigan State

Ben Burbine, or “Big Ben” as he has become known, has only been part of the RI Flyers program for a short while. But, during his tenure he has become known as a player who has great potential with high career aspirations. Just recently Ben was accepted at Michigan State where he will study Biology (pre-med), one step closer to his dreams of one day becoming an Eye Surgeon.

Ben has only been bowling for 4years with just a single season focused on competitive bowling. Prior to joining the Flyers organization last summer, Ben bowled as a member of the junior program at North Bowl in Southeastern Massachusetts. Over the summer and through this season Ben has bowled with the Flyers and developed a growing passion for competitive bowling. He will make his debut at the Junior Gold Championships in Detroit this coming summer.

Ben has managed to rack up a few bowling accolades in such a short time though. He has placed very high in several Massachusetts state events and regionally in some Junior Bowlers Tour tournaments. His easy going personality enables him to have a strong mental game seldom seen in bowlers at his experience level and young age. Ben is also a quick learner who has adapted well to changes in his physical game. As a member of the RI Flyers’ Sport Scratch division, he is challenged weekly by competing on some of the most demanding WTBA Patterns and against a very talented field.

Off the lanes Ben is an outstanding student at Bishop Feehan High School. In addition to keeping up with his school work and working on his game, he regularly volunteers at Horace Mann Educational Associates assisting people with developmental disabilities.

The Flyers will miss his easy going personality off the lanes and his competitive nature on the lanes but, with the knowledge that Coach Karl Nickolai has an eye for talent we know he will be getting one of the most coachable athletes around with a high potential for further growth in the sport. We are also confident that Ben will have an immediate positive impact on the Michigan State team.

Ben, the Flyers’ coaching staff is very proud of your accomplishment and your example to all of the bowlers in the program and to those that read this article.

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

2013 Team USA Trials – Day 5

Well, this is the end of a long but productive week. This is the third time I’m attended Team USA Trials and each time I come away with even more respect for all of the players who compete in this event. It is without a doubt the most demanding format I have ever seen. It also goes beyond simply playing for money even thought there is some of that aspect as well. But, the bigger thing is the sense of accomplishment and the privilege of wearing the colors of the USA. And of course being able to compete as a representative of the USA.

Today the WTBA London pattern challenged all the athletes. As it turns out you either really did well or struggled with carry. Overall the pattern was very tight especially depending on what end of the house you played on. The high end of the house played completely different than the low end. Pair to pair there were significant differences in reaction and depending on how many games you played on either end had an impact on your scores. As the block went on, it was clear the higher scores were on the lower end of the house.

Suffice to say that the day belonged to Nicole and Billy. Nicole had an outstanding block and was able to get herself within striking distance of the top Juniors in the competition. However, she did not quite get high enough to win a bid to Junior Team USA. But, that does not take away from an outstanding performance. Given the start she had at the beginning of the week, some would have just quit. Nicole fought hard all week to improve her position.

Billy was within 7 pins of winning the final block of the week today and cashing as a result. Billy also put Rhode Island on the map by scoring a 300 during the block. This is on top of the “30 clean” he had the day before. In fact, Billy actually went 40 frames without an open. This is especially impressive since this is his first time out here at this event.

Courtney also had a good week. There were no doubt some ups and downs but, in the final analysis she had a very good tournament as well. Today, she was plagued with untimely carry problems and fell prey to some splits and washouts which routinely broke up what otherwise would have been some impressive scores. She ended the block with an outstanding 246 which capped off an otherwise successful outing. Notable growth in many areas was very evident.

These three players represented our area very well and did well against a very impressive and talented field. We should all be very proud of them.  

2013 Team USA Trials – Day 4

ImageNicole Trudell (Left), Courtney Parenteau (Right) before today’s block.

 

Today players were tested with WTBA Atlanta. This 38′ pattern rewarded consistency. Getting to the pocket was not the issue, carry was. The front part of the lane played pretty slick meaning that not getting off the ball clean enhanced skid through the front part of the lane resulting in missing the break point long. This usually ended up in leaving corner pins. The back ends provided a great deal of hook so, managing the move off the breakpoint was critical. Excessive axis rotation resulted in difficulty managing the breakpoint.

Billy turned in another solid performance going just over even for the day. A big shout out for Billy earning a “30 clean” award today. Bill did all he could but fell prey to angle problems and left a great deal of single pins. Had he been able to convert those single pins into strikes he no doubt would have scored very high on this pattern.

Nicole turned in another solid performance today going plus for the second consecutive day and improving her overall rank to number 38. After a rough start to the week, Nicole has been working hard to move up the rankings.

Courtney got off to a rough start in the first two games leaving her with quite a deficit. However, in a display of maturing in her mental game, she was able to put together 4 solid games well over 200 to salvage the block. She did not make it all the way back to go plus but, did end up averaging 190 for the day and moved up to 48th place overall.

Tomorrow is the final day of the competition and it will be contested on WTBA London, the most difficult of the 5 patterns.  

2013 Team USA Trials – Day 3

The 47′ WTBA Paris pattern presented a challenge early on in the block. It played very tight front to back early in the block. Despite the low oil volume on the pattern, many players chose to use equipment with a lot of surface. This served to break the pattern down quickly in a defined area of the lane. By the end of the Ladies block there was a well defined “Canyon” in which to play. Shots pulled to the center of the lane experienced hold and generally ended up on the nose. Shots that drifted right fell prey to an obvious out of bounds area.

Nicole had a great day averaging 214 and finishing 9th in the block. This much needed performance moved her up the overall standings to 52nd right behind Courtney. Billy also continued his string of solid performances shooting another even block. Courtney got out of the gate slow but battled back posting several outstanding games. She ended the day averaging 197. Her last game working on a string of strikes she threw a great shot and left a stone 7. Had that carried, she would have gone plus for the day. All in all a very gutsy performance. She stayed on her Brunswick Aura the entire block. The shot walked right into her by the middle of the block. I have to admit, we did see that coming based on the way the pattern was developing and the equipment being used by the other players.

Day 4 will be on the 38′ Atlanta pattern, we expect the scoring pace to be on the high side for this one. I guess time will tell. All our players are in good spirits and ready to meet today’s challenge.

2013 Team USA Trials – Day 2

Beijing played very tough today. Many of the players who were at the top of the list from yesterday found themselves falling in the rankings. Courtney and Nicole were no exception. Both players fought hard but, the pattern was very unforgiving demanding pin point accuracy from shot to shot. Slightest variations in ball speed, location, or release did not yield a forgiving leave. The pattern essentially played outside of first Arrow and required a controlled roll. Bill was the top performer of the day breaking even after 6 games. Bill is currently in 76th position overall. Which is not too bad given the long format of the tournament. He still has time to improve his position. Bill is doing very well considering this is his first time out here competing against a very talented field. Courtney is currently in 54th overall. She fell quite a few spots but, is still positioned to substantially improve her position with strong performances over the next three days. Nicole is currently in 75th position and needs a strong performance tomorrow to move up.

For those who do not know the format, players compete on a different WTBA pattern over 5 days. Each block is 6 games; players are ranked at the end of each block based on pin fall. Their place within the block becomes a point value which is accrued over the 5 days. Any ties in the point ranking is decided by each player’s aggregate pin fall. This is without a doubt the most difficult format I’m aware of for a tournament. It tests every aspect of a player’s game and your ability to quickly adapt to new patterns each day. So be sure to give each of our players from Rhode Island a tip of the hat when you see them. They have met an extreme challenge and are representing our area very well.

Tomorrow the players will be tested with the 47′ Paris pattern. The issue to face will be the very thin oil put down for this pattern. The breakdown will be very quick and require players to stay ahead of the moves. This combined with the length of the pattern does not leave much room for the ball to recover off the back of the pattern. If you can get lined up and stay ahead of the moves you should be able to score. Misplay this pattern and it will be pure Hell.

2013 Team USA Trials – Day 1

Our day started at 8am this morning. Still suffering from Jet lag we were up with the crack of dawn. The ladies were up on the WTBA Athens pattern. This is a 40′ pattern that generally play true to form for an in between length pattern. Most players saw the breakpoint around 9-10, it was a question of the angle to the breakpoint. In the Womens’ block, even the more known players got off to a slow start. The scoring pace was lower than we expected. Probably due to the slow start by most of the players. Courtney got out of the gate with a 220. She threw the ball very well today and had a look. A few missed opportunities though kept her score lower than it could have been. For the most part the Brunswick Aura and DV8 Marauder Madness were her tools of choice. When it was all said and done, she finished in 29th place. Not a bad start at all. We hope to have some luck on WTBA Beijing tomorrow. It is a 35′ pattern and she had a really good look with it during the practice block with the Brunswick C-System Versa Max and Karma Urethane.

Nicole Trudell got off to a rough start but, finished the block well. She fought hard in the second half of the block and pulled up her scores, finishing in 62nd. Nicole’s frame of mind remains positive and she is looking forward to tomorrow as well.

Billy Trudell got off to a slow start in his block. He was -43 going into the second half of the block. Billy made a timely ball change and went 734 on the back three to end up +70 which put him in 41st position. Billy performance was a really impressive show of determination and grit.

Building An Arsenal

Building an Arsenal

The Problem

You have progressed to the point in your game where you are fairly consistent from one shot to another. Here you stand with an aggressive Reactive ball, the drilling setup is aggressive and the cover preparation on the ball has put a lot of surface on the ball. You get yourself set and deliver what you think is a good shot. You watch the ball reaction only to find that the ball almost does not break at all. How can that be you ask as you watch the corner pin standing…again. You select another ball from your bag with a similar setup for the next shot only to find the reaction is frightfully close to your last ball. You ask yourself…”now what?”

Let’s take a look at the thought process that a bowler should use when they build an arsenal.

