Updated: May 20
Why your eyes make all the difference
BY: RIC HAMLIN
PUBLISHED BY BOWLING THIS MONTH
CATEGORY: PHYSICAL GAME
ARTICLE RATING: 5 1/2 STARS
In this article, we will delve into the importance of an athlete’s vision and explore whether they use it properly or otherwise. As a bowler progresses, it becomes more and more important how they “see” the lane and use targeting. I have been spending more time in my lessons working with my students on how to properly use their eyes to succeed, or to better understand why they may fail or struggle simply because they are looking at the lane incorrectly.
One area that is rarely spoken about is the impact of the eyes on ball reaction and creating it properly and effectively. As a reference, a bowling lane is about 40 inches wide and 60 feet long, so there is only so much room for true reaction. Ball motion needs to be created within these confines and the applied condition. Many times, this is not taken into consideration, resulting in improper choices made by the bowler.
PROPER USE OF EYES
How vital is it for an athlete to properly understand how they visualize a target?
I have started focusing more with my students on eye dominance in association with targeting, lane play, and their effect on the overall comprehension of ball motion and potential success. The athlete must see the playing field properly to attack and conquer it successfully and consistently. This is also important when attempting to create a ball motion or reaction properly and effectively.
First is whether the athlete is aware of their individual eye dominance; are you right eye or left eye dominant? This tells how you perceive and truly SEE the target.
How does one identify which eye is their dominant one? The easiest way is to start by making a triangle out of your two hands by placing the index finger and thumb on opposing hands with an opening in between them (see picture); then with both eyes open, center the triangle opening to an object in the distance, as you close an eye, such as the right eye, if the object does not move, then you are left eye dominant. If the object is no longer framed in the opening/triangle, then you are right dominant.
How does eye dominance change your perspective? If you are directly behind the target, which would aligned with the bridge of the nose, the left eye is approximately 1.5-2 boards left of the actual target and right eye is equal on the opposite side. This skews your perception of the target and might even cause a bowler to tilt their head to compensate.
For instance, a right-handed bowler ‘playing’ 15 board, left eye dominance will tend to see the ball cross 16 or17 board and right eye dominance will tend to see 13 or14 board. It’s vital to understand how and what you ‘see’ and relate it & accept it correctly.
One of the ways I explain this to students is to see the whole picture, and not focus on an absolute target. If the objective is 15 and the bowler sees 13 or 17, but the bowling ball is reacting properly, then the alignment is correct. They can look at 17 (or 13) knowing that they will hit 15.
As an example, P.B.A. member Andrew Cain, who is left-handed and is right eye dominant, has found a way to see the lane properly. At multiple events, he was forced to play the outer portion of the lane (1-2-3 board area) he was ‘looking’ at the center of the left gutter or slightly more extreme, looked at the separator between the lanes. Again, it’s not simply seeing the target but understanding the target.
Two of the best tools BowlTecX has recently started utilizing is the BoardBox by Jayhawk and the Torch by Kegel; the BoardBox allows the bowler to truly realize what they believe they see and what they are ‘seeing’. The BoardBox will display the board, at the point on the lane, as the bowling ball crosses it, which helps the bowler learn actuality.
By placing the BoardBox at varying points on the lane, wherever a student may target, it will show where the bowling ball crosses vs. again, where the bowler believes they are targeting or ‘hitting’. This a huge start in understanding eye dominance.
The second tool is the Torch by Kegel, as it offers the desired target line or path the player ‘should’ be utilizing vs. what they think they want to create. This tool helps visualize proper targeting, but it will once again show the separation in eye dominance and actuality.
The largest takeaway we try to offer, with either tool and the student is if you see the target line or path consistently and the bowling ball is going where it should, then it is okay in the big scheme of things, right? It is simply educating the bowler in better comprehension and understanding of ball motion and reaction, and more so their individual one.
STRENGTH OF EYES and CONSEQUENCES
The next phase would be how the bowler combines targeting (reality) and eye dominance (perception) in succeeding or failing. (This is another area where the Torch can come in handy.)
When a bowler chooses a target (‘right’ or ‘wrong’), the bowler needs to understand how the eyes affect the shot effectiveness, plus the control they possess that the bowler is unaware of. How?
What typically transpires (subconsciously) is an eternal battle; the bowler attempts to create a reaction or angle that they perceive to be proper, yet due to the battle that will ensue, between the eyes and the body alignment, two conflicting paths of motion are created. The body alignment becomes a path of dynamics and the eyes one of control or a physical and mental conflict.
