Why Does Bowling Get Harder As I Get Better?

The More You Know, The More You Have to Deal With

Ryan Ciminelli
Ryan Ciminelli does not have this problem. Photo courtesy PBA LLC

If you've ever decided to begin taking bowling seriously and make a conscious effort to get better, you've probably battled this quandary for as little as a moment and as long as a few years. It seems as if the better you get and the more you learn about the game, the harder bowling becomes.

The Scenario

It happens all the time. An infrequent bowler with a modest average (130-160), likely throwing a straight ball, makes the decision to work on his game.

He wants to get better. So, he purchases a reactive-resin bowling ball and starts to work on throwing a hook.

He may seek some coaching or read bowling tips online or in a book, and sees immediate improvement. What was a 140 average is suddenly up to 170 or 180. The game appears to be extremely easy, and the bowler asks himself why he hadn’t put forth this dedication before.

Then, everything seems to stop. He bowls some extremely high games (maybe even 270 or above), but also throws enough low games to keep his average between 170 and 200.

Then, he asks himself:

  • How can I bowl a 270 one game and a 120 the next?
  • How did I raise my average 50 pins over a few months, and now can’t raise it at all?
  • Am I good at bowling at all?

The Problem

Oddly enough, this bowler is having trouble getting better because he is better. That statement in itself doesn't seem to make sense, and yet it's because he understands the game more, and thus has more to think about when trying to improve.

When throwing a straight ball, lane conditions and oil patterns don't come into play much at all. Therefore, there's little frustration. He chucks the ball and knock down as many as he can. Because of this, if he can develop a consistent release and delivery, he'll throw better scores. Still, throwing a straight ball typically comes with a maximum average of around 180.

That's not to say he won't bowl games higher than that, but it's the most he can reasonably expect to average.

When he started hooking his ball, his potential average went way up. But, with that, he brought the oil into play. Now, instead of finding the right spot to release the ball and doing it consistently, the lanes change based on the oil. His ball, no longer traveling straight, needs to find a consistent line to the pocket, but unlike before, that line is not going to be the same from shot to shot.

The Solution

If you’re in this position, you have two options:

  1. Embrace your new knowledge of the sport and push through the frustrations, knowing the end result will be an average of 220 or higher.
  2. Give up and fill yourself with regret over ever attempting to get better in the first place.

It may seem obvious I would suggest the first option. I know from experience it takes patience (a lot of patience, actually), but through all the frustrations comes even more knowledge of bowling. Then, when you experience the breakthrough, you will be better than you ever imagined.