Bowling Stats for Success

Industry Insider By Jeff Ussery
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People bowl for different reasons. Some like to see their average increase. Some are there to enjoy friends and companions. Some try to make money at it. Everyone I know seems to have more fun when they bowl higher scores though. No matter what your reason for taking to the lanes, it’s always more fun when you score high.

As a collegiate bowler, I learned early on from my coach Mike Fine that there a few key metrics that predict success. Mike always carried (and still does) a clipboard to every collegiate tournament. He’s chart our games frame by frame, shot by shot, so that we could look back at the tournament during the ride home. You could go back and look at moments on a score sheet where the team overcame adversity, where we might have fallen in to a trap, opportunities to improve upon, etc.

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One of the things I learned was that Mike’s clipboard held a few keys to success. To this day I still occasionally chart my bowling, particularly if things aren’t going well, or if I need help remaining ultra-focused on the task at hand. Here’s three things you can track that will ABSOLUTELY predict success on the lanes:

1) Pocket percentage – If you fall in the group of higher averaging/accomplished player, but you can’t figure out why you can’t take that next step, look here. The absolute best players out there are masters of hitting the pocket consistently. The difference between the best player in the world and the best player in your local bowling center is not the 2-3 best shots they make a game. The bowling balls have neutralized the difference between the middle 4-5 shots that both players make in a game. But the 1-2 worst shots of the game are where the really good players make-up the difference. Instead of turning in a score card with 6 strikes, 2 nine counts, a combination spare, and a split, they turn in a score card with 6 strikes and 4 nine counts. Plain and simple, if you want to score higher, hit the pocket more often. You can use lane play techniques, ball selection, surface management, and various other things to help improve your pocket percentage. Sometimes throwing the ball with the biggest backend and the fastest messenger looks really cool, but it doesn’t always add up.

2) Single pin spare percentage – You want to find a way to increase your average a full pin this season? All you have to do is make one more single pin in every three week span than you would have regularly. In a 100 game season, one more single pin conversion every third week will add up to a full pin in average. A full pin! You didn’t have to make more splits, throw more strikes, etc. All you had to do was make more single pins. Single pin spare percentage is absolutely a predictor of success. The best single pin spare shooters at the league bowling level will shoot 96-98% at single pin spares. Can you make 98 of the next 100 you leave?

3) Strike percentage – This one ties in directly to #1. Mike always had us track strike percentage – the percent that we struck when hitting the pocket. If you think about it, this might be one of the biggest predictors of success. How often are you striking when you hit the 1-3 (1-2 for the lefties)? Have you ever noticed that some bowlers have the “it-factor” when they hit the pocket? Their ball just seems to roll the right way through the pins. They slap the corner pins out more often. They trip the high-flush shot (you can make money on the pro tour tripping the 4-pin all day). This is where you get your local coach and pro shop operator involved. Bowlers almost always look for the magic ball to accomplish a higher strike percentage. I’ll tell you it rarely has anything to do with that. You get yourself a solid arm swing with crisp timing at the release point and a good fit, and you’re well on your way to seeing your strike percentage soar through the roof.

Are you interested in getting a line score sheet to start keep track of your scores? Just email me for it and I’ll be glad to send it over! Just don’t ask me to take the Kansas Jayhawk off of it!

Would you like to learn about something in particular in our next industry insider column? Make your suggestion by e-mailing Jeff Ussery at [email protected]

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