The words jumped off the page and into my psyche. I was reading the USBC Journal and suddenly I had an answer for what has plagued my struggling game. Here are the words that became a revelation to me.
"Just about every bowler who competes even semi-seriously will eventually run into some sort of slump." There it is - in black and white. I'm in a slump. Well, at least I think I am. It certainly beats the other possibilities, which includes 1) I'm getting old, 2) I don't really care, or 3) I was never any good to begin with.
Though all of those are possibly part of the problem, I'm going to go with the slump concept. I mean, it does fit. I am a bowler. I'm generally semi-serious and my game fits the author's definition of a slump. Check out the definition.
A slump is a period of time during which you are habitually underperforming. The author suggests that two weeks of poor performances is enough to constitute a slump. Ergo my seven MONTHS of low scores must qualify as well.
Reading further, this question was posed. What causes any athlete to go into a slump? Supposedly slumps begin with a physical flaw. For bowlers, it could be bad timing, an inconsistent release or a muscled swing. Now my timing is never good, and I seldom release the ball the same way twice, but using muscled to describe me makes about as much sense as using slim or quiet.
The physical flaw may start a slump, but it soon becomes a mental issue for most bowlers. They simply lose confidence and that compounds the problem. In an interesting twist, the author talks about a baseball hitter going into a slump. Now I have a point of comparison. I recall a time in my fabled (some might say feeble) baseball career. It happened in my second year of playing for Tiffin in American Legion baseball.
After a successful first season, I was installed in the third slot in the batting order for the following year. After starting the season 3 for 26, my coach, Amos Cook, moved me down in the lineup. Actually he sent me to the hinterlands as I spent a weekend batting last. The embarrassment must have worked as I went 10 for 12 on the weekend which included a game where I hit a grand slam and drove in eight runs. Slump's over.
Back to bowling, I thought I had ended my so called slump this week as I started the first game with a 178. Now that may not seem like much, but an open in the 10th when I chopped the 6 off the 10 pin prevented me from shooting 190. I really wanted to shoot that mark because my teammates' scores were 191, 192, 193 and 196.
In my second game I started with a strike and spare before stringing five in a row. In that run I even had a bowler on an adjoining lane say "nice shot" to me. When you are used to hearing "what the heck was that?" it made me feel good. I finished the game with a 231 and the slump was about to end big time. Or was it? A 143 finish sent me into despair once again.
So if indeed I am in the throes of a season-long slump, how, pray tell, do I get out of it? Certainly being embarrassed hasn't been enough to correct things, as I have had that feeling since the season started back in September.
The author suggests that first one must correct the physical flaw. Once that is corrected I could work on my mental state. Oh, my goodness! Where would I start in trying to find out which of my myriad of physical symptoms is the source of my problem? IF I could locate the flaw and fix it, then all I have to do is restore a confidence that I've never really had in the first place. Maybe I'm not in a slump after all. Maybe, just maybe, I'm not a very good bowler.
Let's face some facts here. I have one bowling ball, not the 3 to 5 that the really serious bowlers can switch to on any given night. My mark is five boards wide - seriously - if I get the ball anywhere between the first and second arrow, I feel like I've hit my mark. Sounds like a serious bowler, don't you think?
The only thing I have going for me is my competitiveness. I want to do well and fully expect to do so, which might just explain my conundrum. I remember a buddy walking into the clubhouse after another poor round of golf. His comment might be applicable to my bowling situation. This is what he said to anyone that was willing to listen.
"I think I know what my problem is." He paused for effect and then said, "I'm not nearly as good as I think I am!"
Here are some people who are definitely not slumping on the lanes. Steve Steinmetz Jr. fired a 752 to top the Imperial-Majorette League. Ben Hoyda shot 641, Steve Steinmetz Sr. 586, Rhonda Fitch 558, Linda Brookes 498 and Deb Nominee 454. Robin Dickman rolled a 624, Carla Siebenaller 530, Donna Schriner 520, Diane Hoover 505, Heather Butler 498 and Pat Cook 495 in the Alley Cats League. Rocket League scores included Tom Tiell 642, Beth Jones 577, Tim Sturgill 569, John Funk 559, Tyson Shope 557, Ryan Coppus 544 and Martin Klingshirn 540. Carol Burmeister shot 461, Julie Fortner 442, Madonna Gase 440 and Marilyn Gangluff 418 in the Lady Knights League.
Dan Coppes was on target in the 55 Plus League with a 604. Bob Reinhart shot 571, Jim Ruess 554, Rick Hanna 527, Bill Mizen 519, Paul Gosche 507, Dave Everhart 502, Bob West 489, Jim Donaldson 483, Dick Gabel 477, John Ferstler 450, Steve Schaffer 436, Ron Mellott 435, Paul Fey 431 and Jim Ferstler 424. In the Wednesday Morning League Rich Yates Jr. posted 706, Steve Norman 693, Ken Lofton 662, Tyson Shope 662, Mark Huffman 659, Bill Mizen 619 and Cheryl Radin-Norman 347. Steve Barnes shot 632, Tom Tiell 628, Tim Sturgill 628, Rhonda Fitch 618, Nick Bumb 618, and Robin Brownell 402 in the Twilight League. In the Sportsman League Mike Kisabeth authored a big 690 series. Paul Gosche shot 648, Scott Hartsell 639, Ron Yentzer 637, Rustan Burks 616, Tom Wilkinson 612 and Dick Gabel 599.
Al Stephenson is The A-T's bowling columnist.
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