An age old trap

Today, ball manufacturers seem to release new bowling balls at an ever increasing rate. How can we keep up with all of this? Many bowlers fall into a trap where they constantly buy the newest ball that hits the market only to find that many times it is not what they expected. Sometimes this happens because we might see a local high profile bowler using a particular ball and getting a fantastic reaction from it. So, we run out the next day and drop down our hard earned cash on one for ourselves. Many times we find that we don’t get the same reaction as someone else and end up putting the ball on the shelf to collect dust.

The good news is that if we approach building an arsenal in a logical way, we don’t have to constantly be buying new equipment. With proper maintenance and a little education we can piece together an arsenal that will not only serve us well but, will last quite a while.

What makes a good arsenal?

For most bowlers who throw a hook, bowl in a weekly league and travel to local and regional tournaments, a simple four ball arsenal will work just fine.

When building an arsenal it is important to consider two points. First, you should be looking for equipment that will allow you to cover a wide variety of conditions within three of the four balls mentioned above. The fourth ball in the arsenal should be a plastic ball used for shooting spares. As far as the other three, one should be designated for use on heavier, slicker oil. One should be a medium condition ball and the last a dry condition ball.

The second point is to describe the type of reaction you are looking for in a piece of equipment. It does not do anyone any good if you have a million balls that all have the same “look” on the lane. Remember, we are trying to build in the most versatility we can into our arsenal.

Each of the balls in the arsenal should compliment one another and not introduce any “holes” where we may find that one ball is too strong where the next ball down is too weak. We want to try and achieve a balance in the arsenal where we have confidence in changing from one ball to another in our arsenal knowing that we do not have a huge gap in reaction.

Now, keep in mind that as your game advances, you may decide to compete at higher levels in the sport that offer a wider variation of lane play. At that point you may find that you need to add additional equipment to your arsenal. However, most bowlers competing on typical house conditions will find the four ball arsenal rule more than adequate.

Patience pays off

One of the strangest behaviors that some bowlers display is their lack of patience with their equipment. What they seem to miss is that it takes time to understand how to use each ball in their arsenal. Show me a bowler that shows up every week with a new ball and I’ll show you one that has an inconsistent game. The lesson here, take the time to work with you equipment. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit during practice to learn what a ball is capable of doing in your hands. Remember that adjustments to the ball’s coverstock has the most dramatic affect on ball reaction. The value of a good coach and knowledgeable Pro-shop professional cannot be understated. Work with them to help you fine tune your ball’s reaction.

Is setup important?

Many bowlers do not take into consideration the importance of proper ball fit and layout when considering additions to their arsenal. They forget that you cannot simply read the drill sheet that comes with the ball and take that as an absolute for ball layout. If that were the case, anyone with a drill press could easily open a pro-shop. Ball layout is customized to the particular physical game of each bowlers. So, a Pin and CG in a particular position may be a strong drilling for one bowler while not being the case for someone else. This coupled with the ball fit in terms of span, pitches and hole diameter are equally important. Improper fit can cause physical injury to a bowler which is something that can easily be avoided. Once again, relying on your coach and pro-shop professional is essential. Too many times I’ve observed bowlers who might get a ball from a friend or relative and attempt to throw it only to find that either the layout or setup does not fit their game or worse they injure themselves trying to use it.

The final word on setup is that no one particular drilling makes sense on every ball in your arsenal. Remember what we are trying to do is to construct an arsenal that covers a wide variety of conditions and with specific reactions in mind. The last part of that statement is what we need to focus on. Proper setup takes into account the drilling on the ball, the match up between the coverstock and the weight block, and the coverstock preparation. These are the building blocks for realizing a particular reaction and completing an effective arsenal. Under no circumstances should equipment be added to an arsenal without a specific role for the ball being clearly defined. Not adhering to that simple rule will ultimately lead to overlaps in the arsenal and confusion when selecting a ball during a match.

How do I work with my arsenal?

With many choices in front of us how do we know which ball to choose during a match? …good question, here is the answer. A bowler needs to identify a ball in their arsenal that they find very versatile and predictable. This ball should be the first ball out of the bag prior to the match starting. The ball is used to gage the conditions and decisions regarding what ball to start with should be made based on the reaction observed when throwing this ball. Bowler’s have a name for this ball, it is referred to as their “benchmark ball”. The name says it all, this ball’s reaction to a lane condition is used as the benchmark to determine how best to play the lane.

In general, most bowlers will start by firing their bench mark ball down the second arrow and watching the reaction. Next, they will make whatever appropriate adjustments to get that ball to the pocket. Once that is achieved, they move on to other balls in the arsenal adjusting for them based on their role. Once the bowler has seen the reaction of all the balls over that line, only then do they explore other lines. What is the bowler trying to achieve? Simple, he is trying to settle on the line that will not only get to the pocket consistently but, the line that presents the widest margin for error on the particular condition! So, the lanes may not be giving you the line that you “like” to play. You as a smart bowler need to be aware of that and learn to exploit what the lane is giving you. As you can see all of this means that you have a solid understanding of what each ball in your arsenal is capable of doing for you. Without that knowledge you are flying blind when you show up for the match. Under those conditions, you have left the outcome of the match to chance, hoping that one of the twenty balls you lugged into the bowling center will match up on the one line that you insist on playing. Sound familiar? Too many bowlers approach the sport that way and then manufacturer ever excuse imaginable as to why they did not perform well.

Summary

We have discussed some of the thought process that a bowler should go through when building an arsenal. We discovered that it is essential to know each ball in your arsenal well in order to quickly decide what ball to choose to play any given condition. We also discussed how to decide on what line and ball to use during match play and lastly discovered the value of a good coach and pro-shop professional. These are the key ingredients to becoming a successful advanced bowler.

 

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

The Mental Game: “Release”

Release

The Problem

You have released the ball, observed the reaction and now have an outcome. Either everything went as planned and you received the outcome you expected or you did not. Either way, you may have changed emotional states a couple of times during the entire shot. However, regardless of the outcome you are left with your emotions.

When Emotions Go Bad

The “Release” step in the shot cycle is no less important than any of the other steps. In fact, it is a stumbling block for many.

How many times have you found yourself standing in the settee area ready to boil over with frustration over not being able to score or leaving what you feel are too many corner pins. Most times we sit there and shake our thoughts dwelling on our misfortune and we are quick to blame the lane, the shot, the ball. It’s not that we are intentionally stubborn we are simply letting our emotions run away with us.

Our emotions can have a negative impact on us even when we are doing well. Stop and think about the last time you were on the brink of bowling your personal best, maybe you had the front 7 or 8 strikes. The thoughts of that elusive perfect game crowd your thoughts. You perhaps feel anxiety over the next shot, maybe butterflies in your stomach and your mind begins to race.

Both of these situations result in very similar outcomes. Your emotions are in control of your ability to focus, relax and execute. In short, your emotions have “short circuited” the shot cycle.

The Importance of Release

If we are to remain successful, we need to complete the shot cycle and reset our body and mind to begin preparing for the next shot. It is important in the “Release” step that we actually give ourselves permission to release the emotion. In the third step we talked about acknowledging the emotion but, now we need to let it go.

At this point in the shot we should have experienced and learned everything we need to begin our planning. By allowing ourselves to get caught up in the moment we never actually release from the third step.

There are many techniques that people use to help them let go of an emotional response. But, everyone is different so, no one particular method works for everyone. Here is an example of one of the game’s greatest and an outstanding display of the “Release” step of the shot cycle. Norm Duke facing Randy Pedersen in match play of the 2004 Tournament of Champions, much was on the line and the game was very close. Duke needed to continue stringing strikes in order to have a chance to win. The end of the match was no different, Norm threw his shot and his ball was a bit light but, he carried a late strike. He exploded with emotion at the line pumping his fist and talking to himself with his teeth clenched together he walked back to the ball return (Step 3 – Reaction). He knew the game was not over, he still need to strike again. With a display of incredible poise he stopped and briefly closed his eyes, took a deep breath and slowly released the air from his lungs. He opened his eyes slowly and said quietly to himself “come on, nothing has happened yet”. Almost instantly the concentration returned to his face. He had completed the “Release” step of the shot cycle.

Notice in this isolated example that Duke took the time to acknowledge his emotion but, then also took the time to get rid of the emotional response. For him, it is a pause where he does deep breathing and he is then able to start the shot cycle over again. Think about it, physical game and general knowledge of the game aside, what separated Duke from the rest of us during that pressure packed moment? Answer; his ability to release his emotional state. Without that one point that distinguished him at that moment, he would have run the risk of allowing his emotion to run away with him. Once that happens we open ourselves up to a wide variety of problems in our game. By the way Duke when on to defeat Pedersen in one of the most entertaining and hair-raising matches in recent history.

Summary

The “Release” step is important because it allows us to manage our emotions and complete the shot cycle. Managing our emotions is important because it allows us to return to a state where we can think clearly and start the shot cycle over again. We have taken a pretty in depth look at the shot cycle, improving this aspect of our mental game will pay dividends when we compete.

 

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

The Mental Game: “Reaction”

Reaction

The Problem

You have planned and executed the shot based on your plan. But, what has happened? There is always an outcome every time you throw the ball. Because we are all human you have experienced some kind of emotional reaction. What you do with that emotion is a very important part of your mental game.

