You have to slide. As soon as I decided to work on my slide, I realized that “the slide” is by far one of the most important parts of your bowling technique.
A friend of mine and I went into the alley to throw a few practice games. We got thrown onto lanes 9 & 10 which may or may not be the worst lanes in the house, but that’s beside the point. The oiler just got the brush replaced, so the lanes aren’t hooking quite like we’re used to because the oil is much heavier than usual. We both do horribly. I was making adjustment after adjustment: foot position, speed, release, aim etc, and nothing seemed to work. After four games of absolute trash, I’m ready to leave.
My friend leaves, and I stay to chat with some friends at the alley. We start talking about my scores and try to diagnose the issue. I look up and see the shoes sold at the front desk, and start to think about my slide. At the moment, I don’t slide much. I never really have. The way I’ve been throwing, I can use regular street shoes and bowl nearly as well. For whatever reason, I just have never slid, and I think many of you bowlers out there may be doing the same. A lot of people are apprehensive of the slide and think that since it isn’t absolutely necessary, that they will just forego using it altogether. However, I can guarantee if you can get a quality, consistent slide, you will bowl way more strikes and spares than before.
How to Improve Your Slide
1. Buy your own bowling shoes. The inconsistency between different rental shoes will kill your game.
Not only are they inconsistent, but the actual performance of them also sucks because they aren’t slippery enough.
While this step isn’t completely necessary, owning your own bowling shoes will not only drastically improve your game but will also be much cheaper in the long run.
Rental charges really add up over time. Good bowling shoes can be used for years with proper maintenance.
2. Practice sliding. When you first get to the bowling center, before you even pick up a ball, do some practice slides.
Do a super exaggerated, super long slide. Put your braking foot out behind you just like an actual throw.
See how far you can slide.
Although this isn’t the slide you will use for bowling, it will really help you get comfortable sliding on one foot.
Sliding on one foot with a 15-pound ball in your hand can be scary so you have to get as comfortable as possible with your shoe’s performance.
Getting comfortable with the super long practice slides is crucial because when it comes to your actual approach, the shorter slide will feel like child’s play.
3. Master your tempo. The timing of your push-off, steps, back-swing, and forward swing will affect your slide to a massive degree.
The main mental cue I use is that on the back-swing, the steps will naturally slow due to the backward momentum, and on the forward swing, the steps need to speed up. The quality of the slide is determined by how the momentum of the forward swing aligns with the speed and tempo of the steps. Dialing in my tempo is the number one thing that has improved my game so far.
4. Don’t worry about your scores. It’s cliche, and even harder to actually do, but whenever you are consciously learning a new technique, it’s important to not dwell on a couple gutter balls or bad scores.
Don’t beat yourself up too much. When I’m practicing, I like to look at the scoreboard as little as possible. Preferably not at all.
If you read or hear about some new technique you truly want to utilize it in your game, at the bare minimum you should give it like 20+ games. It’s a hell of a commitment, but the only way to really understand a technique is to use it until you finally do.
This process may take more or less time for other people, but for me and others I’ve seen, 20+ games is around how long it takes to really “get” a new technique.
Many bowlers in all skill-levels don’t utilize the slide properly. Getting more comfortable with the slide, although challenging, will definitely improve your game. If you actually want to master it, you gotta be ready to put the time in, and it will probably be difficult. If you do decide to work on it, just get super comfortable with the exaggerated practice slide, work on your tempo, and keep truckin’. Eventually, the consistency will come and you will bowl better than you ever have before.