Preparing for World Championship Events - The Short

Reprinted with permission from Bowling Digital

There have been a few articles written, seminars performed and many discussions or “concourse seminars” about how to train and play on the World Tenpin Bowling Association’s short and long oil patterns.

Federations, coaches and players throughout the world continually practice for these championship events but are they preparing correctly?

In August of 2007, the WTBA Women’s World Championship will be held in Mexico and in this article we will try to shed some light on some of the challenges slower ball speed players face and suggest an “outside of the box” approach to prepare for the short oil conditions.

We must understand and accept the fact that the majority of women players do not throw the ball as fast nor do they rev the ball up as much as the men players. Both of these playing characteristics have a tendency to make the bowling ball release energy too quick if the player is using a bowling ball that has a coverstock too aggressive or a core/layout that is too strong.

With the wide variety of available equipment on the market, it can be confusing as to which choice to make when deciding on what bowling ball to purchase or choose but there is one thing we should always keep in mind about the bowling game of today; “more is not always more” and actually many times “less is more.”

For slower ball speed players, mid-price performance balls may be a better choice than the high priced performance balls from many of the ball companies. Not all, but most of the ball companies tend to save or use there stronger reactive coverstocks and cores for the high end range of their product line.

Many of the mid-priced bowling balls are of the weaker variety with regard to coverstock and core. This however does not make those mid price balls less susceptible to knocking down pins and for slower ball speed players; they may very well be the better choice.

In times when bowling balls were not as aggressive as those of today, when a player left a “weak 10-pin” or a 5-pin on a seemingly good pocket hit, we knew exactly why the ball hit weak and more often than not it was because the ball was sliding too long or too much.

In today’s bowling game however, we have a relatively new occurrence of the bowling ball hitting weak by slowing down too early, or “burning up” as many like to call it.

If a bowling ball uses up all its energy before reaching the pins as it does in the above video, it becomes “dead on arrival”, or in scientific terms, the bowling ball has lost all of its axis rotation and tilt and rolls completely in the direction of its travel.

In today’s bowling environment, early loss of bowling ball energy or ball speed usually happens because the player has chosen a ball with a coverstock that is too aggressive for the lane conditions they are bowling on for their style of play.

It could be that the ball surface is too sanded (dull), the coverstock is particle or just an overly aggressive reactive cover is being used all causing the ball to grip the lane too much and too soon.

Bowling balls can also use energy too quick, or slow down too much, because the layout or core of the ball may be too aggressive for the playing conditions.

Remember, high differential cores are more unstable than low differential cores, and this unstableness causes track flare. When a high differential core ball is laid out in such a manner to maximize track flare potential, the bowling ball will have wider track ring separations exposing a greater amount of clean ball surface to the lane, which increases friction on the lane. The additional friction makes the ball slow down sooner and release energy at a faster rate.

When a bowling ball releases energy too soon, it will straighten out on the backend minimizing not only your room for error on the lane but also decreasing your pocket strike percentage.

On the PBA Tour, some of the more talented players may use bowling balls or layouts which “burn up” to control the excessive back end ball motion on short oil patterns. This practice however is not recommended and in fact, even most of the tour regulars stay away from using this intentional strategy. Chris Barnes is really good at that technique, but as you can see in the above video, it does not always work out.

Proper ball motion through the pins cannot be to strong nor can it be too weak. The bowling ball must lose speed in the proper way as it travels towards the pins.

A ball motion that is too strong through the pins or that does not slow down soon enough, may not deflect properly causing spare leaves like the solid-9, solid-8 or even the 4-9 split (right handed leaves).

If the motion is too weak, the bowling ball may deflect too much causing spares like the 8-10, weak-10, 5-pin or a combination thereof. The misunderstanding today however comes from the weak pin leaves.

If the bowling ball is sliding through the pins or never quite grips the lane, it will deflect more and “hit weak” with most of us knowing what to do in this situation.

If a ball uses all of its energy up too soon by grabbing the lane or releasing its energy too early, it will also deflect and leave many of the same spares as that of a ball that slides too much through the pins and that is where it can get confusing.

Finding that balance between releasing energy and slowing down too soon or too late is what all players and coaches should be looking for first and foremost when analyzing how the bowling ball is traveling towards the pins.

