Stick the Landing: Shannon O’Keefe Edition

Last month I had the privilege of being invited to bowl alongside the Cambridge Credit 1 team at USBC Nationals. On the CC1 team were Shannon and Bryan O’Keefe, sponsor and anchorman Christopher Viale, the amazing Bill Webb (who shoots 785 – thank you very much) and “The Machine” Ron Nelson, Jr.  See the video of the team event here.

When I wrote the original Stick the Landing post, I was searching for the perfect line position example.  Leading candidates were Ty Dawson and Parker Bohn III, but Shannon O’Keefe now gets my vote for the finish position that EVERY aspiring bowler should emulate.

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Shannon sticks the landing every time!

As you can see in the photo, her finish position is absolute and unwavering. In watching her across nine games at nationals there was never even a hint of imbalance, falling off, or any make-up moves so she could “look good” at the line.  She uses her fully extended right leg and right foot as a second floor contact point to give her a rock-solid two-point finishing stance.

This move pays her back in spades.  She always gets maximum leverage off the shot because no energy is wasted in her downswing.  It is so baked onto her mindset she can key on other things like hand position, speed, or her mark.  It covers up a lot of the little inconsistencies we all have during our approaches because she knows she will always finish in a solid, repeatable position.  Her record speaks for itself – I would match Shannon against virtually anyone in the world, male or female.

I am even more convinced that sticking the landing is the most basic and important bowling fundamental.  Take it from Shannon and her husband Bryan – assistant coach at the USBC training facilities in Arlington and no slouch himself, who was amazed he actually beat Shannon in the doubles event this year – he never had before.

ACTION: take videos of yourself across an entire game.  If you even occasionally fall off or step out of the shot or are not as deep as Shannon, get yourself into the gym for some squat thrusts – then bowl 50 practice games thinking about NOTHING but a deep knee bend and perfect line balance.  Your game will improve immediately and dramatically.

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NEBA is 50!

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For Immediate Release

NEBA Contact: Becky Kregling
203-377-0161
becky@bowlneba.com
http://www.bowlneba.com

New England Bowler’s Association Celebrates Its Golden Anniversary

Holds Record Setting Tournament to Kick Off 50th Season of Monthly Scratch Events

East Hartford, Conn. (January 9, 2013) – The New England Bowler’s Association kicked off its 50th anniversary season with a record setting tournament at Silver Lanes in East Hartford, Conn. on January 5th and 6th, 2013.  NEBA is America’s longest running USBC sanctioned monthly scratch tournament.

The event was NEBA’s 768th consecutive tournament.  Founded in 1963, NEBA has been the stepping stone for many national champions and touring pros including Larry Litchstein, Paul Moser, Patrick Allen, Barry Warshafsky, Bill Spigner, Pete Couture, George LeCain, Brian Boghosian, Mike Fagan, Jimmy Pritts, Jr., Wayne Webb, and many others.

“We are incredibly proud to be continuing the fine tradition of NEBA,” said Tim Healy, newly elected President of NEBA and three-time titlist.  “NEBA bowlers know they can find a professionally run event with great competition and lucrative prize funds due to our high entry counts and added sponsorship money.  To still be active after 50 years is a testament to the great bowlers, sponsors, and supporters of NEBA.”

At the event, NEBA Champion Marcel Lessard emceed a ceremony honoring NEBA’s history, recognizing champions from all decades back to the 1960s, mentioning key events in NEBA’s evolution, and coordinating the tournament’s first-ball kickoffs.  George Chicar, 91, long time NEBA fan and honorary member, threw out the first ball and scored nine.  After that, 18 notable former champions including Larry Dube, George Tignor, oldest champion Butch Paternasto, Ed Roberts, USBC Masters Champion Brian Boghosian, former NEBA President and fourteen-time titlist Alex Aguiar, 1968 Champion Buddy Sequin, and first female titlist Jennifer Swanson threw out ceremonial first balls.  Current and former officers were recognized for their service to NEBA. Parker Bohn III also addressed the crowd, citing the great bowlers that NEBA has produced, how the celebration reminded him of the PBA’s 50th celebration, and how the ceremony was an excellent way to honor NEBA’s past, present and future.

The event drew 300 entries and paid out a record $25,000 in prize money.  64 bowlers advanced to the match-play finals with two additional cash spots paid.  The winner was Jon Van Hees from Charlestown, R.I., who collected $3,000 and his sixth title. The finals were televised by CPTV.  Pictures from the event can be found here.

“This event was truly special,” said Healy.  “To see all the past champions and officers recognized was exciting.  We attracted 300 entries and had full squads.  And I would especially like to thank our sponsors: Ebonite, Cambridge Credit Counseling, BuddiesProShop.com, High Roller, and the Bud Light Challenge.”