Acknowledging Emotions

Unless you are a robot, you will always have an emotional reaction to what happens with each shot. How we handled the emotion is key to keeping our game on track. Think about it, during a match we typically go though a bunch of different emotions. Before we start we may be nervous and tense. Once we begin, we may settle in. If we make a few good shots we may feel happy. If things are not going so well, we may feel frustrated or angry. One thing about bowling is that we get immediate feedback on each shot. The game is brutally honest. One of the worst mistakes we can make is to try to suppress our emotional responses. Once you experience the emotion of the shot take the time to acknowledge the emotion. If you successfully execute your plan and throw, say, a strike, take the time to celebrate! If not, acknowledge the negative emotion as well. Yes, you heard me correctly…acknowledge the negative emotion as well. But, it is important to do so in a positive manner. Never, put yourself down and acknowledge the negative outcome in such a way. Also, it is never acceptable to make a spectacle of yourself regardless of what just happened. You need to acknowledge the emotion and LET IT GO!

Dealing With the Subconscious Mind

The way that the human mind works is fascinating and I certainly do not claim to be an expert in that area. But, there are a couple of things that I have learned about it that helps with many aspects of life, including bowling. Our subconscious mind is what controls the execution of movement by using our muscle memory. The subconscious mind is that part of our Brain that causes us to dream. It is wildly complex and perhaps the best way to think about our subconscious mind is to see it as a simple child.

A small child is preoccupied with trying to please the adults around them. They perform some action and then wait for feedback from a parent. They build their entire perception of how the world works by these simple interactions. They are trying desperately to find the things that make their parents pleased. Once the child discovers these things they will continually repeat them so that they will receive the positive feedback from their parent. Interesting isn’t it? Our subconscious mind works in a very similar way, it is trying to do the things that will please our conscious mind. So, whatever we tell it, the subconscious mind tries very hard to do. So, we should always reinforce those points that improve our game! Ironically, most people do not realize how this works so, when they have their emotional reaction and it happens to be a negative outcome they reinforce those things which damage their game. Never, never focus consciously on how incorrectly perform a particular aspect of your shot because that is what your subconscious mind will instruct your muscles to do. Instead reinforce the correct sequence of events so that your subconscious mind will emulate that. If you make an incorrect physical movement, never mimic that movement while experiencing the emotion. Instead, mimic the correct movement.

It is very common for a bowler to stand on the approach and to think things like, “OK, don’t throw my hand across my body” and sure enough the bowler yanks the shot. That is evidence of the subconscious mind at work! Instead, the bowler should be thinking something like, “OK, smooth, loose arm swing…straight out and straight back”. See the difference? The subconscious mind receives two entirely different messages.

The opposite is also true, when you execute a shot well it is OK to celebrate the shot. Tell your subconscious mind that it did a great job. By providing this kind of positive feedback you give your subconscious mind the praise that it craves. Remember, the subconscious mind is like a child, it is doing its best to do the things that will make you, that is, your conscious mind pleased.

Summary

The reaction step of the shot cycle is as important as all of the other steps. Remember to acknowledge your emotions properly and to “manage” your subconscious mind properly and you will be well on your way to a solid mental game!

 

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

The Mental Game: “Execution”

Execution

The Problem

So, once you have thoughtfully put in place a plan that you have confidence in you need to translate it into action. But, how do you go from just thinking about doing something and actually translating that into action? You need something that signals your subconscious mind to move from thinking to doing. You might think of this as a “trigger” of sorts. In sports and more specifically bowling this trigger is referred to as the “pre-shot routine”. Think back to the example of Nomar Garciapara, remember his pre-shot routine? It simply is a sequence of events that signals the transition between thinking and doing. In my case I pick up my ball and wipe it with my towel as I begin to focus. Once I put the towel down, I step into place on the approach and get my fingers comfortable. Once I lift my head and look down lane its “game on”. That is my pre-shot routine. Admittedly, not the most colorful but, its all mine. Once I look up I’m focused only on one thing, executing my plan.

With all that said, what goes through the bowler’s mind in those precious few seconds just before the start of the approach? The only thing should be focus on executing the shot according to the plan. Most bowlers see something in their mind’s eye. This is often referred to as visualization.

“Seeing” The Shot

Just before beginning the approach it is important to “see” the shot. This is a typical form of visualization that I use and is used by many bowlers. I know, all of this sounds kind of weird. But, give me a minute to explain what I’m talking about here. When you were beginning to learn to bowl you most likely were taught to find a target, usually one of the targeting arrows (usually the 2nd arrow). Then you were instructed to try and throw the ball over that target. Success was measured if you successfully accomplished hitting your target. But, wait let’s think about that for just one minute. In school we are taught that there are an infinite number of lines that can be drawn through a single point. But, if I have two points then exactly one line can be drawn. The same is true for targeting in bowling. We need to rethink this early lesson that we learned about targeting because my ball can only travel along one line at a time on its way to the pocket!

So, there is a little bit more to “seeing” the shot than just finding one point on the lane. First, find a spot near the foul line where you intend to lay the ball down. Now, move your eyes a little down lane to where your target spot is. Then look even further down lane and see your breakpoint. Once you have all three of these spots draw an imaginary line that connects all three of these points on the lane with the line continuing from the breakpoint to the pocket. This line forms the “shape” of the line that you want the ball to travel. This “line” is all that you are concerned with as you deliver the ball. Now, fix your eyes on your target and execute the shot!

It is OK to remind yourself of small details about the shot but, be careful not to crowd your thoughts with too much. Your objective, deliver the best shot you have ever made over the imaginary line…execute! Remember, once you deliver the ball listen to what it communicates to you as it travels down the lane. Did the ball move along the line forming the shape that you had envisioned? Was the ball’s path close to the shape of the line?

Let’s briefly explore what the ball communicates as it travels down the lane. The first thing to notice is whether the ball follows the path that you envisioned. But, we can learn other things from the ball as well. First off, no human being has the ability to trace the imaginary line with pinpoint precision. We will typically miss by a couple of boards to either side. When we do, it is important to note the reaction of the ball. If it recovers and still strikes, we instantly gain knowledge of how much margin for error we have, in terms of boards, with a particular line. Remember, when we were warming up we were trying to find the line with the greatest margin of error? Well, that is one thing the ball tells us. We should also note how the ball revolves as it moves down the lane. We can learn how much axis rotation and axis tilt we have on the ball for a given shot. Remember, those attributes along with revs. is controlled by our hand position and release. We may find that we need to manipulate these in order to have the ball react the way we need it to for a particular lane condition. If we can master the above then we have taken a great leap forward in learning how to “read” a lane condition. But, more about “reading” lane conditions at a later time. For now let’s work with mastering this much

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

The Mental Game: “Planning”

Planning

The Problem

You are in the middle of a block of games, you have been doing well up to this point. Everything is working, you have been around the pocket all day and you feel like you are throwing the ball very well. You sense that your timing and release are great and you are relaxed and confident as you address the lane for the next shot. You make the same shot that you have made all day but, this time something unexpected happens. Your ball starts its move to the pocket earlier than usual resulting in a shot that hits the rack dead on the one pin resulting in a wide open split. You stand, a little confused, at the line in disbelief. After your second shot you ask yourself “how can that be” as you replay the previous strike ball back in your head. Suddenly, its time for you to make your next shot. You resolve in your mind that you will not repeat the last mistake. But, what was the mistake…everything felt fine. You address the pins once again and once again everything feels great when you deliver the ball. Only this time the ball squirts past the breakpoint and misses the pocket altogether leaving a nasty washout. You again stand at the foul line in disbelief. “What is going on here” you ask…

Planning: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”

As we have discovered, Dr. Dean Hinitz has identified a four step shot cycle that breaks down a shot into four independent steps. He identifies “planning” as the first step. It is an old saying that “failing to plan is planning to fail”. What that means is that if you do not have a plan you are really “planning to fail”. In other words you are leaving everything up to chance. Also, we know that planning the shot is important but, what should we plan? Well, here I must say that much of planning comes with experience. Sadly, experience cannot be taught. However, I can share some thoughts on the types of things that a developing bowler should focus on when planning the next shot.

First Things First

Without going any further we need to realize a few things. Lets explore a question. When you plan what do you base your plan on? Hopefully, you will answer that question by saying something to the effect of, “I plan based on the last shot”. Many people will respond to that question by giving a similar answer. But, think about that for a minute. There is much more to that simple answer than you think. Consider that with every shot made on a lane the oil pattern is altered. Factors like time, temperature, and humidity also has a direct effect on the lane condition. When you throw your ball it communicates to you what the lane condition is and how it is changing. In order to truly master the planning step in the shot cycle you must become an expert at understanding not only what your bowling ball arsenal is capable of but, also being able to read the lane conditions and anticipate the changes as well. Advanced bowlers can actually anticipate the changes in the lane and make adjustments very quickly. Those that can stay ahead of the changes are the ones who consistently do well in competition. We’ll discuss reading lane conditions at a different time. Right now we need to focus on the “what” of the planing step.

Making The Correct Adjustments

Making adjustments in your game should be ongoing throughout any competition. You need to evaluate the lane condition after every shot and pay close attention to where other bowlers are playing and the reaction they are getting.

One of the best pieces of advice that I can pass along is that if you are struggling with a particular condition don’t just sit and wallow in a pool of negative thoughts, take action! Find someone who has a similar style to you and is successful on the condition and observe how they are playing the lane. What equipment are they using? How is their equipment setup? What line are they playing? What ball speed, etc. One thing is for sure there is no shame in this approach. Believe me if you are putting up big scores there is no doubt someone is behind you watching what you are doing.

With that advice in hand what types of adjustments should we consider? First off, don’t panic! As I’m prone to say; bowling is largely a mental game. Stay calm, keep your composure and confidence in your ability. When it comes to bowling I firmly believe that keeping things as simple as possible is always the best bet. I believe it is true for all aspects of the game including adjustments.

The list below is a recommended order of adjustments for you to consider. You should go through this list in your mind when you feel you need to make an adjustment.

