Ways to Improve the USBC National Tournament

Last weekend I attended the 2017 USBC Open Championship. This was my second time participating (I attended in 2016 in Reno), and my first time as Captain. Overall, the event was one of the most disappointing bowling experiences of my life. And, no, it has nothing to do with how difficult the lane conditions were or how good or, more accurately, bad I bowled. That’s a debate for another time. With that said, here are 6 issues that the USBC needs to consider fixing for future US Opens.

1.) Lack of Clear Instruction:

As a first-time Captain, the USBC did little to nothing to provide me with the information necessary for a smooth time before and during the event. Register online (or fill out a form and mail it in), give them all the team information, and pay. Seems simple enough…yet, for some reason, a month prior to the event you are mailed a piece of paper demanding you confirm the accuracy of your team’s information, but the letter doesn’t supply an actual way to do so. Turns out you don’t have to do anything. Once you’ve given them your registration info, then you need to have the team fill out a ‘Green Sheet’, answering questions that have either a.) already been asked during registration or b.) could have been asked during registration. If that weren’t enough, once you arrive at the venue, there are only 2 to 3 signs telling you where to go, and one of them sends you to THE WRONG 60 lane bowling alley. When six people are wandering around toting 50 lbs. of bowling balls or more, a few indications of where the tournament is located would be helpful. (Or maybe a map, which could be posted on the USBC website.) I will say that for every time I had to reach out for clarification to USBC staff, they were informative, helpful, and kind – a rare highlight during this stressful event.

2.) Starting Times:

This is probably the epic failure of this year’s USBC tournament. When I signed up originally, my team and I were set to bowl at 8:30 PM, which is already late for a group of old timers like us, but it was the only available time, so that’s okay. Then, about 3 weeks prior to the event, one of my teammates (not me, the captain) gets an email from the USBC letting us know our start time is now 9:30 PM. Considering we had to turn around and bowl again at 9:00 AM, losing an hour was a little rough. And finally, at the event we had to wait ANOTHER 30 minutes for everything to be reset from the previous session. This one is a very easy fix: more lane machines. This year, the event used two lane machines to oil 60 lanes at a time. How much more would 2 or 3 more machines cost to add? It certainly could have saved a lot of bowlers a lot of time.

3.) Warmup Times:

Session length being an issue, I can somewhat understand this, but would it really kill the USBC to add 4 more minutes of warm-up time for Doubles/Singles?

4.) Gouging:

Team photos = $, videos of your bowling = $ (by the way, you can’t film yourself), weekend times = $, and even food and drink prices were more expensive than the rest of the casino where the event was held – even if you wanted to walk the half mile back there to get a drink or food, a guard would stop you from bringing it in. The team photo is the item here that bothers me the most. Each team spent nearly $1000 to bowl in this tournament, and yet we’re not even given a thirty-cent copy of a photo we’re required to take? The USBC should, as a thank you to the teams bowling, provide at least one quality print to each team.

5.) Awards:

I am all for celebrating the accomplishments of the bowlers who have made multiple journeys to these tournaments over the years, but spending 20 minutes or more every team session to recognize a bowler bowling his 22nd or 31st consecutive tournament is a waste of time. These awards could easily be given to the captains to hand to their teammates, and then milestones (5, 10 year intervals) could be announced prior to the team session.

6.) Dress Code:

While entering the squad room, I watched as a man was stopped by an USBC attendant and told that he was not wearing proper attire. He was wearing jeans (which is allowed), and a bowling jersey shirt with no collar (which is allowed). However, the combination of both is not allowed. USBC, it’s time to give up on these archaic regulations. People should be allowed to bowl in the attire that is most comfortable for them to bowl well in (including shorts and t-shirts). Instead of forcing regulations upon everybody you should incentivize additional Pride Awards that will encourage positive team uniform collaboration instead of negatively enforced necessity.

Simple changes, but necessary ones. Hopefully, the USBC will take these considerations to heart if they wish to continue this annual tradition for decades, even centuries to come.

How to Bowl a Hook

Whenever someone finds out that I’m a bowler, the question I’m most often asked is if I throw a hook. My general answer is a polite, ‘yes’, but in the back of my mind I always think ‘How else would I bowl?’ Every bowler I’ve seen have consistent high average success has thrown a hook. I’ve seen a fair number of ‘non-hook’ bowlers shoot high games, but for them a 200 game is usually a rare achievement, as opposed to a consistent score.

Throwing a hook is the most instrumental tool that you can learn to become a consistent bowler. Instead of hitting the headpin dead on, or slightly off centered, which causes massive deflections of power, throwing with a hook allows you to hit multiple pins with equal force, creating a reaction that should knock over all 10 pins. Think of it in terms of a game of pool. When you shoot the cue ball to the right of the ball for which you aim, the cue ball will deflect away from any balls behind the target ball. This is a similar reaction to hitting the head pin slightly to the right or left, the Ball will bounce away from the remaining pins and toward the gutter. Occasionally, the laws of physics will cause all of the pins to be knocked down, but to manage that consistently is very difficult.

Thus, the importance of throwing the hook. When done properly for right-handers, the ball will hit what is called the pocket, between the head pin and the 3 pin. The head pin will deflect into the 2 pin and a domino effect will knock over the 4 and 7 pins. Meanwhile, the 3 pin will deflect into the 6 and 10 pins. Since the ball hit at an angle going into the pocket, it will continue to ‘drive’ through the pins hitting the 5 pin, which will deflect into the 8 pin, and finally run out of steam as it hits the 9 pin and then the backstop. Sounds complicated, but actually, it’s quite easy.
As you stand on the approach, hold the ball in front of you at about chest height. Make sure that all three fingers are in the holes and that they are holding the ball from underneath. Much like shooting a free throw in basketball, use your opposing hand for balance. As you start your approach, allow your arm to swing the ball behind you. Try, as best you can, to keep your hips squared to the pins ahead of you, while still keeping your hand beneath the ball. It sounds very difficult at first, but with practice, this skill can be mastered. As you approach the foul line, bring your arm forward and start to turn your wrist upward. The best way to describe this action is to imagine yourself extending your arm to shake someone’s hand. Once your wrist starts to approach a 90-degree angle, the ball will release from your hand with added revolutions. Once the ball has cleared the oil, it should hook!

As always, the key to getting it to hook into the pocket will take time and practice, but if you do so, you’ll be able to see your scores take off and your average well on its way to the 200 level.

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