As we know, the body/shoulder alignment predicates release direction, yet if the bowler is ‘looking’ at the wrong target, inconsistent shot dispersion occurs; what occurs is a conflicting release direction or angle (too steep or too tight) vs. a visual targeting (actual or proper) on the lane.
So, let’s break this down differently – a bowler executes a shot, and it misses wide (or away from the target) and the bowler becomes confused or conflicted; they believe or felt they made a good shot, but got a bad reaction and result, all due to seeing the lane improperly.
What do you think occurs next?
The next shot they direct (control) the ball into the opposite miss (subconsciously), inside the target and this continues unsuccessfully. The bowler creates a shot dispersion that minimizes scoring potential and adjustments almost impossible.
As stated earlier, a tool such as the Torch, which shows the more appropriate swing plane or target line, can help the bowler realize how they may be attacking the lane or a condition properly or improperly. Also, the BoardBox can let the bowler know if they are targeting outside what their body allows (more in Targeting Equation).
So, breaking this down further, it is interesting how so many students, at ALL levels, will move their feet and (subconsciously) not move their target, unintentionally creating an unsustainable swing path; or believe they are creating a desired reaction, due to what they believe the lane is telling ‘em not realizing how they are attacking it incorrectly and thus, creating their misses.
To explain this a bit deeper, the object of a well-executed shot is one that allows the bowling ball to work with gravity and the bowler’s center of gravity, the hips supporting the upper body; what can cause a negative reaction through mis-targeting, is the result of improper centering of the body throughout the approach.
Within athletics, understanding the body’s center of gravity is vital in maximizing an athlete’s potential, bowling is no different; an individual’s center of gravity is in the sternum area and the more athletic the individual gets, the lower the center of gravity becomes.
As previously stated, regarding the eyes and the body, the conflict is the pull of the eyes toward the target and the off-balance release possibility. It is primarily an improper drift; in the direction of the target vs one allowing the center of gravity to maintain and create leverage.
Primarily, it becomes a conflict of two planes & masses in motion, the bowling ball, and the bowler. There are two forces moving along a similar, but conflicting linear path regarding the bowler’s center of gravity. The bowler is unaware of the angle they are creating and the negative impact on the overall execution.
Another visual may be how, when a bowler is looking too far away from the intended target, the body is being pulled in the path of the eyesight, which inadvertently guides the swing plane and the bowling ball towards the target. As the lower body attempts to balance & center itself, the weight of the bowling ball and the force of the swing plane (object in motion) generally wins.
When a bowler is pulled towards the target, they will not be consistent and thus create a variety of laydown areas, and inadvertently, a variety of interaction with the applied condition or a variety of misses, many times none very good or more so able to make sense of or adjustments.
An initial way of creating consistent targeting, as we’ve mentioned, is establishing a well-balanced approach, by allowing the bowler’s center of gravity to be positioned above the bowler’s slide foot; as the bowling ball passes near the inside of the slide foot, base targeting off the inside of the slide foot at the foul line. This equates to 8 boards. Why?
Basically it is derived from the approximate laydown at the foul line and the average (manageable) swing plane; with the bowling ball being 8.5’ in diameter, the laydown is 4-5 boards from the inside of the slide foot and the average swing plane being on an arc of 2-3 boards translates to 8 boards; example- if the bowler slides at 20 at the foul line, a targeting range should be approx. 12 board at the arrows.
As the bowler attempts to create more angle, such as moving inside of the pocket (17.5 board), the equation should increase to 9 or 10 boards, but they must keep this in the proper scope, the wider the gap, the more the last section comes into play. Also, another variable is anatomy or individual body structure and the distance between the bowling ball and the bowler’s center of gravity. It is whatever allows the bowler to walk to the line, swing the bowling ball and release it while being centered.
As stated, this allows the bowlers center of gravity to be maintained, throughout the approach plus offering the bowler a way of maintaining the lane and gauging potential moves easier; basics moves then become, if the bowler moves two boards with their feet on the approach, their target should move one board accordingly.
Another way to see this is by desired angle needed to strike.
