Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chapter 4: The Avocational Hooker


With the start of Season 3, I had no more excuses. My injuries had been professionally mended with two titanium screws inhabiting the bones of each knee. As soon as NASA read that I had become more machine than man on my astronaut application, they tossed it directly into the trash. My only choice was to return to bowling.

The third year of Bernaksi began with two changes. First, we were scheduled to bowl the entire year instead of just the 2nd half. Second, we added a new four man to the lineup, Gee-Off the Canadian. Another major change had yet to come... the tracking of bowling stats and thus the evolution of the BM Report. That will come in the next chapter. In this one, I want to focus on the process of learning to throw a hook.

At some point in the prior year, both John and Joe started hooking the ball. My recollection is that they would occasionally bowl during lunch breaks in Cheyenne. On one of these trips, they witnessed someone throwing a hook with their thumb removed from the ball. By aping this technique over several weeks and months, they became somewhat proficient at it.

By contrast, I was left behind. I was the only guy of the original three Movements who was still chucking straight. With the addition of the Canadian, I noticed in comparing the two of us that there wasn't much of a difference between a two year veteran and a rookie. At one point, the guy with free health care told me, "My goal for the year is to end with a higher average than you." At the time he said it, it seemed doable. But in general principle, I would not recommend saying such things to me because I use them for motivation, serious motivation.

The first step in putting the Canuck back in his place as the lowly rookie was to learn how to throw a hook. There are a million ways learn the shot... read books, internet, take lessons, watch people, etc. I chose the last one. I had seen many people throw hook shots over the last two years, and of course I had tried it myself. When I tried to spin the ball, it would somehow move down the lane with a vertical axis of rotation. It looked like the Earth. We called this the "gyro" ball. In short, I could get the ball to spin, but I could not get it to spin in the direction needed for it to break.

I have always felt like sports have come fairly easily to me ( except for those involving skates). So, if there is a technique I want to figure out, trust me, I will spend the time to do so. After watching a number of bowlers throw hook shots, I was finally able to accomplish a shot that deviated from a straight line in the right way. The shot I was throwing was far from the "conventional technique", but it was effective. I immediately noticed that my ball was much more often in the area of the pocket.

Without getting into the fix, I will explain what I was doing wrong. In a well thrown hook shot, the hand stays behind the ball, and when it is released, the ball rotates at a 45 degree angle to the lane's axis. By contrast, I was releasing the ball with my hand on the side of the ball, and sometimes on its front. Thus its spin was either perpendicular to the lane axis or often, it even had backspin.

Still, with this one simple change, my average quickly started climbing, and I left that poor cold Canadian in the dust. With time, my hook shot was coming along nicely, and my confidence in it grew. Still, if you are going to attempt to learn this on your own, I will strongly recommend that you seek advice from someone who knows what they are doing. Approximately 8 months after I started throwing the hook, our "pro shop" guy Adam saw me bowling and mercifully gave me a lesson on how to do it correctly. It has probably taken me a year to kill all of those bad habits.

Some might say that a hooker is a hooker. I say no. If you want to master your hooking skills, you need to learn the conventional way to do it very early on. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of time trying to "unlearn" those deeply ingrained muscle movements. By whatever pathway you get there, you will find that it is a huge relief to join the ranks of hookers. It feels like a major step up in your bowling social life.

9 comments:

  1. Sunday trigonometry and alleyhookers aside, good luck tonight, brother! I await my goal for tomorrow night with bated breath...

    (I just can't shake the feeling that you're gonna hit 600-- good for you, woe to me.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would love to hit 600. We'll see. I feel out of practice. I really need to focus on the HDZT.

    ReplyDelete
  3. See, no if you'd put HCLCDZT I'd have figured it out. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Please accept my apology for foreshortening acronyms.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I still don't have the release down pat yet. I'm going to try this 'hand behind the ball' thing next practice. Keep up the good work Todd.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bad muscle memory is the pits. It can only be replaced through blood, sweat and tears. I was 45 when I learnt to hook the ball and as you observed youself my average took off. Unlearning bad muscle memory is expensive so the "...seek advice..." bit is seriously good advice. I also use the HCLC Doc Zen Technique a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think all of us increased our averages by 10 pins shortly after starting to throw hook. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.