The only way however to get this education is by watching bowling balls go down the lane on sporting conditions --- and that means watching a lot of bowling balls go down the lane!

Without this ball motion knowledge and awareness in today’s bowling environment, a technical bowling coach is only half a coach.

Whether you use a bowling ball with the pin in a very weak position (pins closer or farther away from your PAP), a bowling ball with a weaker core (less differential) or a bowling ball with a less aggressive cover (weak reactive, urethane or polyester) to achieve proper ball motion on the short pattern is a little bit trial and error but closing the mind to available equipment options in today’s environment can and may very well be detrimental to your success.

Another challenge for players of today on the short oil patterns is that most players simply do not have or will not seek out the opportunity to practice this condition.

Unfortunately many of the bowling centers block their lanes at the ten-board because most house bowlers “just like to stand on the big dot and throw over the second arrow.”

This of course leaves the sport players in a predicament on preparing for world championship events. If a player, coach or federation can solicit a few local bowling center proprietors who are willing to help their sport players and national team members prepare for championship events, here are some practice procedures that will help to conquer the short patterns.

As we stated in previous articles, “The Long and the Short of It”, the short pattern requires a break point that is closer to you than most of the medium length patterns. The short patterns are usually conditioned anywhere from thirty-two to thirty-five feet in length which leaves almost half the lane without conditioner.

If there is no conditioner to guide the ball into the pocket, then we are either relying on carrydown of the players we are following, the topography of the lane surface or the differences in friction of the lane surface for our margin for error.

There is however conditioner on the first half of the lane which normally is extremely sloped on the short oil patterns. That is where a player will create their greatest margin of error so we must find a way to use that part of the lane in order to maximize our mistake area.

For a player to use the conditioned part of the lane, the bowling ball must react to the lane during the first thirty feet of it path towards the pins. This is not a ball motion the modern player is accustomed to.

Most players would rather see the bowling ball skid for forty feet and then hook sharply into the pocket. This looks impressive but it is not necessarily conducive to success in the long run and definitely not on the short oil patterns.

To get used to this early ball motion with continuation, I suggest a practice environment with less conditioner volume overall, a very short forward buff distance and then practice on this condition using only a polyester bowling ball!

In order to create this environment, we must first reduce the length of the pattern to the twenty-four to twenty-eight feet range. Then reduce the total volume of oil to the six to nine milliliter range. Finally, make the pattern fairly flat except for a large slope from the three board to the six board without any oil applied on the first and second boards, and maybe even not on the third board.

View and download the 'Short Plastic Practice 50 mic' oil pattern.

The reason for zero oil on the outside boards is because polyester coverstock bowling balls need “dry” to react on the gutter and for practice we want the players to be fearless of playing the one-two board. If the outside hangs, the players will move more inside and that is not what we want to get them comfortable playing the outside line.

Of course if a player does use a reactive based urethane ball on this condition, it will “bounce” off the gutter and they probably could stand farther left without negative consequences. A reactive based urethane ball will also destroy the condition too quick because of its porous characteristic.

By limiting everyone to polyester or even polished urethane bowling balls, you will create a repetitious practice environment that will breed the familiarity and reassurance we are trying to achieve.

For specific lane machines, contact the manufacture’s tech support department and they should be able to send you a pattern as a good starting point. You might also ask a bowling proprietor or mechanic to apply these conditions prior to their birthday party or glow bowling sessions since those customers do not use anything but polyester/urethane house balls and in reality, this “short oil-light volume condition” is best for those activities anyways.

This practice exercise will accomplish a few things:

1. This environment will get the players used to the ball motion needed on the short pattern. The polyester ball will look like it hooks sooner and then it will seem as though it straightens out on the backend. For the short pattern this is the ball motion we should be looking for.

2. This environment will force the players to get their sliding foot more towards the gutterso the ball will read the dry boards on the first and second board before the end of the oil pattern. If the sliding foot is too far inside, the ball will be in the oil too long and then skid directly into the gutter. Remember, most polyester balls have very low differential Rg values (low track flare potential) so the first couple revolutions will provide a continuous oil ring around the track area and the ball will not have time to dissipate that oil in the front part of the lane. When lined up correctly, the 3-5 board will become hold area if the players can hit the first and second board consistently and early enough.

