To make 8 strikes per game without finishing off is absolutely useless. The auction is a fundamental part of the bowling.
We can’t all be Pete Weber, Walter Ray WIlliams Jr or Jason Belmonte and we don’t all play in the most difficult court conditions, but most players who have been playing for some time should be able to finish off at least between 90% and 95% of the spares they have left. We don’t count the splits, just the “simple” spares.
The spare technique is much simpler than the striking technique and, well-executed is not affected by track conditions or other external factors. The spare, the ugly duckling of the game, especially for the youngest who, impressed by the great effects and the powerful plenums, neglect it, is actually the great selector, the factor that determines who wins and who loses.
Walter Ray Williams Jr, surely the best bowler of all time, finishes year after year at the top of the list of best finishers. His numbers at the end of the season easily reach 95% of loose bowls topped. He misses 10 boluses in 300 games, when we fail them, easily, in 3. His skill, concentration, and simplicity make him a perfectly accomplished machine and capable of always throwing boluses. With and without pressure, in fast and ready tracks, in the morning or at night, in individual or in a team.
In this first one, we offer a few tips to increase our percentage of auctions and a few reflections on it.
For the spare, what counts is the Machiavellian philosophy: the end justifies the means. Years ago, Toby Contreras, an American player who was a PBA rookie of the year and who is a good friend of Florentino Carrera, wisely said: “spare has no technique; either you shoot, or you don’t.”
There are many people who, at the suggestion of throwing the spare in a certain way, trying new references or changing balls, say “I finish this way and I’m doing very well” or “I have my own method! Fortunately, knowing whether it works or not is easy, because numbers don’t lie. If you miss 4 out of every 10 loose pins you throw, the system doesn’t work well enough and needs to be adjusted.
There are many ways to shoot the auctions: with or without the auctions, at normal speed or much faster, with or without effect, with open lines or with fewer angles, breaking the wrist or without breaking it, shooting the normal ball or much farther away, etc, etc, etc. All of them are valid if they work, but, for better or worse, there are better and worse from the “technical” point of view.
We recommend using a punching or plastic ball to make the second shots. Why? Because by shooting straight and with a ball that doesn’t take effect, the lines we need to shoot the pins are always the same. If we look for spares shooting with effect, the state of the clues will necessarily modify our way of throwing it. If the tracks are dry (without oil) the balls take a lot of effects and if they are fast (a lot of oil) take little, so, depending on one way or another, they will have to throw the ball from one side or another.
This means putting many factors into the equation of the shot (the higher the ball, when and how much the effect is taken, the speed of the shot, which ball is used) and the more factors and the more track the ball goes through, the easier it will be to make mistakes. Shooting straight and with a spare ball does not guarantee success, but it decreases the chances of failure.
Having said this, we now indicate a series of tips that can facilitate the shot, both in normal track conditions with others (very dry) in which our usual shot may not work because, despite using plastic balls, the reaction is not the usual:
When shooting, and without modifying the execution of the shot (that is, without forcing at any moment nor altering our swing) try to increase the speed of the ball. This will make the line you shoot straighter and give the ball less time to react and take effect.
– In the starting position, place the ball a little higher than normal.
This posture will increase the speed of the shot without affecting the rest of the game.
– Break your wrist a little when you hold the ball in your hand in the starting position.
A broken wrist will make it easier for the ball to come out with an axis of 0 degrees (the minimum possible) and for the rotation of the ball to be the minimum and occur forward.
– Aim farther.
Each player, at the time of shooting, uses his own references that serve him to aim. Many use arrows, which despite being a little far away (between 15 and 17 feet) are a very comfortable visual aid. Others use the first points of the track, much closer or other intermediate zones. Whatever your reference, as an aid to spare you can look for a reference that is farther away from you. It doesn’t have to be much. One or two feet (between 30 and 60 cm) is more than enough and will make the ball skate more on the track. This is true for both spare and strike shots.
– Change the position of your little finger.
When grabbing the ball puts the index finger attached to the ring and the heart, but away the little finger a little from the rest. This will make it easier for the ball to slide more and for the final turn to be minimal.
– Visualize the finishing area.
Make the spare, even if we have pulled hundreds of times and it is a mechanical movement, is important. While for the strike we always concentrate in-depth, although the tracks are very easy, the spare, many times, is thrown precipitously. Each shot is important and that’s why the moment before the shot is also important.
Visualize the line through which your ball is going to pass on its way to the bowling alley. Paint it in your mind with a strong color and concentrate on it as if you could see it. Don’t be in a hurry, look at it as much as necessary until you’re sure where it is and how far it goes. Walk that fictitious line with your eyes several times, studying the route carefully and throwing the ball through it.
– Place your body parallel to that line.
The feet and shoulders should be perfectly aligned with the bolus or bowling to which we aim. If we seek to throw the 10 stick our body can not be focused towards the 5 and our feet can not come pointing to the 7. There must be coordination between the feet, shoulders, and arms.
If, in spite of the above, you still fail the auctions because you turn your hand and the ball takes effect, try to do the following. Concentrate so that it is the little finger that “commands” the movement. Make that finger and not the others the one that carries the singing voice. If it is the little finger that carries the movement, the turn of the hand will be the least possible. If you still have problems you can try something else: let the elbow command the execution. Focus on the elbow as a reference, so that it is the elbow that is responsible for carrying the movement of the arm towards the bolus. This will reduce the effect to its minimum expression and should be enough to stop the ball from rising (take effect). The arm (pinky and elbow) will remain focused on the target, whatever the bolus, so the follow-through will be the most suitable for the straight shot.
– Don’t be afraid.
If you have trained correctly and your shot references are good, you have nothing to fear. You’ve done that shot a thousand times (literally) so you know how to do it. Just do it in the simplest way, without sudden movements or strange twists.
– Don’t despise the auction.
A failed spare is between 8 and 15 lost pins. Three auctions given in a series of 6 games are 40 bowls or 7 sticks on average. We can’t afford that. A bad game because of splits is terrible but often inevitable, but giving 75 euros for not concentrating is a huge mistake.
The theory alone doesn’t make you improve your spare. Putting them into practice does. Train hard and you will improve. Forget the excuses and you will improve.
Next Steps and Where to Purchase Equipment
When you’re ready to make the leap, you can read these articles to learn what bowling equipment we recommend for every different kind of player and choose what suits you better. We try to review the best bowling equipment in the market every few weeks to keep up-to-date with the current trends.