Foot adjustments

In general, the simplest adjustments to make are those with your feet. Remember that horizontal (left and right on the approach) foot adjustments should always be made in the same direction as the error in the shot. So, if the ball has consistently been light in the pocket you would adjust to the right on the approach (for a right handed bowler, left for a lefty). If the ball is consistently high in the pocket then you would adjust left for a righty and right for a lefty. When these adjustments are made, typically you use the same target line as you had been using right along.

Eye Adjustments

Eye adjustments can be made to control two aspects of ball reaction. First, you can adjust your eyes horizontal (from left to right) on the lane. This is often used along with foot adjustments in order to change entry angle into the pocket or to change the shape of the line you are playing. Vertical eye adjustments can be used to effect the length of skid the ball experiences on the lane. A vertical adjustment is accomplished by changing the spot on the lane you use to target your shot. By looking further down the lane you will cause the ball to skid further before rolling. This means that the ball will travel further down the lane and will break later. By looking closer to the foul like will have the opposite effect. How does this work you ask? Well, it is actually simple; when you target further down the lane you subconscious mind will make you reach for that spot where looking closer you will tend to get out of ball much sooner. A nice side effect is that this technique has no impact whatsoever on your timing!

Hand Adjustments

Adjustments to the hand during the swing and release can be tricky to master. There are some simple hand adjustments that can be learned faster than others but, in all cases learning to control the subtle hand adjustments is a great asset for any bowler. Suffice to say for this discussion that altering the hand has a direct relationship on three essential factors of the ball’s rotation on the lane. Had position directly effects the Axis Rotation, Axis Tilt, and Revs on the ball. Hand adjustments are always used by a bowler to alter these attributes when changing how the ball reads the lane.

Speed Adjustments

Adjustments to the ball’s speed on the lane can have a profound effect on how the ball reads the lane. An increase in ball speed has the effect of decreasing revs and giving the ball less opportunity to read the lane. A decrease in ball speed generally has the opposite effect. Ball speed should be manipulated by one technique only. To increase ball speed you should hold the ball slightly higher in your stance when you initially address the lane. This causes the back-swing to become higher which generates more ball speed without causing a muscled swing or impacting the bowler’s timing. To decrease the ball speed, the ball should be positioned lower when you address the lane. This has the opposite effect.

Equipment Change

The last adjustment is a change in bowling balls. There is a common mistake made by many inexperienced bowlers. They unfortunately think that the hottest new ball is going to be the one to propel them to stardom. Well, suffice to say that a ball is a tool and it must be used for what it was intended to be used for. The setup of the ball has a lot to do with its reaction as well as how the ball is constructed, i.e. coverstock and weightblock combinations.

For most advanced bowlers I recommend an arsenal of no more than four balls. Three of the balls should be setup to handle a wide range of lane conditions, with some overlap between the balls, ranging from dry to wet conditions. The last ball should be a plastic spare ball. I firmly believe that a bowler should learn to go straight and firm at spare shots using a plastic ball. Why? …you ask. Simple, why do you hook the ball? Answer…because statistically you have a higher percentage chance of carrying all 10 pins if the ball enters the pocket at about 6 degrees. That is the only reason why you should hook the ball! Hooking the ball into spares makes little sense in most cases because you are at the mercy of the lane condition for your spare shots. Like it or not, bowling is and always will be about making spares. Here’s proof, when was the last time you saw someone never have to shoot a spare during any competition? Answer: NEVER! Since bowling is about putting yourself at a competitive advantage and since the lane condition has a dramatic effect on ball reaction, you can take that factor completely away if you use a plastic ball for your spares since it is virtually unaffected by lane conditions.

So, with so many balls at your disposal in your arsenal, how do you decide which one to use or even start with. Good question! I’m glad you asked. First, you need to identify what is known as a “benchmark ball”. This is a ball, usually the middle ball in a three ball arsenal (not counting the plastic spare ball) that provides what you might consider an “average” reaction on most conditions. Next, and just as important, your practice on a lane is very important as well. Here is methodology that I learned and use to get myself “lined up”.

Using your benchmark ball throw a shot straight down the second arrow and observe the reaction. The second arrow is used because it gives a good gage of the lane condition. Remember, the ball is speaking to us all the way down the lane. Take a couple of shots to get lined up with the benchmark ball. Use the other two balls in your arsenal with the appropriate adjustments to observe their reaction as well. Make note of which ball gives you the largest margin for error. That is the ball to use for that particular line. Next, try several different lines and repeat the process. What you know within just a few minutes is how each ball reacts on this particular pattern with several lines. Rank the lines in your mind starting with the line and ball combination that gives you the greatest margin for error in getting to the pocket. You now have a plan of attack for the competition by selecting the most forgiving line. You now know that you can switch lines with confidence if you have to. In the remaining few minutes of warm ups take out your spare ball and practice your corner pins. This will allow you to warm up your spare game.

Summary

There is a lot to the planning step. But, with careful consideration at this point a disciplined bowler can learn to overcome many different lane conditions.

 

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

The Mental Game: “Shot Taxonomy”

Shot Taxonomy

The Problem

You are standing next to the ball return waiting for the ball to come back. You notice the bowlers on the next pair and note something peculiar about their style, or the type of ball they are using. You look down and notice a piece of smashed Popcorn that somehow eluded the broom. Ah, there is your ball, you pick it up, stand on the approach, find your mark and fire away only to exhibit some flaw in your release and miss the intended trajectory by 5 boards! Somehow the ball recovers enough to salvage a light pocket hit and leaves a weak corner pin. This is the 5th one you’ve left this game! The frustration mounts all you can think about is that stupid corner pin. The ball pops out of the return, you grab it and take your starting position on the approach. All that is going through your mind is the first shot as you make your approach. Only this time you yank the ball and flag the corner pin. Sound familiar? …what’s wrong with this picture?

“Taxonomy”: The Order of Things

Taxonomy is a fancy way of suggesting that something has an orderly progression. So, what does that have to do with Bowling! Well, just about everything when it comes to the mental aspects of the sport. Have you ever seen a Batter in Baseball go through the same strange ritual as he prepares for the next pitch? One of the strangest rituals I’ve ever seen is that of Nomar Garciapara. He would furiously adjust the Velcro straps on his batting gloves and tap is toes into the dirt and nervously wag the bat waiting for the next pitch…every time! He is not the only one. Almost every professional athlete regardless of the sport seems to go through something in anticipation of an athletic sequence. There seems to be some kind of routine that the athlete uses to prepare himself for the next athletic event. In the case of Nomar, awaiting the next pitch. Some athletes do this instinctively others have to learn it.

Dr. Dean Hinitz has spent a significant amount of time researching the mental aspects of sport. I highly recommend his book “Focused for Bowling”. One of Dr. Hinitz’s key observations is the notion of a shot cycle in Bowling. It is the steps that those athletes at the top of the sport use in one form or another for each athletic event (shot).

What I will do for the remainder of our discussion is to take what I’ve learned from Dr. Hinitz and spice it up with my own personal experience in trying to explain this to you.

First Things First

Just like our bodies go through a repeated series of steps to execute a shot, our mind has a lot to do with the shot as well. Some of you have heard me say “get the junk out of your head” or “commit to the shot” .. or something like that. Well today I’ll unlock that door for you. What do I really mean? Is it really committing physically to the shot? Well, yes … and no. Yes, you need to commit to the shot but, there is a lot of preparation mentally that has to happen first.

Four Steps to Success

Essentially, the entire shot cycle can be viewed as four distinct steps.

Step 1 – Planning

This is where it all begins. It should start before you ever step foot on the approach and can be initiated as early as you like. Here we want to focus on what we plan to do with the next shot. Each time we throw the ball we should learn something. Something about ourselves, the lane the ball reaction, etc. That feedback is what drives the planning step. We are like a General putting in place a plan of attack. We are making decisions about things like ball speed, release, trajectory. …and, gulp, how much of a chance we are going to take. How much we will commit to the shot. This speaks directly to confidence. Suffice to say that commitment means to deliberately decide that you will be the best you can possibly be on the next shot. This step sets the stage for what is to follow but, what triggers the beginning of the shot cycle? You guessed it the pre-shot routine. That is a mental trigger that you use that communicates to every part of your being that you are now in competitive mode. That is why Nomar adjusts the Velcro and kicks his toes in the dirt. Its his pre-shot routine! If you watch any professional athlete they all have one and you can see the cycle start in each one of them…its soooo obvious.

Step 2 – Execute and Commit

This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. Here we are focused on nothing but committing to execute our plan. We need to be absolutely focused on that one objective. There is no room for apprehension about things like “what if I mess up?” No room for thinking about what if I miss, what will be the consequences in the game. All of these negative thoughts must not be allowed to surface. You must have one goal and one goal only…execute the plan flawlessly! Muscle memory and training have got to be allowed to take over. Trust your body to remember what to do. After all, you have practiced countless hours to get to this point. You cannot be thinking about mechanical things during the approach because that will get in the way of executing the plan. It is OK to remind yourself about small things like focusing or not squeezing the ball or maintaining a free and easy swing. You must bring everything you have to executing the shot.

Step 3 – Reaction

The point here is that you have made your shot. You’ll know if you committed to executing right away because you’ll feel it and see the result. In either case, something is going to happen. Either you will have executed flawlessly or not. In either case allow yourself to process the emotion good or bad. If you were successful revel in the moment. If not, then allow yourself to feel the negative emotion. That’s right, I said feel it. Don’t suppress it…let it go no matter what it is! Why, you say? Because allowing the emotion to manifest communicates to you on a conscious and sub-conscious level. It provides vital feedback to you mentally.

One word here…never, never, never repeat to yourself what you did wrong especially if it involves a mechanical flaw. Because, your sub-conscious is like a child it will do exactly what it learns and is told. By going through the errant motion you are reinforcing your sub-conscious with how to do it wrong. Always, always, always tell yourself how it feels to execute flawlessly.

