Knowing Your Pre-Shot Routine by James Goulding III

Knowing Your Pre-Shot Routine
By James Goulding III

Hello again bowlers, and welcome to another entry in the bowler-2-bowler blog series. I am sorry for the delay in posting, but sometimes life catches up with you, and other times I only want to write on the blog when I feel I have something of value to offer everyone, and not just putting pen to paper with mindless dribble “just for the sake of it”. I think this time it is a combination of both of those factors, but here we are with a topic not talked about much when it comes to factors that influence a bowlers score, and that is the pre-shot routine. There are a few areas of this I would like to break down and discuss, so let’s get started!


Being prepared mentally on and off the lanes is probably THE most critical phase of bowling, even more so than the actual physical act of throwing the bowling ball down the lane. What good does it do for you and your game if the only thing you are thinking about on the approach is the new video game you just bought at the store for your Playstation 3? This leads you to missing your mark and throwing bad shots, and the worst part is, if you do not realize what you are doing wrong mentally, you may mistake a bad shot for a bad read on the lane, and all of a sudden you are fishing around for a line when you probably had the right one to begin with. Before you ever step on the approach, you need to clear your head of the distractions off the lanes, and visualize what you want the ball to do as it goes down the lane and hits the pins. This technique is something the PBA pros constantly work on, and it can work for anybody to help improve your scores. The thought process here is that by thinking about throwing good, consistent shots, you will help train your mental game to match your physical game and achieve the greatest outcome possible out on the lanes. Try it the next time you go bowling, you will be glad you did.


I know what people are thinking when they read that, something like “duh, I KNOW I am at a bowling alley”. Well, not quite. What I mean by “know your surroundings” applies to each specific night of league or a set in a tournament. You may be bowling on a pair of lanes that typically hook more, so you should know that you may want to start with a weaker bowling ball at the beginning of the night. Or, the approaches in a certain bowling center, and especially on the lanes you are bowling on, tend to be sticky so you can change the heel or sole on your bowling shoe to compensate before falling on your face on your first shot. Those are just two examples of knowing your surroundings, but I could list many. Basically, a good rule of thumb is to keep a journal of key points you should know about each bowling center, and specific pairs of lanes in that center, especially if you bowl league there on a weekly basis. Knowing the tendencies of a pair of lanes, or approaches, gives you a leg up on your competitors and can help to positively influence your game for the entire set. This works well even for tournament bowling in a center you rarely see, because by having that kind of “inside info” about certain pairs of lanes will have that much more of an effect the next time you visit there for a tournament in the future. Any way that you can maximize your score just by knowing and remembering little things around you, can help you achieve your goal of bowling your absolute best each and every time out.


Ok, so don’t take that comment out of context, but it is actually a very important part of a pre-shot routine, and that is checking everything in your bowling bag before you leave the house to hit the lanes. Make sure you have the essentials such as bowlers tape, skin patch, rosin bag, micro fiber towel, extra heels and/or soles for your bowling shoes, and a shoe brush. I like to keep other things such as bowling ball cleaner, sandpaper, bevel knife, crazy glue, insert remover, and extra pairs of finger inserts in my bowling bag, too, but you don’t have to keep all of that stuff with you all the time, though it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for ANYTHING. Trust me, there is nothing worse than tearing open your thumb, and not having any skin patch to fix it, or forgetting your extra heels at home when the approaches are so slippery or sticky you can’t slide correctly. It only takes a minute or two to inventory your bowling bag before leaving for the lanes, but it is time well spent I can assure you. Also, don’t forget to inventory the bowling balls you are bringing in those bowling bags, because you may like to use different bowling balls at different bowling centers, so you don’t want to bring the wrong equipment with you on any given night. This is where keeping that journal I told you about earlier comes in handy, as you can flip it open, see what has been working well for you lately at a certain house, and go with it. Even though peeking into your bowling bag once a night doesn’t seem like the most glamorous thing to help your bowling game, trust me it can go a very long way to determining how the rest of your night goes.

In closing, I would like to think that I have covered some thought provoking areas of the pre-shot routine that usually get skimmed over and rarely talked about, but can make a huge difference in your scores out on the lanes. Being mentally prepared, knowing your surroundings, and checking your bowling bag, are all things that YOU can do before you ever step foot on a bowling lane to give you the best chance possible to score your highest. After all, nobody wants to bowl badly, so why handicap yourself by being lazy before you ever hit the lanes? Chances are, if you can’t take the time before throwing the ball to care about your scores, your opponent is, and you have already been beaten before you have even thrown the ball. I hope these tips about the pre-shot routine help, and please let me know what you think with your comments and feedback. As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect those of the MSUSBC or any of its members. Thank you for your time, and good luck and good bowling everyone!

James Goulding III
M.I.S.T. Tournament Director

One response to “Knowing Your Pre-Shot Routine by James Goulding III

  1. Good article. I would add one topic, setup. I preach this to the bowlers I coach and it, in my opinion, ties intricately into the mental preparedness you discussed. How you physically prepare yourself helps your mental preparation. I tell bowlers to find a repeatable routine that they can do every time they prepare to roll the ball. I tell them to use this time for visualization and positive self talk. The reason I say positive is because, though the human mind is an amazing mechanism, when it comes to bowling the mind only remembers the last command. Here’s an example. Bowler is missing their target to the outside and tells them self, do not push the ball. They continue to miss their target to th outside, why? The last thing the mind remembers is push the ball. Positive self talk would be, push the ball to target. That way the last thing the mind remembers is, ball to target. I have been bowling for over 20 years, a coach for over 15 years and can tell you that this is a lot easier said than accomplished. As I tell my bowlers, even I still struggle with this. Like your physical game, your mental game requires practice as well. Good luck and good bowling.

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