BY TOM KOUROS : Reprinted Courtesy of Bowlers Journal International
ACCORDING TO AN OLD SAW, "In bowling, every league member is potentially your instructor, like it or not." To this day, fellow leaguemates still give advice, whether solicited or not. The sound bytes I most often hear are, "Get the ball out on the lane," and, "Don't rush the approach. Coordinate your feet with your swing for good timing."
For a beginner, getting the ball out on the lane was good advice. It helped prevent a tendency to hit the ball early, while contributing to ideal positioning of the shoulders at the foul line.
As for timing, I bowled several years under the assumption that this was primarily one's attempt to develop an ideal relationship between the swing and feet throughout the approach. That assumption is still a popular view in bowling, but as I learned in a physiological-anatomy class, that assumption is wrong. Technically, timing refers to an athlete's neuromuscular control as determined by the efficiency with which the muscles engage and disengage sequentially in a given activity.
For instance, if a 5-step bowler places the ball into the swing while taking the first step, the rest of the approach will be disoriented unless instinctive compensations are made. This is a mistake in method, not bad timing. Only when proper technique is demonstrated can timing accurately be assessed; and only then can the problem be unmistakingly attributed to bad timing.
What bowlers generally misconstrue as timing is the way the ball and feet are synchronized throughout the approach. Says Webster, synchronization is "to happen at the same time; to represent or arrange so as to indicate coincidence or coexistense." The basic synchronization process for a bowler employing conventional 4-step technique would find the ball following the foot when being placed into the swing; and as the weight of that first step transfers from heel to toe, the ball begins to move down into the backswing. However, many professional and top amateur bowlers have learned to modify this convention by altering the synchronization between the ball and the feet. This is done in two ways — to increase or decrease leverage in the swing.
Leverage is the transference of power. The root of the word, lever, describes a rigid structure which enables a small force at one point to be multiplied into a much larger force at another point by strategic operation of the device. In bowling, leverage describes the transfer of power from a bowler's body to the ball at the point of release. And like a lever, a bowler's muscles can be used to create maximum power, or to diminish a delivery's power. Specifically, bowling leverage measures applied hand pressure in the downswing through an interrelated footwork and swing pattern and the accelerating force(s) applied in the release.
Most top bowlers understand that delaying the ball placement can increase leverage. This often proves beneﬁcial on heavily oiled lanes. On the other hand, placing the ball into the swing earlier usually reduces leverage substantially, which could prove beneficial when the lanes are hooking strongly. Note that altering your ball placement is not as popular as it used to be because of the many options modern bowling balls provide.
Whenever I worked with the best, I often looked for an error in methodology when I heard the complaint, "My timing is off." However, if the complaint was, "I lost my rhythm," I seriously considered it to be a timing problem. Rhythm is timing, a way of orchestrating each part of the body to move at the proper moment. And because of our unique physiology, one man's rhythm is another man's nemesis.
Finally, note that between seconds there are many micro-seconds, more than enough time to allow each bowler to play the game that best accommodates his body's timing without violating the fundamental form.