If you executed flawlessly then congratulate yourself, celebrate …experience the emotion. This communicates to your sub-conscious as well. Like I said above, your sub-conscious is like a child. It is trying to do exactly what you tell it because it wants the praise. That’s right it wants to be praised for pleasing you. So, tell it when it did a good job. …and teach it what it means to do execute flawlessly.

Step 4 – Cleansing Breath (Release)

OK, now we need to complete the cycle. Let everything go so that you can prepare for the next shot. You cannot allow any thoughts of what just happened crowd your mind. Tell yourself “its in the past…that is what happened…so what? Now what are we going to do next?” Let your mind reset and clear from all of the thoughts and emotion over what just happened. This step is crucial as it completes the shot cycle. Take a breath exhale and let all of the emotion drain out of your body!

Summary

So, what happened in the scenario at the beginning of the article? Well, a great many things. First, its likely that the bowler (you) did not know about the shot cycle and therefore was not mentally prepared to execute a shot. The key is that we need to keep each one of these steps distinct each with the same level of importance. Do not let the activities of one step overlap with the next. Don’t shortcut them or omit one or more of them.

Here is the typical pattern to the shot cycle:

  1. During the pre-shot routine learn from the previous shot. Set a plan in place for the next shot.
  2. Step up on the approach and commit yourself entirely to executing the shot. Translate that intent into movement and let your body handle the mechanics of the physical shot.
  3. Allow yourself to acknowledge the emotion. You don’t need to showboat here but, process the emotion appropriately.
  4. Get over it, clear your head, take a deep breath and exhale. Let all of the emotional reaction exit your body.

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

RI Ladies Classic Starts Off With A Bang

Sometimes great things start small and grow. Such will be the case for the RI Ladies Classic league. About this time last year several individuals began to discuss how competitive Women’s bowling could be revitalized in the area. Courtney Parenteau, Fran Varin, Jon Van Hees and Mike Pastore formed the catalyst for dreaming big so to speak. Over the Winter months the vision began to take shape and became a reality as of last Thursday night.

The league has drawn the attention of many ladies who expressed an interest in bowling but, had already committed to other leagues on Thursday evenings. But, they all have indicated they will likely participate next season now that they know such a league exists. Enthusiasm is high and everyone involved is very optimistic.

After I closed up the Pro Shop Thursday I stayed around to watch the league and came away with a few observations. It was great to see such a talented field of ladies bowling once again in our area in a competitive league of their own. For too many years there has been no real outlet for this particular group of players. They have been relegated to mostly “fun” leagues. Now, there is nothing wrong with a “fun” league per se but, they are certainly not intended to present a competitive atmosphere where players can stretch themselves and strive to become even better players.

What I saw was a bunch of talented ladies absolutely ripping AMF Cranston’s house shot to pieces. There were many, many “X’s” being put up and I did not see them leaving many opens. There were boatloads of high scores being recorded as a result. This is going to be a really fun league to watch. One interesting point is there was a “gallery” of people actually watching for most of the night. It was interesting to see some of the areas better male bowlers as spectators. Now, that’s awesome! And by the way, these ladies were putting these numbers up on a shot that had already seen one league shift so, the shot was choppy at best.

I have to admit I felt an honest sense of joy while watching them. In thinking about it a little I think that feeling probably stems from two things. First, my love for this sport and a never ending pursuit to try and restore some of the integrity it’s lost over the years. Second, because of my daughters and some of there peers that I’ve come to know quite well, I have a soft spot for restoring Women’s bowling in general if not for any other reason but to give this new generation somewhere to go to compete. Us guys, we have plenty to bowl in terms of tournaments and leagues. But, these accomplished ladies don’t… at least until now. For my part in helping to organize this league, I’m grateful to have worked with Jon, Mike and Courtney on this. It’s awesome to see a couple of guys who are willing to stop and lend a hand to bring about a common goal. I know Jon and Mike are also actively involved in restoring integrity to bowling in our area, at least as much as I am. Of course, I would be leaving out a very important part of what made this happen if I failed to mention Courtney’s part in all of this. She is the lynch pin that made this work. She did all of the work in terms of publicity and shaping the league. Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious for sure. Last but not least, Brunswick corporation needs to be recognized as well. They are the official sponsors of both the RI Classic and RI Ladies Classic leagues. They are 100% behind the vision we have for these two breakout leagues.

Where do we go next with this? Well, we’re just getting started. The next venture will be to host regular high quality ladies tournaments. We’re going to get started on that this very year! We’ll start at AMF Cranston, which has become a hot bed for competitive bowling, and hope to branch out from there.

So, while this may be a small step in the right direction. Many of us understand the significance of it and know this is only the beginning.

Welcome back ladies competitive bowling!

RI Flyers’ Veterans Shine In Summer Tourney Finale

Image

Left to Right: Coach Fran Varin, Coach Courtney Parenteau, Rebekah Varin (2nd place), Yousef El-laham (1st place), Jermaine Dumond (3rd place), Coach Ed Ianni

 

The RI Flyers completed another successful Summer season offering a challenging Scratch Sport league. Contested again this year using the difficult WTBA patterns, the league experienced an influx of new Junior bowlers. One encouraging sign from this year’s field was the number of young ladies participating in the league. This year ten young ladies rounded out the talented field.

The RI Flyers have become known for offering a format which challenges the young bowlers while also educating them on how to compete on such conditions. This season was no exception. The first half of the season is focused on preparing the bowlers for competing at the annual National Junior Gold tournament. The second half focuses on competing while preparing for the tournament at the end of the Summer league season and earning the right to be crowned league champion.

The pattern for the league’s finale is not disclosed before the tournament forcing players to get lined up within just the 10 minute practice before the first block. This year the left hand lane of each pair was dressed with the 36′ WTBA Beijing pattern and the Right Lane used the 48′ WTBA Paris pattern. This very challenging shot places a premium on the bowlers ability to manage two entirely different ball reactions. Most bowlers used outside lines on the left lane and tight inside lines on the right lane. Additionally, the bowlers also used different equipment on both lanes and had to react to different breakdowns in the patterns. As if that was not tough enough, bowlers changed pairs after each game.

The tournament format left no room for error placing a premium on the value of each shot. Bowlers first must qualify for the tournament based on participation throughout the league season. This year’s format was a two game block which cut to half the field based on total scratch pin fall. Next, another two games tacked on to the tally cut the field to the top four bowlers. Followed by a traditional stepladder final until only one remains.

This year the competition was fierce. Rebekah Varin lead the field in the first two game qualifying block by scoring 215 and 237. Her two game total of 452 (226 avg.) seperated her from the pack and all but guaranteed her a slot in the final. In addition to Rebekah those surviving the first cut included: Yousef El-laham, Nick Sauve, Jermaine Dumond, Tori Porter, and Katy Barnes. Caitlyn Barone missed the first cut by a narrow three pins.

Yousef El-laham (832, 208 avg.) was able to catch Rebekah Varin (818, 205 avg.) and claim first seed for the stepladder final. Rebekah remained solidly as second seed. Nick Sauve claimed third seed and Jermaine Dumond was able to overcome a slow start to slip into fourth.

In the first round of match play Jermaine Dumond and Nick Sauve contested a very close match until the final two frames where Sauve paid the price for an errant shot and fell to Dumond 191-171. In the next match the lanes began to transition very quickly as Jermaine Dumond and Rebekah Varin went head to head. The match went back and forth as both players traded shots. Ultimately, Varin was able to put several strikes together late and took advantage of a bad break suffered by Dumond for the 197-161 win.

The championship match pitted two of the RI Flyers veterans against one another. By the time the match started the shot on both lanes had deteriorated significantly and the scoring pace reflected that fact. It was clear by the first few frames that the player who could get the right breaks and grind it out would emerge the victor. Both players missed several opportunities to break the game open and in the end El-laham out scored Varin 150-132 thus, claiming the 2012 RI Flyers Summer Sport Challenge Championship title.

Author

Fran Varin is a USBC Silver certified coach who coaches throughout Rhode Island. He is also a coach for the Rhode Island Flyers and Bryant University. He can be reached at fvarin@verizon.net

Rebekah Varin Signs NLI With Monmouth University

Rebekah Varin to Bowl for Monmouth University. Photo courtesy of KLM Photography.

In her second season since Monmouth University gave her the nod as the school’s first Head Coach, Karen Grygiel has coached the Hawks to two straight NEC division championship appearances.

Coach Grygiel knows first hand what it takes to build a quality program from the ground up. As a member of the first recruited team for Vanderbilt University, she lived it on a daily basis. Reaching the pinnacle of success in 2007 by capturing the NCAA National Championship, in just a few short years, provided Coach Grygiel with the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to build and sustain a successful NCAA Collegiate Bowling program. It is this same experience and wisdom she now applies to Monmouth University’s young program.

That is why when Rebekah Varin got the word from both the school and Coach Grygiel she was thrilled by the opportunity. “I have never been more ready than I am now to move on to the next step in my bowling career. Bowling for Monmouth University is going to be an amazing experience and I am ecstatic to be able to be a part of a team that is going to do great things. The coach has a heart of gold and wants to win and many of the girls who will be on my team are ready to put up some numbers and earn a national championship. I am so excited to continue to develop as a bowler, a teammate, and a student and I believe that Monmouth is the perfect place for me to do so.” Varin remarked.

Rebekah’s story is one of hard work and dedication with an equal measure of success and frustration. In 2009, Varin decided to pursue the sport’s competitive side. She was a member of the RI Flyers travel team who won the state title in dramatic fashion and was among the first Junior Bowlers from Rhode Island to participate in the USBC Jr. Open in Indianapolis. Varin was the recipient of the Ron Giguere Memorial scholarship offered annually by the RI USBC Youth board. The scholarship provides a paid tuition to the Dick Ritger Bowling camp. There she met Kelly Kulick and Don White and forged a lasting friendship which is sustained to this day. Both Kulick and White would continued working with Rebekah in the years following assisting in advancing her game. To augment her rigorous practice regimen, she also competed exclusively in the RI Flyers Sport Scratch Division which offers a challenging competitive environment.