NEBA is rich with history.  The organization was formed in 1962 in Worcester Mass. by a group of 38 bowlers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, led by Al Javery, former pitcher for the Boston Braves.  NEBA’s first tournament was in January of 1963 and had 137 entries.  The entry fee was $10.00, and Joe Picanzo picked up $450 for first place.  In 1965 NEBA hosted a tournament with 455 entries, a record that still stands.  In 1968, NEBA held a tournament in Madison Square Garden, won by Bill Spigner.

NEBA opened up membership to women in 1991, and Jennifer Swanson, current NEBA Secretary/Treasurer Becky Kregling, and Amanda Beck have captured titles.

NEBA is now in its sixth decade of existence.  Mike Litchstein, son of Larry, owns the most titles with 27.  Four bowlers are in second place with 14 titles.  Bill Webb owns the Bowler of the Year title race, having won his eighth BOY in 2012.  Barry Warshafsky is the only bowler to have won titles across five decades. Larry Litchstein holds the record for most years between titles with 28.

NEBA’s format has remained virtually unchanged over its storied history.  The three five-game qualifying squads and single game elimination match-play finals format has stood the test of time.  NEBA also has a closely enforced dress code, requires players to sign score sheets, provides a full and public financial accounting of each tournament, and keeps detailed statistics on all tournaments and players.  NEBA champions are recognized at the beginning of each squad and are the only bowlers allowed to wear white shirts.  NEBA is run by and for the membership with elected officers and a full and active board of directors.

The event at Silver Lanes kicks off NEBA’s 50th Anniversary season.  22 events are planned throughout the New England area.  Singles, doubles, and other special formats are planned.  NEBA uses primarily Challenge shot patterns with an occasional Sport or Recreational pattern used.  Commemorative white champion’s shirts will be awarded to all 2013 champions, and other memorabilia will also be available.

NEBA’s next tournament is the point-leaders invitational event at Silver Lanes on January 20th, 2013.  The next regularly schedule event is on February 9-10, 2013 at Wonder Bowl in New Bedford, Mass.

 About NEBA. 

NEBA is America’s longest running USBC sanctioned monthly scratch tournament.  NEBA was formed in 1963 and is celebrating it s 50th anniversary in 2013.  NEBA tournaments are professional managed and provide the best scratch competition in New England.  NEBA is sponsored by Ebonite, Cambridge Credit Counseling, BuddiesProShop.com, High Roller, and the Bud Light Challenge. More information can be found at http://www.bowlneba.com.

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Coach’s Corner: Stick The Landing!

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Kerri Strug sticks the landing – on a broken ankle!

The most important bowling fundamental.  Johnny Petraglia once gave valuable advice at a clinic that all bowlers need to practice: in any sport where a swing is involved – golf, baseball, bowling and many others, you must first set your lower body then let the swing leverage through for maximum power.  I call this “Sticking the Landing” and it is an absolute must for maximum power, repeatability and high scores.  It is the single most important fundamental that every aspiring bowler must learn.  And, Diandra Asbaty wrote about it in the latest BJ, so it must be important!

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Jeff Valentine, PBA tour veteran and hall-of-famer, demonstrates a textbook sticking of the landing

Sticking the landing in bowling.  In the above photo Jeff Valentine displays perfect balance and finish position in bowling.  Jeff was a touring pro and is a member of several halls of fame.  Everyone should aspire to repeat a deep knee-bend and solid line position. Even after a four year layoff, Jeff sticks the landing every time!

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TJ Valentine demonstrates textbook finish position in golf. TJ has appeared on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” and was voted “Top 25 teachers in New England.”

Sticking the landing in golf.  Like father like son, TJ Valentine shows off his perfect stick-the-landing form for golf.  Note how his legs are absolutely solid, with perfect balance, which allows him to provide maximum leverage into the swing.  Bowling is no different!  By the way, TJ hits it well over 300 yards on an average drive.  

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Mickey Mantle sticks the landing. Great swings are timeless!

Are you “stepping out?”  If you make your shot then take a balance step with your opposite foot (your right foot if you are right-handed), you are “stepping out” of the shot and NOT sticking the landing.  At least 40% of the bowlers I watch do this.  This costs you power, leverage and repeatability.  If you can hold your release form until the ball hits the pins, you are probably sticking it just fine.  If your knee forms a near-90 degree angle, you are in the correct position. 

Keep your non-slide foot on the floor.  The first and best drill I know of to stick the landing is to keep your opposite foot on the floor while sliding.  So if you are right handed, this means your right foot will stay in contact with the floor throughout the swing and release, and ideally until the ball hits the pins.  Some bowlers kick their opposite foot for more leverage (see Walter Ray Williams, Jr.), and this is fine, as long as your slide foot is solid and you do not step out.

