The “Off-Season”

Summer is upon us. Some look at bowling’s “off season” as a time to relax and recover, or to practice even harder to be ready for the next season. Whatever method you use to ensure you’re at your best come the middle of August, here are a few things to consider to help you prepare for next season.

We’ll start with those of you who take the summer off from bowling. Unwinding and getting completely away from bowling for 3 months isn’t a bad idea at all, in fact most people do it. After you’ve been in a bowling alley likely a couple times a week for the last 9 months solid, especially through the winter months when you’re also otherwise cooped up, a lot of people need that break to reset. Before you put your equipment in the closet and forget about it for a few months, take a few moments to consider a few things.

Find a place in the house that’s dark and cool where the temperature stays the most consistent. This will ensure your equipment doesn’t go through any unneeded stress. If you carry bottles of cleaner, inspect the bottles to make sure they’re capped, upright, and haven’t developed any cracks. This will prevent them from leaking into your bag. Make sure everything you take on a regular league night is either in your bag or next to your bag, that way you don’t show up to the first night of fall leagues without something. Every few weeks, open your bag up and rotate your bowling balls, this prevents them from settling and possibly cracking. If you have balls sitting out loose, make sure they’re sitting on a ball cup or a thick towel, this will support more of the ball’s weight and also help keep them from cracking.

Over the summer months, depending on your activities, your body is likely to change slightly. It’s always a good idea to wait for a rainy day (literally) a few weeks before league starts and check your equipment, as well as possibly throwing a few games. This will let you know if you need to replace grips, add/remove tape, resurface, or purchase anything new to be ready for the season. It’s also nice to be ready for the start of the season so that the first night of league doesn’t bear the brunt of your last few months away and leave you walking out afterwards saying, “Why did I sign myself up for this torture again . .” These are just a few steps to help you enjoy the summer off, but still be ready to pick right back up where you left off like you never missed a week!

Now for the die hards (like me) who see the summer as a time to put some serious work in without worrying about league scores. The summer is a great time to improve your game. Yes it’s nice outside, but it’s also still nice inside for several different reasons. Summer is slow in the bowling alley, so you’re sure to find some great specials that will allow you to practice for next to nothing. Pro shops also usually run some good sales that will allow you to finally get the ball or balls you’ve been looking at for the past couple months. One key thing though is to not overdo it, be patient. The last thing you want is to hit practice so hard that just when fall leagues are starting, you’re burnt out or need a break. This means most of the time not bowling as much as you’d like or have the opportunity to, or at the very least, slow your schedule down in July. Everyone needs a break from everything occasionally, even things they love doing.

Use early summer to make any changes, such as playing with mechanics, and changing your fit or ball surfaces. This will give you the next few months to successfully adjust to the changes. However, don’t make too many changes all at the same time. Your brain can only handle learning so many things at a time, so give it time to keep up. Remember to have fun. This is why most people take the summer off, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. Whether you recharge and recover by getting away or by keeping tuned up, you need to make sure it’s beneficial.

Summertime usually also brings different types of leagues. These are leagues that people find fun or interesting, such as sport leagues or draft leagues. If you’re going to be working on your game over the summer, make sure not to take league too seriously. Use them to try things you may need for your fall leagues, but weren’t quite comfortable enough to try in the middle of a set the year before. Generally the rule is that you don’t practice during league, but summer leagues can be the exception. Sometimes you really do need to try things with the lights on to see how comfortable you are with them. It’s easy to make big jumps or change balls quickly and confidently while you’re practicing, but when your subsequent score means something during league, that can sometimes make your decisions tougher, slower, and ultimately leave you less confident in them.

One more piece of advice for everyone, make sure you know what leagues you’re bowling and who you’re bowling with well in advance of the fall leagues starting. They can sneak up on you quickly, and it seems like every year someone is left out or you thought your team was set only to find out it’s not. A helpful hint is to make your deadline a week after the 4th of July. You have the big summer holiday, and then all the sudden fall leagues are almost a month away! By now people should have a good idea what they can bowl, and if you get on it early, you’ll be sure to avoid the last second scramble to fill a team before the first night.

These are just a few tips on getting the most out of your summer, whatever you choose to do with it. Have more? Post them below!