3. This environment will force the player to align their swings with the path of the ball. If the swing path is too much inside-out, an extreme amount of gutter balls will also follow. The best and most versatile professionals use different swing paths for playing inside or outside lines.

Once this exercise has been practice a few times, obtain some recent past Championship patterns, apply them and start experimenting with different balls and layouts to see which combinations achieve a similar ball motion. You will soon see the short patterns are not that difficult to get comfortable with and your ball choices are not even that vast. You might even find the outside line is most enjoyable and becomes one of your favorite places to play.

From: James McGinty []
Subject: Short Practice Pattern

Hi Ted,
Just thought I would let you know how the weekend went with our camp.
It was the final selection camp for the Women's worlds, and we had already narrowed the group down to 11 players for a 6 person team.  The challenge was to cut it back to 6 by the end of the weekend based on Physical performances (Fitness), on lanes performance and an interview and team suitability. We had a lot of work to do.

Saturday we had a skill testing session on lanes using a short pattern with the emphasis being on sparing.  To many of the girls surprise a lot of them missed plenty of spares due to their plastic balls hooking at the end, this was even after I warned them that they need to practise sparing with no side roll on the ball.  It takes evidence I guess to make them change.  We then had a session on playing short and long conditions and focused on ball reaction and the required shape, finishing with me showing them the short plastic pattern you gave me.

Saturday night we went back to the bowl and I laid the plastic pattern, the lane surface was AMF HPL, machine was an ION set for 50 mic stream and the oil was Prodigy and Fizzion wash.

I have to say that the pattern played exactly as I thought a typical short oil pattern would play, all but 2 of the girls could easily hook the ball with a ball reaction that mimicked a Urethane or similar ball reaction on a typical short pattern.  A few of the more skilled ladies were really ripping the rack, scouts flying everywhere, a couple of stone 9's etc.  None of them believed it was possible that they could do what they were doing.

We had them practice for 15 minutes then had them score 3 games with 4 girls a pair moving across the 3 pairs as we went.  The condition held up very well and all the girls commented that only small 1/2 board adjustments were required, with no one adjusting more than 2 boards (target or feet) over the 3 games.

The top 3 girls all were the girls with the higher skill levels, and they all had over 600 for the 3 games, the highest was 648 and I must say that she really played well, making fantastic adjustments with rotation and ball speed in order to get the ball roll correct.  The majority were in the mid to high 500's with the last 2 that I mentioned not managing to make it to 450.

In my opinion this is an essential exercise for any player wanting to succeed on short oil, and the reaction is truly unbelievable. I was hoping you were right as I had not had a chance to lay it prior and had told the other 4 coaches of how it should play and it's intended purpose. All stated that they would not have believed it unless they saw it themselves. All the girls thought it was a terrific tool and thank you and Kegel for your involvement.

Mate if you need any more feed back on this please let me know and I will be happy to expand where I can.

Thanks again,
Team Australia

Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson began his career in the bowling business in 1976 at the age of 15 working for the Florida based Galaxy Lanes chain. Beginning from the ground up in center operations, he has also been a long time Pro Shop proprietor, 40 lane center General Manager, PBA National Tour player, multi PBA Regional Champion, PBA Player Services Director, and even a bowling writer. Since 2004 he has been working with Kegel.

Ted has also coached bowling on many different levels. From basic Learn to Bowl classes and private lessons while in the Pro Shop business, he was also head coach for Florida State University, countless PBA professionals, and even coached Lisa Wagner to her last Player of the Year award in 1993. While working for the PBA, the late great Dick Weber even asked for some of his time. An experience Ted says "he will always cherish". Dick immediately won a Senior Sweeper and gave him $300. It was the most Ted ever received for an hour lesson, and it came from one of the greatest players of all time.

Recently, Ted has been deeply studying topography and the effects it has on ball motion. He is also on the Kegel Team helping make decisions for many of the oil patterns Kegel uses in competitions world wide, which has led to further development of Kegel's lane machines. Ted has a complete and unique understanding of bowling from many different sides.

Ted also named the world's and Kegel's most popular lane machine the "Kustodian ION" (pronounced "EON" in Europe) and spearheaded the creation of Kegel's Navigation Oil Patterns. The creativity may be heredity. In 1968 Ted's father created the famous Dodge Super Bee logo and spearheaded that marketing campaign.