The 2010-2011 season was a breakout year where all of the hard work came to fruition. Varin earned her first bid to the USBC Jr. Gold tournament. She also ran the table by winning RI Singles (217 avg.), Doubles, Team and All-Events (205 avg.). In addition, she also was crowned the 2011 RI State Pepsi Scratch champion (222 avg. qualifying, 218 avg. in match play). According to Rebekah, “Winning Pepsi was the spark I needed to believe in myself as a bowler. That tournament is what really made me a competitor. I have never wanted a title more than in those last few shots of the championship match.”

At the end of her Junior year of High School, recruiting packages were sent to perspective colleges and many showed significant interest in her. However, one week before the National Jr. Gold tournament, Rebekah strained a tendon in her Bowling hand making it very painful to grip a bowling ball. She competed in the tournament and fought through the pain but, turned in a disappointing effort. “When I injured my hand 3 days before Junior Gold I panicked a bit. I had prepared myself for the tournament for months and couldn’t believe the injury happened. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to make it through all 18 games of competition. I just hoped that the coaches would see that I was obviously fighting an injury and that they would focus on my mechanics and interactions with coaches and other competitors.” recalls Varin.

Some of the colleges who had expressed interest dismissed her. But, several schools continued to track her likely suspecting an injury of some kind. Ice packs being applied to her hand and wrist after each block may have been a dead giveaway. One of those coaches was Karen Grygiel who had inquired about the injury when Rebekah visited Monmouth University. She was impressed with Varin’s gutty performance. This combined with her outstanding academic record, and leadership qualities made Rebekah the ideal recruit Grygiel was looking for.

Through all of her experiences, Rebekah never forgets her roots and other younger Bowlers within the RI Flyers organization look to her as an example. In terms of helpful advice Rebekah offers the following: “Bowl for you. Don’t bowl for a coach, a parent, or a teammate. Do it for you and because you love doing it. Everyone has bad days and tournaments. Turn those experiences into reasons to fight harder and do better next time. Be the best you can be on any given day. If it’s not your day, then it’s not your day. Don’t let anyone stand in your way. Remember that anyone can win on any given day. Just because you’re bowling against someone who is “better” than you are doesn’t mean they cannot be defeated. Believe in yourself and find the will to win.”

The Flyers will miss her spunky personality off the lanes and her fierce competitive nature on the lanes but, with the knowledge that Karen Grygiel has an eye for talent we know she will be getting one of the most coachable athletes around with a high potential for further growth in the sport. We are also confident that Rebekah will have an immediate positive impact on the Monmouth University team.

Rebekah, the Flyers’ coaching staff is very proud of your accomplishment and your example to all of the bowlers in the program and to those that read this article.

2012 Queens – 4/20/12

Well, today’s block did not turnout as planned. Courtney fell victim to a few unfortunate mishaps and, in the end, simply did not knock enough pins down. We stayed an watched most of the burn squad. The shot opened up for them and they shot the lights out. Courtney will need a huge day tomorrow and maybe a little help.

Based on what we’ve seen the “B” squad will be on the fresh tomorrow an will not have the luxury of a wide open shot. Hopefully, they break it down well for Courtney. We’re hoping the scores normalize a bit. She still has a chance at making cut but, like I said will need a huge day.

Overall she threw the ball well today, some errant shots but, could never seem to really get clicking. She was playing them right based on what we saw. It seemed that just as she would get something started something would happen to break it up. Be it a split, washout or solid 9 count of some kind.

We’re hoping for better tomorrow. But, if nothing else It’s a learning experience.

 

2012 Queens – 4/19/12

Today is practice day. It’s time to get comfortable with he house and the environment. Courtney is stoked and ready to go. She has decided to participate in a Sweeper tournament before her practice block today. It’s interesting that the Sweeper is going to be contested on the same shot they’ll be using for the Queens tournament. I think we were both surprised to learn that yesterday. It will give her an opportunity to settle into the environment and compete a little before the actual event. We both see this as something that works in her favor.

The center is nice, 50 lanes with a large concourse area. It’s an AMF house so, that will certainly feel familiar to her. We arrived there late yesterday afternoon to check in. Just in time to see them oiling the lanes with a Kegel “crawler”. Being a Software developer by trade I thought watching it move from lane to lane by itself was really cool. I instantly started considering how to write that in Java…what a nerd.

In terms of goals. Well, her first goal is to make cut into the top 64. That cut will happen after the first two block held Friday and Saturday.

We landed yesterday afternoon and got settled in our hotel without a hitch. We found a place named Lupe’s Tex Mex Grill. Really good Mexican food if your every in the Dallas area.

Casting Off The Bowlines and Learning To Sail

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain

With his keen wit but often insightful view, Twain’s words echo through the ages and offer advice which still applies today. Why then do his words sting like Alcohol on a fresh scrape?

As you may realize, Bowling is tough on a player mentally. It’s a lonely sport where an athlete can be crushed mentally by the weight of negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. We spend a tremendous amount of time focusing on improving our physical game at the expense of developing ourselves mentally. So, to that end, I’d like to spend some time discussing the mental aspect of our sport.

Why is it that some of the things we dream about we never realize? Well, there are probably myriad reasons some practical others not. But, one is certainly true. Sometimes we’re just afraid to take a chance; to put it all on the line. Sometimes it seems safer to remain where we are and allow ourselves to grow complacent. Rather than resting on our laurels we should always ask “what’s next?” It would be much better if we could adopt an attitude to just give ourselves permission to succeed; to allow ourselves to step over the line and out of our comfort zone so to speak.

Of course, along with that is maintaining a healthy perspective when we fail. It’s a natural part of life, sometimes we fail. And when that happens…so what. At least we know we we gave it our all and brought everything we had on a given day.

In terms of Bowling… it means approaching the game with total commitment to what we’re trying to accomplish shot to shot. Bowl with reckless abandon, put it all out there. There’s no room for playing it safe…ever.

But still we’re all guilty of it, we freeze at a crucial moment with a million things running through our mind. We sow the seeds of doubt and inadequacy which often defines our fate. We need to learn the mental toughness that will help us remain focused on the task at hand. And that is total commitment to the shot in front of us.

One other point is certainly true, we can have the best of intentions when it comes time for competition but, if we have not practiced with purpose and intensity we will not be in a position to compete at our best.

The old saying “you perform like you practice” is true…look at the 2011 Red Sox as an example (yes I’m a die hard Red Sox fan…always have been). On paper, arguably one of the best teams ever assembled but, they failed to practice and prepare with purpose and intensity. That is what lead to their demise.

I have witnessed many cases where athletes didn’t prepare themselves adequately and found their thoughts focused on that point during a competition. If you cannot honestly say without reservation that you have prepared yourself to the best of your ability, how can you expect to perform at a level necessary to compete your best? It’s times like these that Twain was referring to. We can’t take them back and they will, no doubt, haunt us as painful reminders of dreams and opportunities we squandered. My advice, compete with guts and practice like your life depended on it.

Reaching For Silver – My Thoughts On Attaining a USBC Silver Coaching Certification

In July 2011, I attended a USBC Coaching Clinic held at the Gold Coast Casino in Las Vegas. It had been several years since I earned a Bronze level certification. What I have found as one of the biggest benefits of attending a clinic is the time spent with peers just focusing on bowling related topics. This particular clinic was held the same week as the Junior Gold tournament so, I was going to be in town anyway. It’s unfortunate that not much seems to come East of the Mississippi when it comes to bowling related events. It’s almost like the sport doesn’t exist on our side of the country. So, if I was to pursue a Silver certification, I would have to travel out West to do so.

Was it worth it, ultimately yes. The ITRC is constantly performing research on various bowling topics so, there is always up to date information that otherwise you would not be privy to. Of course, Steve Padilla, the instructor was excellent. He was able to bring a unique perspective to the classroom. Steve is an assistant coach for team USA, is very knowledgeable and personable. The clinic was a mixture of lecture/discussion, watching and analyzing video, and on-lane work with volunteers. I found that part of the clinic valuable since it allows you to exercise some of the new information you’ve learned. Honestly, I wish it was possible to do more of that. The perspective of the other coaches is very valuable; you learn from one another. Those attending this particular clinic were excellent as well. They were a mix of Collegiate coaches and some Team USA and international players. The wealth of experience in the room was a good source for learning as well. It’s interesting to hear the different experiences and perspectives of such a crowd.

Upon completing the clinic there is, of course, a test. It’s comprised of question and answer and a separate section where you need to evaluate videos of 4 bowlers. You write a short synopsis of what you see and how to address issues. All in all, it took me a while to finish both sections. Since you are allowed to take the test on-line from home there was no time pressure to finish the test. But, all in all I estimate I spent around eight hours all together on the test. Before I actually took the test, I read through and studied the entire manual. The funny part is that it seems I pretty much memorized portions of it. I was able to know just about where to find information very quickly. I fell back on my old College days and went back through each section, after reading it, and highlighted the important points. You see the idea of a formal test wigs me out…it always has. I don’t feel I test well so, I try to be as prepared as possible. I tend to over think questions rather than relying on just reading the question and reacting to it. I always second guess myself. So, I don’t tend to do as well on question and answer type tests. Now, essay exams are another story. That is a strong point of mine so, I definitely prefer them. You get the results of the question and answer portion instantly. I must say, I hesitated in pressing the button that would submit my test for grading. But, it was all good, I passed with no issues. The video portion of the test was graded after several weeks of my submission. If I interpreted the results correctly, I received a perfect score. I was pleasantly surprised by that. Since it is largely subjective, I expected to see a difference of opinion and maybe lose a few points because of that.