Shoulders over sliding knee for balance.  At the foul line, your shoulders should be squarely over your sliding knee.  This gives your body the balance it needs to provide leverage into the shot.  

“Glide path” to a stuck landing.  If you are tall, or even medium sized, consider that it can be a long way down from your standing position to the slide position.  In this case, practice “coming in for a landing,” that is, get a little deeper with each step so that your head, if a line were drawn during your approach as viewed from the side, would look like an airplane on a glide path. 

Ouch, my knees!  I overheard Walter Ray Williams Jr. last year say that he wears a knee brace all the time.  “Do you have bad knees?” he was asked.  “No, I just want to maximize my knee bend and not get bad knees,” he answered.  This is a great lesson – consider a knee brace even if your knees don’t hurt.  I wear one!

Exercises.  Deep knee bends, squats, and squat thrusts are the best exercises to strengthen your knees, along with overall aerobic exercise that emphasizes the legs.  Biking, running, rowing, and other aerobic training can also provide great benefits for your bowling game!  

Conclusion.  Sticking the landing is fundamental to high scores.  Start sticking it today!

Saving Tony Reyes and 425,000 Other Americans: The Technology Exists TODAY

140 9/11s?  Since 2001, over 425,000 Americans have died on our roadways.  That’s 140 TIMES the loss of life on 9/11.  This is to say nothing of injuries and property damage.  Traffic accidents are now the #1 cause of death for Americans aged 3 – 34.

When Tony Reyes died on Highway 101 several weeks ago there were actually two accidents.  Tony somehow hit the sidewall of the highway, and while he was inspecting the damage he was hit by a passing car.

BOTH of these accidents were preventable with technology that exists TODAY.

Tony probably wandered from his lane and hit one of the sidewalls of the highway. He needed a technology called Lane Departure Warning (LDW) that would have warned him (such as through a vibrating the steering wheel) when that started to happen.  The car that hit him needed obstacle detection – a camera, LiDAR or other sensor that tells the car that it is about to hit something, and intervenes to do something about it with either a warning or by taking control of steering and/or brake.

These and many other safety technologies have existed for years and could be saving many lives. Why aren’t they on EVERY car?

  1. Lawyers.  New car technology has to be perfect before it is released.  If a technology saves ten lives but might cost one, car companies won’t release it due to legal concerns.
  2. Cost reduction.  New safety technologies must be very cheap because consumers won’t pay more for safety features.  This is why you see new life-saving features on high-end cars first.  If we were all rich enough we could all buy cars with LDW.

NHTSA, do your job.  The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in charge of highway safety.  As evidenced by the body count, I’d say they are doing a pretty crappy job.

The car companies are afraid of NHTSA because they could mandate the kind of safety technology that could have saved Tony.  There is so much great technology that exists NOW to save lives but the car companies don’t want NHTSA to require it before it is fully tested or cost reduced.

As a result of this terrible system many lives are shattered, and not just those killed or injured.

More urgent than walled up lanes.  As bowlers we complain about how the USBC has failed to contain the scoring explosion by inadequately regulating ball technology, lane conditions, etc.  NHTSA is guilty of the same kind of passive negligence but in this case we measure their shortcomings not with lost bowlers, but with lost friends and loved ones.

RIP Tony.

RIP Tony Reyes

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RIP Tony Reyes

Tony was killed in a car accident last night. Tragic, tragic. He was always glad to see you with a hearty, firm handshake.  A true ambassador of the sport.  All the stuff I throw now I owe to his advice and his expert drilling staff. My son gained tremendous knowledge and guidance from Tony. He leaves a beautiful new family. It’s hard to even type this.

Beyond Mike Fagan’s Moneybowl: How Do We Get Started Fixing the Average Problem?

Truthfully I have never anxiously awaited my copy of Bowler’s Journal until this month, when of course I had to wait for it to be forwarded since we just moved. I got a call from George Aboud (he of mystery hand problems) telling me that Mike Fagan had written on statistics and averages.  How cool!  Since I wrote on fixing the average system earlier (for the record before the Moneybowl issue came out), I was hotly anticipating what Mike had to say.

Bowling Center “Slope.”  In the article Fagan mentions a bowling center “slope,” that is, an adjustment for each center based on the scoring pace for that particular house.  So, for example, if a bowler averages 210 in one house and 214 in another, there should be a normalization factor that makes those two averages seem equal.  He dismisses oil pattern as a non-factor and focuses solely on a house-to-house adjustment, and since most leagues bowl on easy house shots this makes sense.

