Bowling's Big Miss

Bowling’s Big Miss Hank Boomershine, USBC Gold Coach, V.P. of Sales and Marketing, Storm
As players and coaches we continue to worry so much about hitting our target with the same speed, angle and rev rate, but we are missing the one last variable that could affect the shot the most. The laydown or release point is so crucial.

Throughout the history of bowling we have seen several advances throughout the sport. The focus seems to always fall on bowling balls and lane conditions. In the last 20 years we have seen great advancements in coaching and the tools used to teach the physical game. These days we can take a video with our wireless device and upload it to several different video analysis platforms and analyze our entire physical game. In some training facilities we have the luxury of radar or sonar tracking systems (C.A.T.S. – computer aided tracking system) to analyze the path of the ball as it travels down the lane. On the manufacturing side we use these to develop the right ball motion for new products and also to understand ball motion through the use of various ball layouts.

The system is also used by coaches to analyze their student’s ball speed, rev rate, launch angle, accuracy to various points throughout the lane and entry angle to the pocket. The data allows us to work with these players on any inconsistencies we find. One variable we see that changes the most for the average player is their breakpoint. We find that they are pretty consistent to their target and that their speed and rev rate along with their launch angle is consistent but we find a large variable at the breakpoint. This translates into shots that miss the head pin to the right or can even go through the head pin for a high pocket shot due to the vast differences in the breakpoint. This confuses the player as well as the coach because all the data says that player hit their target and their speed and rev rate did not vary to that much of an extreme, but they had several different points at which the ball hit the pocket. The one variable that the system cannot analyze is the laydown of the ball off the player’s hand. This is one of the biggest missed things in the sport.

The system analyzes the ball as it travels through a laser or sonar beam. Most of these systems place the first sonar or laser beam at 10 feet. Most players lay the ball down prior to that distance, but even at that the system cannot analyze where it was laid down on the lane. At this point in technology, it is almost impossible to measure the distance from the foul line in which the player lays the ball down on the lane. We have done some testing at Storm to analyze the impact mark of the ball after each shot and measure the distance from the foul line and then cross reference the data with C.A.T.S. . Unfortunately this is very difficult to do and takes a lot of time to do. The data does show us that the point at which the ball impacts the lane is in direct relation to the breakpoint down the lane. We had testers that laid the ball down on the lane and had a pocket strike. We took all the data and then had the player delay the lay down point of the ball and have it travel across the same target down the lane and yet it missed the pocket to the right. We then had the player get the ball down on the lane sooner than the original shot and the ball went high pocket or through the head pin.

As players and coaches we continue to worry so much about hitting our target with the same speed, angle and rev rate, but we are missing the one last variable that could affect the shot the most. The laydown or release point is so crucial. Today’s oil patterns that have so much more volume in the front of the lane and if you loft it out on the lane a little more the ball can skid an extra couple of feet down the lane and even though it crossed your intended target, it misses the head pin to the right. We have analyzed many of the greatest professionals and amateurs in the world and have found out that they vary their laydown the least. Most average players can vary their laydown up to 20 percent. It is one of the most missed variables in the sport today.

Over the past several years we continue to work with players on this variable. We make them aware of the issue and work to correct it. Unfortunately we still have no devices in which to measure it except marking the point of impact on the lane of the ball. We then work with the player to stay consistent with that lay down point. Other variables that can affect this laydown point are: bad fit, improper spine angle (too much or not enough), inconsistent flexion of the knee at release. We work hard to get the player’s core consistent and also to have the proper fit. We then work on creating the proper release point of the thumb in relation to the ankle. This sets the stage or platform for the player to achieve a more consistent laydown of the bowling ball.

I would urge you to pay attention more closely to your player’s laydown point. It could mean the difference between that crucial strike or the big miss.