So, how does all of this apply? Well, I will definitely bring the information back and use what I’ve learned to help my students. There is something for everyone whether they are a Junior, beginner, established bowler, or PBA member. I’ll be able to enhance their understanding due to keeping my skills sharp. I don’t know how many Silver coaches have ever been from Rhode Island. But, I do know that I’m in a small minority…maybe the only one who has a contemporary certification in the area. Jon Van Hees mentioned to me that he only knows of one other and that person was certified many years ago. So, it’s likely the certification has lapsed. I guess it’s possible I could be the only one from our area.

So, you may be curious as to what my aspirations are regarding this certification. Well, I aspire to be the coach of a Collegiate team where the school backs the program and funds it. I’d love to see what could happen. Those who know me, know I’ve coached across two sports for over 20 years. I’ve had the luxury to coach some advanced teams and be in the heat of competition. In short, I thrive on it, I love that environment. It does seem unlikely that I will find that opportunity in Rhode Island. Well, time will tell…you never know what will happen.

Yousef El-laham Garners National Honors


Yousef El-laham has quickly become a force to be reckoned with on the Junior Bowling scene throughout the region. But, what no one expected was the impact he would have at the Jr. Gold tournament last July contested over three days in Las Vegas.

This was El-laham’s first time competing nationally and to say that he was victim of the “rookie jitters” might be an understatement. For those who have never seen an event of this size it can be a little overwhelming at first.

In his first of three six game blocks Yousef managed to grind a total of 906 (151 avg.) for the block. Here is where many would have simply pulled up their stakes and given up. But El-laham has proven on many occasions he is not like most. He has more Heart and determination than many.

Determined to rebound, Yousef spent some time later in the day processing what may have gone wrong in the block. His coaches Fran and Courtney Varin helped him through the process but, it was all Yousef who made the decision to bowl with “reckless abandon” leaving nothing on the lanes. You see El-laham learned a valuable lesson. There is a huge difference between bowling not to lose and bowling to win. He realized that his experience week in and week out back home bowling in the R. I. Flyers Scratch Sport Division had prepared him for such a tournament. He had bowled virtually exclusively on the same WTBA conditions for several years. Once he realized this, the Yousef we have all come to know shinned through.

On the second day of competition El-laham ran up a total of 1173 (195 avg.). He started the block by holding his own. But, in the third game he did something no R. I. Flyer had done to date and perhaps few if any from our region have ever done.

After a 9 open in the first frame Yousef slammed home the next 11 strikes for an eye popping 279 scratch. That earned him a Sport Bowling 11 in a row award at the largest most prestigious Junior Bowling event in the nation.

El-laham’s focus was amazing, he had not realized what he accomplished, he was just simply in the moment. He stepped up on the approach at Sunset Station in the first frame of the fourth game. His coaches watched from the bleachers as he rolled his 12th consecutive strike for an “Andy Varipapa 300”.

Yousef did not realize what he had done. Anyone who knows him knows that he simply loves the game. It doesn’t matter how he is doing on a given day he just simply loves to roll the ball. Oh, his fierce competitive nature may brood over not excelling but, he loves it nonetheless.

His modesty shined through when his coaches asked if he knew what just happened. He really had no idea, it had not hit him…yet. Yousef was actually almost too modest to even ask for the award form. His coaches had to push him to follow through.

The last day of the event, El-laham finished with a 1092 giving him a composite average of 176 for the tournament. He finished 681 out of 1070 due largely to the “rookie jitters” in the first block.

But this is not the real story. It’s more about a bowler coming of age. Courtney Varin took Yousef under her wing and guided him through the dangerous waters of ball and line choice. She did an excellent job in her coaching debut. But, we were both privileged to watch as Yousef took a giant leap in his bowling career. It’s that “ah ha” moment that an athlete has after all of the hours of work and coaching have passed that makes the coach’s job so rewarding. The old saying is certainly true, that growth comes from losing rather than winning. A coach can teach many things but sometimes an athlete needs to experience it first hand in order to really understand and “own” it. Such is the case with Yousef. This lesson will stay with him his entire career. So, the numbers weren’t there but, didn’t El-laham really win after all?

Yousef, the Flyers’ coaching staff is very proud of your accomplishment and your example to all of the bowlers in the program and to those that read this article.

Ocean State Juniors Making Waves

It’s no secret that Rhode Island is the smallest state in U. S. In fact, Las Angeles county is larger than Little Rhody. I’ve witnessed first hand the challenges that athletes have in any sport once they leave the safe confines of our state borders. Since we have a relatively small number of youth it is difficult to offer the same types of programs other states can offer. In some sports weather plays a factor. Our season for warm weather sports is very short. Add all of the infrastructure issues together and you can begin to see the challenge. How does a youth athlete progress to the point where they can effectively compete on a national stage?

Sad to say but Bowling in our area also adds some unique challenges. Generally, it is not accepted as a legitimate sport by many. Perhaps that is one driver behind why the interschoolastic league does not recognise Bowling as a Varsity sport as it is in many other parts of the country. It’s no wonder that our collective thought on Bowling is to take it lightly. We structure the majority of our leagues to inflate scores and averages by ever increasing handicap percentages and easier “house” shots. All of this in an attempt to level the playing field by making less skilled bowlers equal to those who have put countless hours into their games to improve.

Well all is not lost, there seems to be a movement afoot that could change Bowling in our area. It is happening quietly almost to the point where no one has noticed. The Junior Bowlers in New England are beginning to make some noise on the national scene.
Just focusing on Rhode Island , we have seen a ground swell over the past few years of Juniors who perhaps are teaching us adults a lesson or two about what competitive Bowling is and maybe, just maybe we might see a resurgence of good Bowling in years to come. Let’s take a look at some of the more recent youth from Rhode Island who have moved on to compete collegiately and in other arenas as well.

First, the eldest of the recent crop Courtney Varin (West Warwick, RI). She just graduated from Delaware State University with a Biology degree where she was an NCAA Varsity Bowler for four seasons. She Bowled under the instruction and leadership of Kim Terrell for two of her seasons. During this time, the Hornets posted a school record 119 wins, was invited to the NCAA national tournament twice where they made the final four on their first attempt. Del. State also won back to back MEAC conference championships. Varin was a three time Academic All-American and the recipient of the Del. State’s Bowler of the Year award in her Senior Year.

Next, there is Victor Gomez, Jr. (Providence, RI). He has just started his second year Bowling for Mark Scroggins at West Texas A&M. Victor worked his way into the starting lineup his freshman year and also achieved the Dean’s list in both semesters.

Also, back for her Sophmore year is Nicole Trudell (Coventry, RI). She is an NCAA Varsity Bowler for Becky Kregling at Sacred Heart University. In her Freshman year Nicole got off to a terrific start by not only working her way into the Pioneer’s starting lineup but, was recognized as the NCAA Rookie of The Year. Nicole finished 6th at the USBC Junior Gold Tournament held in Las Vegas this Summer topping off a great year for her.

This year marks the first year for Jermaine Dumond (East Providence, RI) on the Collegiate scene. He is attending Viterbo University in Wisconsin and will be Bowling for the Hawks this season.

These four are an example of local talent beating the odds. They compete against the best the nation has to offer and not only hold their own but excel. They are the first wave of what has put the smallest state on the map as far as Bowling is concerned.
It’s easy to see the result of their hard work and determination. What we cannot easily see is the hours of sacrifice and preparation that went into getting them to where they are. Also, what most are not aware of is that these dedicated athletes do not just show up on the weekend to bowl a few games. No, they spend on average six days a week in rigorous practice sessions for several hours at a time. They also have a demanding schedule several times a week in the Gym. All of this, plus competing almost every weekend is in addition to their College class schedule. How’s that for dedication? If you have never attended a Collegiate Bowling event, I would encourage you to do so. It just may change your perspective on Bowling.

Where’s The Love

A few weeks ago I took the Flyers to their first JBT of the season. Two of our bowlers made match play, Helen Ianni and Yousef El-laham. They both had a very good tournament showing on that day, especially Yousef. This is only his second season and he shows tremendous potential. He lead the field after the third game and never looked back. Being the top seed he simply had to wait for who would survive match play.

I watched these youngsters competing as if it was the only thing that mattered in the whole world. They were competing for a few bucks in scholarship and a plaque that says on that day they were the best. The best part, they were doing it just because they love it, not because it had become a job.

Somewhere between that point and when we get older we loose that perspective. Where’s the love? We seem to miss the point of why we bowl. How many times have you seen someone completely fry, maybe abuse the ball return, throw equipment around or something like that. I understand competitive frustration but, where is the sense of joy. We get to the point where Strikes become routine and expected. We don’t celebrate them like our young counterparts.

I remember back a few years ago watching a bumper bowler in our junior program. He rolled the ball with two hands down the lane. It seemed to take for ever to travel the 60 feet to the head pin, bouncing off the bumpers like a pin ball. Finally rolling into the head pin. He watched as the pins lazily toppled around. The ball barely made it to the pin deck. When the last pin fell he jumped into the air fist raised in triumph, turned around to face his team and his mom with a huge teethy grin. That moment is priceless…it’s what we are all missing.

Maybe our younger counterparts stand to teach us a lesson or two about how to enjoy the game. That it is OK to feel excited about what we do and just have fun regardless of the outcome.