The slope idea is perfect but I do see oil pattern as part of the equation for several reasons.  First, any competent lane man can put out a tough or an easy shot, making the same house play like two entirely different centers.  Secondly, we want to ENCOURAGE bowlers to request different, more challenging patterns so they can see how they fare on different conditions at the same center (and become better bowlers). Finally, many tournaments put out different patterns than the house shot and need a way to normalize averages and handicaps beyond letting sandbaggers win and then re-rating them.  Oil pattern is THE ONE additional piece of data USBC has to track and the rest we can derive through the magic of computers and data analysis.  The good news is that factoring in oil pattern isn’t hard – all we have to do is record the pattern in play for any sanctioned score bowled, even if it reads “house shot.”

Deriving “Pattern-to-Par” (PTP) multipliers. Once we have this data we can, as Mike points out, analyze scores for bowlers in that and other centers, with one big lynch pin being the same bowlers who bowl in multiple leagues in multiple centers.  From here we derive our PTP (Pattern to Par) multipliers, which allow us to MULTIPLY an average to normalize that average to par, then DIVIDE to take the normalized average and predict what that same bowler will average at a different house and/or on a different pattern.  Normalizing an average to par (i.e. multiplying it by the PTP) is the first step in comparing all bowlers to the same standard and achieves the unbiased comparison of players Fagan is looking for.

Let’s Get Started!  How do we start?  Easy.  USBC has all the data – all we have to do is extract it and start analyzing.  We need them to change their average databases to include oil pattern.  For previous years, we can generally just say “house shot” for most leagues and get the starting point we are looking for.  PTPs will evolve over the years and become more accurate as scores from more different patterns are recorded.  The rest are computer algorithms that aren’t very hard to write and apply.

We Have The Technology. Len Nicholson told me I was crazy to try and implement this idea.  Others have told me that “bowling isn’t like golf, you don’t have the same talent and you will never get this done.”  Hogwash! National champion Mike Fagan is calling for change.  I am a 25-year software and database guy.  My fellow junior coach Mark Schipp is an applied math expert.  We have many friends who are Information Technology experts and are passionate about bowing.  I don’t speak for Mark, but I am willing to contribute time and expertise on how to do this, (read: fly me down to Arlington and we’ll brainstorm) both in analyzing prior years’ scores to arrive at baseline PTPs and how to start recording and analyzing the right data to refine those PTPs going forward.  It wouldn’t cost a lot of money, and wouldn’t be that hard! The main obstacle is USBC acknowledging the need for such a system and asking for help from the bowling community to get it done. Mike Fagan thinks this is a good idea and so does every other bowler I’ve ever explained it to. LET’S GET STARTED!

Jeff Frankos

Jeff Frankos is the best player in the west, and arguably the country, without a national title.  He just finished second at the 4th Street Bowl regional in San Jose where Sean Rash shot 279, 300 for the last two games to pass him and win.

“This won’t hurt a bit!”

Jeff is the player nobody minds losing to.  The super-human Greg Thompson, Jr. once wrote an ode to him on Facebook, calling himself Frankos’ “Human Bye.”  Jeff takes your money and you’re glad to hand it over just to watch him operate.  His opponents have actually been accused of laying down for him (not true, ever!).  Afterwards he’s the guy laughing the loudest in the bar along with the 400 friends surrounding him.

Jeff does not have a dominant style.  He’s generally behind it with medium to slow speed, but with deadly touch.  It’s not the kind of game that will average 260 for the day, and he rarely wins if they are walled up. He will ALWAYS average 220 though, even if they are absolute garbage.  He is guaranteed a check whenever he bowls and is usually the odds-on favorite to win.  And, you will face him in every bracket.

Jeff with Joe Goldstein Sr. Two class acts!

I met Jeff for the first time at a tournament when I had just moved to the Bay Area in 2002.  They were flying for me so I moved in to about 17 (not to brag, but I will – most lefties cannot or will not do this).  Jeff said to me, “You aren’t from around here, are you?  Because if you were, I would know you.”  Jeff knows everybody and takes everybody’s money (including mine).  Bay Area bowling is a cottage industry for him to augment his stockbroker gig.

To watch Jeff strut after throwing a strike might make you think he is overly cocky.  I asked him about that once – he told me there is a very fine line between confidence, which is essential, and overconfidence, which is fatal.  NOBODY walks this line better than Frankos.

He gave me another piece of advice I have used more than once.  If you can’t find a shot on the lanes, it usually messes up your timing, rhythm, and confidence too, making things worse.  When this happens, get back to a line that you can be firm on and get your timing and stroke back.  Then go back to trying to figure out the lanes.

Both Jeff’s kids are bowlers; he wouldn’t be the first father to forego a tour career.  His son Jay recently won a YBT (Youth Bowler’s Tour, shout out to Mike Hillman and Leanne Hulsenberg for launching and running a great youth organization). We were once watching our sons bowl.  WIth his son a lefty and my son a righty, we commented that “payback’s a bitch, isn’t it?”