Putting It All Together

Recently I had a personal epiphany: bowling is about knocking all the pins down. Odd, isn’t it? For the last several years I’ve been so caught up in the details of the game like ball selection, layouts, surfaces, technique, and mechanics that I completely forgot to put it all back together! Remember back to the early days of the PBA? (If you don’t, there are plenty of videos on youtube to browse) A lot of the greatest champions of the early PBA had what we would consider today to be ugly or flawed form. These very same guys were also some of the best bowlers in the world. Why? I’ll explain.

On their journey towards improving, most people arrive at a scoring roadblock. Their scores have been going up, but all the sudden they get to a point where they seem to have hit the ceiling. Most of these people look around and see people with averages still 20 or 30 pins higher, shooting several honor scores a year in the process, and this frustrates them. In seeking help, eventually they learn that scores on a house shot aren’t always indicative of skill, and that just because their scores are going up, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re improving. That’s when the whole world of bowling opens up to them, they get deeper down the rabbit hole towards real learning and improvement. One of the first things they most likely get taught is “Ignore the score, it can deceive you.” That’s good advice, it focuses you on the details and learning the tools needed to become a better bowler. Paying attention to your scores while you’re learning can be both distracting and frustrating.

Eventually, once you’ve developed solid fundamentals both physically and mentally, learned your game, and learned about ball motion and laneplay, you should put it all together and into effect. However, sometimes people become so focused and stuck on the details that they forget what all the work and effort was for in the first place! You put in the work and the time to improve your skills so that your scores will go up so that you can win more and be more successful. Scores can still be deceiving, but if you understand how to read them, you can prevent them from being frustrating or lying to you.

This brings me back to the old school PBA pros. These were guys who learned and developed things that worked for them. No matter what you do or how you do it, ease of repeatability and consistency is paramount to bowling well. That’s what these guys knew how to do, they knew how to BOWL. They may not have looked the prettiest or had what you would call textbook form, but they put X’s on the board very consistently. That’s what it’s all about, it’s not about the perfect ball, layout, surface, splitting boards, or looking graceful. Yes, all these things are extremely important to scoring and bowling well, that’s why we learn and practice them. However, eventually we have to put it all back together towards the goal of the game, which is knocking down all the pins.

I found myself at a point where I had learned a great deal and developed several skills, but still didn’t understand why I was still seemingly behind certain guys who I felt I had better skills or more knowledge than. I finally realized that I was paying so much attention to the details that I’d forgotten what the entire point of the game was. Once I put it all together, and let the skills and knowledge I’d developed click into place, the puzzle was complete. Do I look pretty throwing the ball? Not really. Do I split my target every shot? No. Am I consistent? Getting a lot better. Am I BOWLING better? Absolutely. Keep working, keep learning, keep getting better, but don’t forget what the goal is, and don’t forget to put it all together.