HOW TO BOWL (Feb, 1940)

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by Joe Falcaro

I HAVE, through personal instruction, made thousands of good bowlers from beginners. Too, I have made hundreds of excellent bowlers, men who average around 200, from good bowlers.

Any bowling secrets I have been able to reveal to these bowlers you will find on these pages. I urge that you read this article several times, slowly and carefully, so that no point is missed. Study it as you might study a lesson in school. Memorize it, if necessary, but be sure you under-stand and apply every point in practice.

This advice goes to those of you who may have been bowling for five or ten years, as well as the beginner. It is my observation that very often the bowler who has been at the game for some time, and may be a creditable performer in tournaments, is guilty of one or two primary faults, which, if corrected, would raise his bowling average 10 to even 25 pins a game.

What’s most important? The answer: Proper equipment, if you really have ambi-tions to be a class-A bowler. Bowling shoes are not expensive. Get a pair. They will last five years or more. Get a ball, too. With your own ball you will enjoy the game more and bowl better. A ball lasts a lifetime.

If you can’t get bowling shoes be sure the shoes you bowl in have rubber heels and leather soles. Never bowl in rubber-soled shoes. The left foot must slide as you approach the foul line, on your final step, and a rubber sole will not permit this. Too, you must use your heel as a brake and the only kind that will so function are of rubber.

Whether you use a two-finger ball or three-finger ball is a decision you will have to make. You can bowl as well with either, and the three-finger ball is easier for most persons to hold. For those reasons I usually suggest a three-finger ball to a beginner, especially one whose finger grip is not strong enough to hold the two-finger ball without tiring.

Don’t get the idea a three-finger ball is for sissies. If that grip feels more comfortable to you, use it.

Now for fitting the ball. The ball must be a perfect fit if you are going to score well, and consistently. The method for determining the proper fit is the same for both the three-finger and two-finger ball. The thumb is fitted first, and should be inserted as deep as possible into the largest hole in the ball. The fit around the thumb should be just loose enough for comfort, and tight enough to maintain friction when the thumb is bent at the joint and pulled out of the hole. If there is doubt in yourmind, select a thumb-hole on the loose side.

The holes for the other fingers should fit with the same degree of looseness. Very important in fitting a ball is the span—the distance between the thumb-hole and the hole for the second finger. This distance should be such that the second finger can be inserted up to the second joint without stretching or cramping the hand. The sure way to measure this is to insert the thumb full length and let the entire length of the second finger rest on the ball, over the hole for which that finger is intended. If the second joint of that finger projects about 1/4-inch past the inside edge of the finger hole, the ball is the right span for you. Use this same rule in fitting the third finger, if you use a three-finger ball.

A too-narrow span, or a too-wide span will make your bowling erratic, destroy your accuracy. It is wise when selecting a ball to get the advice of the bowling alley proprietor as to the proper fit.

Now that you have selected the proper ball, take care to spread your fingers not occupied in holding the ball, onto the ball’s surface. Don’t spread them so far they feel stiff and unnatural, but getspace between them, so that each finger contributes to guiding the sphere. The next most important thing in learning to bowl well is poise. In the case of many persons who have been bowling for years without attaining consistently high scores, lack of poise is probably the most important single factor in their failure. By poise I mean physical relaxation or lack of muscular tenseness, and a frame of mind that permits complete concentration on the job at hand. So complete must be this concentration that you are not aware of spectators, what is being done on the alley next to you, what your score is, or anything except proper delivery of your ball.

Bowling alleys everywhere have their fire-eaters, muscular gents who screw up their features into a grimace of desperation, whosearm and back muscles become hard as rocks when they swing the ball for delivery—but who will never be really good bowlers.

Here is a little test to show you the importance of relaxation. Stand about arm’s length from an ordinary push-button wall switch, the type that turns your ceiling electric light off and on. Now deliberately make your body, leg and arm muscles as tense as you are able. While your muscles are tense, reach out and try to turn the light off and on with your index finger by punching the switch in full arm jab, bringing your right hand back to the chest between jabs.

In ten jabs you are sure to miss the switch several times. Now repeat your efforts to punch the switch, but with body and arm muscles relaxed.

The results should be much better, usually ten perfect contacts with the button out of ten tries. The lesson you learn from this is obvious: If, with muscles tense, you can’t punch a light switch at thirty inches, what chance have you to hit a head pin sixty feet away with muscles tense?

Relax, that’s the answer, but concentrate mentally on the job at hand.

