I got the idea for this blog from a Facebook post where I was soliciting input on topics….Thanks to Jeff Piroozshad for the question. I’m going to call this one “Preparation”. Basically, the question asked was what do pros take away from a practice session on tour, how does the practice session influence the ‘game plan’ for the next days’ squad, etc.
Prior to walking into the Bowl for a Tournament Practice Session on Tour, I reflect on previous experiences and try to remember what kinds of things seem to work consistently in that venue. I really don’t pay much attention to the so called “Oil Pattern” as the traits of the bowling center seem to ALWAYS prevail. Such characteristics could be: faster or slower ball speeds, hard or soft hands, asymmetric or symmetric weight blocks, certain company’s cover stocks, axis tilt and/or rotations, etc…. I then arrange a diverse arsenal based on that reflection, typically 6-10 balls. Usually, inside of 15 shots, I can eliminate the majority of my entire arsenal, which could be in excess of 25 balls at times. By this time, it is, hopefully, very clear what the general attack plan will be, what covers will work best, what layouts (pin up, pin down, strong or weak), what hand positions and releases I will be using, what surfaces will match up, etc.
The next half hour or so involves discussing (with ball reps, other players, etc.) what the expected scoring pace will be, the types of bowlers who will likely bowl well under the conditions, and any other information we can share with each other. As “we” figure out what equipment I will be using, we take another review of the arsenal to determine if anything is missing that would be needed for the next day (or at some point during the tournament week).
The last portion of the practice session is usually spent bouncing around pair to pair, paying attention to anything and everything that could provide insightful advantage throughout the tournament. These things could be noticing how pins bounce out of the pit, goofy racks, approach texture across the center, watching transition, etc.
Following practice, if need be, I head to the truck to meet with ball reps and finalize ball choices and layouts, fill out a spec sheet, and head to the hotel for dinner with Norm. The first question at dinner typically is “how’d ya play ‘em”…….it’s a coin flip on who asks who first. Tournament talk over dinner is usually limited to 8 to 15 minutes, though ‘other bowling business’ talk could go on a little longer. After dinner we negotiate departure time which often ends up being a very odd number (i.e., 7:27AM, at the car). Part ways with Norm at the hotel, get to the room, a quick good night phone call to my fiancé, and hit the hay. 7:27AM at the car comes mighty early for a guy who is used to howling at the moon…..
In the morning it usually takes me about three minutes per ball of workout time and an additional five or so apiece to tape them up. Once practice starts the ball reps mingle among the players, adjusting surfaces and discussing game plans. Throughout the practice session I focus on “clearing the mechanism”….because it is here that the mental preparation must take over…I’m convincing myself that I am prepared for this, and relying on my preparation…being my own cheerleader so to speak, and realizing there is no more prep work, now we go to battle. Practice ends with the customary pat on the ass from Chuck on the Truck, and from there….only one thing left to say…..DV8 Tonight We Bowl.
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Next Up….The Masters!