With today’s bowler’s, many tend to target break point or further down the lane; again, (and referencing a right-handed bowler) taking the pocket into consideration, when the bowler is on the outside of the pocket their target may be the 3 pin or even the 3-6 pin range (depending on rev rate), as the bowler moves inside the pocket and needing to create more angle, the desired target may become the 6 pin or even the 10 pin, so as stated previously, if the player is using the 8 board rule, it may become 9 to 10 board range.
Be careful though, it can easily or quickly become too extreme, too steep or it can become too unobtainable quickly if the bowler is unaware of moving and not visually adjusting targeting accordingly. In other words, too many times, the bowler will continue moving inside and never move their target.
Through all of this, going back to eye dominance and properly ‘seeing’ the target, the bowler must consider how they visualize and what it does to the actual target. Add 1.5-2 boards depending on eye, accordingly.
Generally, from the beginning, bowlers are instructed to target the second arrow or 10 board, but what (unintentionally) occurs over time and due to a lack of education many times, they ‘adjust’ and begin to move (their feet) inside, but they never move the target.
So, if the bowler starts on roughly 20 board, with their feet and then begins to move inside the pocket, with their feet, yet never moving their eyes or target, at what point does the angle become such (steep) that the bowling ball goes towards (exaggerated) or even in the gutter?
TARGETING ON THE LANE (DISTANCE)
The last portion on targeting pertains to where the bowler decides or chooses to ‘look’ down the lane, in a linear sense – foul line, dots, arrow or farther – regarding seeing the ball path, plus their perception of what it may or may not do to their reaction, ignoring more so the negative impact on the physical portion.
Over the decades and somewhat an olde wives’ tale, bowlers have been taught that where they look (lengthwise) can affect or impact the ball’s reaction or motion. In actuality, the proper way to understand your eyesight is the influence it has on the bowler’s center of gravity and subsequently, the launch angle and leverage.
Breaking down the physical and targeting on the lane is more about maintaining proper stability in the body, while allowing the body to get lower as they proceed to the foul line, i.e. creating a strong, athletic position at the foul line, along with slightly forward angle or tilt in the upper torso, proper flex in the knees and hips in allowing the shoulders & knees to be balanced over the feet/toes while the bowler’s center of gravity is roughly staying centered in all of this.
In a relative sense, the closer the bowler’s eyesight or target line can maintain regarding the foul line, the easier it is for the bowler to stay lower and drive into the release phase, all due to maintaining a lower center of gravity. This also makes it easier for the bowling ball to release due to momentum and gravity vs. the bowler releasing the bowling ball on an upward motion or higher launch angle. In a sense, this allows the bowler to be softer at the release point vs. being a thrower or launching the bowling ball down the lane.
Subsequently, the further away from the foul line (down the lane) a bowler looks (intentionally or unintentionally), raises the bowlers center of gravity, and will take the bowler out of an athletic position by elevating the bowler’s head (rearing back or away from the lane). As the bowler approaches the foul line and gets taller or they raise up, the impact it has on the center of gravity and once again, impacting the bowler’s launch angle
We teach bowlers to feel as if they are landing the bowling ball onto the lane, similar to how a plane lands on a runway; this is created through the flat spot in the bowler’s swing arc or path. The bowler increases the flat spot by being able to maintain a lower center of gravity throughout the release phase.
An extension of the release phase and the flat spot a little deeper, when the bowling ball is ‘fed’ onto the lane (flat spot), the impact the bowling ball makes creates a ‘divot’ in the oil. When the bowling ball is fed properly (or more effectively) onto the lane, the divot becomes more of a tear drop; the smoother the transition onto the lane (longer flat spot), the longer the tear drop becomes. The more violent the release (less flat spot) and extreme the launch angle (upward or loft), minimizes the tear drop, think more of a spot. This can all be impacted by how the bowler is approaches the foul line.
The purpose of this article is so the bowler has a better understanding of how to use their vision properly and more effectively. Keep this in mind, if the bowler sets up properly, with the proper body/shoulder alignment, the bowler could literally close their eyes and the ball will go where it should vs being directed negatively onto the lane, either laterally or linearly.
Remember, there are many successful professionals that target the foul line; understanding the impact the eyes have on shot making is vital in succeeding, as well as being consistently successful.
Please make sure to visit BowlTecX.com, as well as considering obtaining a copy of
End Games (A Bowler’s Complete Guide to Bowling – Mental, Physical & Technical) in improving one’s game. GET ONE HERE
Also, find us on Facebook at BowlTec & BowlTecX or email any question to Ric Hamlin at ricobowling@ya