The next thing to determine is the number of steps you want to use in approaching the foul line to deliver the ball. Four steps are most commonly used, once you have learned to handle the ball. This is the most satisfactory number from the standpoint of maintaining the body balance and imparting sufficient forward motion to the ball. Very fat persons or beginners usually find three forward steps more satisfactory. The five-step approach is to be avoided by all except expert bowlers.

To determine the proper distance for starting your approach for the four-step delivery simply pace off four steps, back from the foul line, then add about six inches so your toe won’t touch the foul line when you deliver, and mark the distance on the floor with your heel, or even a piece of chalk.

Now take your position, heels on the mark you have made, about six inches in from the right-hand edge of the alley. Stand erect, and let your eyes travel from a spot about six inches in from the right edge of the alley atthe foul line in an imaginary line along the alley surface to the head pin. Somewhere along this imaginary line, from ten to twenty feet from the foul line, find a spot on the alley bed, and focus your eyes on that spot.

This spot may be a darker board in the alley bed, or a lighter one. It may be a corner of a board, where it joins another of lighter or darker color.

It is at this spot you are going to throw the ball. After the spot is selected you are not to look at the pins until after the ball is delivered. If you are near-sighted, select a spot closer to the foul line, but no closer than four feet from this line.

The reason for picking a spot and bowling at it, rather than aiming and throwing at the head pin sixty feet away, is that it is easier for anyone to hit an object the closer it is to them. For instance, throw a sofa pillow at a door five feet away and you can hit it every time, back off thirty feet and you will miss now and then. By the same logic, it is easier to roll your ball over the spot ten feet away and depend on a projection of its path to place the ball in the pocket between the No. 1 and No. 3 pin, than it is to aim and throw at the target 60 feet away.

You have taken your position, ball in hand, heels on the mark about twelve feet back of the foul line, six inches in from the edge of the alley. When the proper time comes you are going to lay the ball about six inches in from the right edge of the alley, at the foul line.

Remember you are relaxed, legs straight, elbows bent at right angles, ball at about beltother pins for a strike. Thus, ten perfect hits with a very fast ball will not result in as many strikes as ten identical hits with a somewhat slower ball.

All bowlers should strive to perfect a uniform delivery, throwing the ball with the same speed for every shot. You can accomplish this with least trouble if you throw a straight ball. A person throwing a hook ball will find his ball curving less sharply on a slippery or “fast” alley. His temptation will be to slow down his delivery, throw a slower ball and give the slower moving sphere an opportunity to create the necessary friction between alley surface and ball to produce his familiar hook. This change of pace should be avoided, unless proper results can not be obtained in any other way. First the bowler should select a spot a bit closer to the center of the alley than is his custom to bowl over, and see if he can get the usual results from this new spot. In the case of a slow alley, one which has a rougher surface than average, the hook will be wider than the bowler expects because of increased friction between the alley and the spinning ball. In that case a spot somewhat to the right of the ball’s usual path should be selected. By selecting a spot slightly to the right or left of the usual path, for a fast or slow alley, you do not have to change your point of delivery at the foul line. While some teachers recommend moving the delivery point closer to the center of the alley on a slow surface, and closer to the right-hand gutter on fast surface, I can not subscribe. To do this you must disrupt all the habits you have developed in laying the ball down at the precise same spot on the foul line. To my way of thinking, it is much better to select a new spot to bowl over, but retain your usual delivery spot.

The average bowler builds up his score more onspares, cleaning the alley of all the remaining pins on his second shot, than he does on strikes. Of course you must concentrate on strikes, and you will not be a high score bowler until you can get six or seven strikes in every game; but neither will you be a high or even average bowler, unless you can pick up spares regularly.

Simply stated, my rule for throwing for spares is this: Every spare leave you may have, with one exception, should be made from your original position with the ball placed on the same spot at the foul line as you place it for a strike. The exception is when you have one, two or three pins standing in the right-hand corner of the alley, that is, the six, nine, or ten pin, one of them, two of them or all three.

In this case you move to the extreme left side of the alley, delivering the ball six or eight inches in from the left side of the alley.

In every instance, select a spot when bowling for spares as you do when bowling for strikes, and bowl for that spot, not the pins. Remember, throw the same ball, straight or hook, for your spares that you throw for a strike.

When you have selected a ball that fits, have mastered your footwork and armswing, and have learned to throw a uniform, accurate ball, you will have everything necessary for a finished bowler except a bowling disposition. To be a really good bowler, you must have this, a combination of coolness, courage, ability to concentrate and smile under adverse circumstances.

When the game gets tight, take your time, keep relaxed and concentrate on doing your best. Be sure you are set before delivery, have clearly in mind what you intend to do and accept the results cheerfully. Nothing upsets your opponent more than to see that nothing upsets you.

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