Oh, in case you we’re wondering what happened with Yousef. He faced a young man in the championship game who was bowling his first ever tournament. Yousef had to give up a lot of handicap and the conditions had broken down to where it was outside his ability to master. They boy he was facing was visibly nervous but, held his composure. He defeated Yousef…his mom was in tears and I saw that same wide eyed teethy grin I remembered from a few years ago on another young bowler…

Hooray for the Red, White, and Blue

I’ve bowled in USBC Sport sanctioned leagues for several years. I went in to the league with my eyes wide open, that is to say not expecting to score the same as I would on a house shot. My goal was to become a better all-around bowler. I believe I accomplished that. I actually enjoy bowling on Sport conditions since they provide quite a challenge by forcing me to see spares as a pivotal part of my game and placing a premium on repeating shots in general.

My observation has been not everyone has that same outlook and approach. I’ve seen many bowlers go into such a league or event without realizing the significant difference an Oil Pattern makes. Sad but true, many bowlers who have spent their time in just a house league really do not have an appreciation for how difficult the game can be. That’s probably one reason why touring Pros don’t get the respect they deserve. I’ve also seen many bowlers get completely fried because they are not able to just spray the ball all over the place and rack up strike after strike. Many try it and don’t come back because it’s too hard and they are content with their house average. Let’s face it…our ego gets bruised when we carry a 210+ average and find we struggle to shoot 170 on tougher conditions. As I’ve told my scratch Juniors when they bowl on Sport conditions…”your house average lies to you, it makes you appear better than you actually are.” Of course I explain why to them. Like so many, they hear and accept it but, really don’t believe it until they experience the difference.

I believe Sport Bowling is good for Bowling in general. But, it may be too late or perhaps too much of a shock since for years we’ve allowed really easy conditions to prevail. We have all grown used to the expectation of scoring extremely well without putting in the work required to get to that level. I know of many bowlers who bowl 3 games of league a week, no practice, and carry a 200+ average. …Something does not add up…what’s wrong with that picture?

Let’s face it Bowling centers make money because people walk in the door to bowl. The customers expect to see the high scores. If they don’t they complain and will likely go somewhere else where they can shoot the lights out. So, centers cater to them by putting easy conditions on the lanes. It’s a vicious circle. The problem is Sport conditions are really not appropriate for many bowlers but, house conditions are way too easy. So, something has to give.

The USBC has researched the problem and their solution is to provide three “certified” house patterns named “Red”, “White”, and “Blue”. The intent is to position these patterns in the gap I mentioned before defining a standard for centers to follow by meeting everyone in the middle. I think the idea is fantastic for Bowling. This Summer Jon Van Hees is running a single ball league at Cranston and using these patterns. Also, Strike F/X will be sponsoring a Men’s money league using one of these patterns. I’ve had the opportunity to bowl on them and find they are very playable. The blend on the patterns is much better than the standard house shot but, they are much more forgiving than a Sport pattern. This is definitely a step in the right direction. So, I say “hooray for the Red, White, and Blue.”

As a matter of fact I’d take this one step further. I would love to see tournament competition adopt the use of these patterns and publish which one they will be using. This will set the bowlers expectation and provide a standard to measure against. To be honest, I hate walking in to a tournament and bowling on a condition that is absolutely ridiculous because some lane man thinks he knows how to engineer a pattern. Or worse yet, bowl in a tournament that actually favor certain styles while locking out some others. This kind of stuff makes me nuts almost to the point where I don’t want to bother competing. I think it would be better for everyone if we follow USBC’s lead and use these new “standard” patterns.

If you are interested in checking them out, here is a link to where you can find more information

The Competitve Quandary

It’s general knowledge that competitive bowling in many circles is not taken as seriously as compared to how competition is viewed in other sports. I can’t tell you the number of people that are shocked and amazed that there even is such a thing. In general, people in the Northeast live in a bubble when it comes to bowling. The look of shock and amazement crosses their faces when you mention that in many other places across our great nation, bowling is actually a Varsity sport in High School. Never mind, the jeers my daughter gets when she mentions she bowls NCAA Varsity in College and is on scholarship to do so. Maybe, in part it is the way bowling has marketed itself over recent years as being more of a recreation. Or maybe it has to do with the stereotype that many have of bowling in general…you know the out of shape guys going to the “alley” and slamming down pitchers of Beer while they bowl. Maybe it is those things combined with a host of others too.

In recent years there have been a few decisions made that I don’t think are in the best interest of the sport in general. One point that really bothers me is the notion of professionals bowling in amateur events. It happens in many sports and the biggest example is the Olympic games. But, even in our sport it has now become a standard to see our elite pros as members of Team USA. I know the argument, “all the other countries do it”. Sorry, I just don’t agree with that position, I find it a really weak argument. In my opinion, once an individual makes a choice to become professional at anything they are crossing a line. But, I’m also willing to concede that my statement is definitely up for a philosophical debate. I still maintain that Team USA should be comprised of amateur bowlers. Furthermore, I would like to see that team built from the college ranks and Jr. Team USA from the high school aged bowlers. After all this is the feeder system.

The main point though is that more and more amateurs, I mean good amateurs have increasingly nowhere to go. The USBC is even squeezing the Juniors by lowering their eligibility age perhaps with the hope that they will swell the adult ranks. Here is what all of this brings about. A good amateur has little or no chance of being named to Team USA…that’s a given. So, there may be tournaments for them to bowl in locally and nationally. But, even most of the high profile events have plenty of PBA members bowling in them as well. Good amateurs are usually squeezed out of those tournaments as well. Let’s understand I’m not bashing the USBC, PBA or its members, just trying to make a point.

Next come handicap tournaments…well the handicap system in bowling is broken based on the way it is calculated and with the amount of sandbagging that goes on, if you have an average of 200+ you might as well forget it. Here is an example of how crazy some handicap events get. I just bowled in a tournament and entered with a 219 average based on a local house shot. The tournament used a high percentage for calculating handicap. But, here’s the kicker…they used a PBA pattern! Now, I crossed with a bowler who threw a straight ball and entered with an average just over 160. The pattern has absolutely no impact on his game. He did pretty well averaging around 180 for the day. With his handicap he averaged around 240 per game. I was essentially bowling scratch; if I could average 240 on a PBA pattern, I’d be on tour! The point is, no consideration to adjust my average was allowed. I have an established Sport average (around 190) but the organization running the tournament does not recognize the difference! There was no way for me to compete under those conditions…so much for the handicap system in Bowling! Oh, by the way, an individual with a 120 entering average won the tournament!

Now, one final angle… bowlers leaving the junior ranks, whether they just bowl locally or in a college program are equally at a disadvantage. They may have been somewhat successful as a junior but, now faced with the above. Those coming out of competitive college programs may be better prepared to face the above. But, in either case they are generally in for a shock when they realize that what they had is now gone. Where do they go next?

As you can see this gets pretty frustrating in a hurry especially in the northeast where options are very limited.

Kudos To Kelly

I’m sure everyone has heard at this point that Kelly Kulick won the 2010 Womens Open. If you sit back and consider the year she has had it is nothing short of amazing. She captured the 2010 Queens and won the PBA Tournament of Champions making her the first woman to do so. She obviously has propelled herself into the elite ranks with the speed of a lightning bolt. I think my daughter Courtney summed it up best by saying, “she’s a Beast”. How simplistic but, yet right on the money. We’re not talking about a “flash in the pan”; Kelly is going to be around for a long time and now has to be considered a factor in any tournament she enters.

Those of you who know me well enough, know that I despise cocky arrogance. There is a right way and a wrong way to win (or lose). I don’t feel there is any room for cocky arrogance in any sport. That’s not to say you should not have healthy confidence and determination. From what I know of Kelly she has that confidence and determination and is completely void of any hint of arrogance. I did get a chance to speak with her very briefly at the NCAA National Womens Bowling Tournament at Carolier just recently. My opinion was confirmed…I find her to be a class act and what is good for our sport.

My opinion started to take shape last year when my youngest daughter, Rebekah was granted a scholarship to attend the Dick Ritger camp in upstate New York (Thank you Giguere family for all you do in support of youth bowling in R.I.). Kelly is one of the main coaches on staff there. She developed a rapport with my daughter which instilled a confidence in her I was hoping to one day see. Not only did Kelly work with Rebekah’s physical game but, she befriended her. That one encounter and Kelly’s actions after the fact have given Rebekah an identity in the bowling world…something to latch on to…a feeling that she belongs and matters to someone of that caliber. In fact, the two trade text and email messages frequently.

I don’t know if people in Kelly’s position truly realize the impact they have on people especially young people. I believe we understand it at one level but miss how profound it really can be. Maybe I’m just a little more sensitive to it having coached youth for 20 years. But, that simple act meant so much to my daughter, I’m not sure I have the words to adequately describe it. Rebekah came back with a passion and fire for the sport that sparked a year long drive causing her to improve her game three fold. She has tasted success and victory on a personal level this year and I see that fire in her eyes which is the personification of the passion athletes have. It’s intangible and hard to describe but, you know it when you see it. I’ve watched her flourish this year and the catalyst was the camp experience but more importantly, it was Kelly’s actions and example. Rebekah has even saved money all year to return to the Ritger camp this Summer to continue to improve and work with Kelly again. This simple act of being accessible, open, compassionate and kind I believe defines Kelly off the lanes. Like I said, I don’t know her personally but, my opinion is based on what I’ve observed.

Fast forward a few months to another episode. My middle daughter Courtney bowls for Delaware State University. Kelly took the trip down to Dover, Delaware to work with the girls and layout all of their equipment. While there she was able to pick out Courtney as Rebekah’s sister…yeah they certainly look like sisters.

Bowling is a funny sport because it for the most part focuses on the individual. Maybe if we could all put “me” aside for a while we too could be great ambassadors for the sport. Hey, let’s face it…Bowling is a lonely sport we need the input and feedback from trusted coaches and friends to improve. You can’t really succeed only on your own power.

So, a tip of the cap to Kelly Kulick for all that she is and has done. It’s great to see super role models especially in today’s day and age.