Think about Targeting
Targeting, whether you think about shooting a rifle, throwing a free-shot in basketball or golf, is about alignment of three points. A basketball player aligns their head, the ball and the target with throwing free-shots. Shooting a rifle, you align your eye, the near rifle sight, the far rifle sight, and the target. In bowling, rather than simply looking at a single point on the lane, aligning three reference points leads to better accuracy, consistency, and more successful bowling.
The ball exits the oil pattern, hooks, and enters into the final roll phase of its travel in a predictable manner. It is well known, as a result of ABC and USBC studies, the ball’s ideal entry angle into the pins is 6°. A line drawn from the pocket at 6° and back toward the foul line, indicates the ideal line where the ball should enter the Roll transition in toward the pocket. Knowing the point (board position) at which the ball ends the skid, is a reliable, stable predictor where the ball will transition into the hook and roll phases of ball travel.
In essence, the shorter the oil pattern, the shorter the skid phase of the ball, and therefore, the further away from the center of the lane where the ball has to ideally enter into the roll phase.
Targeting is a matter of aligning a starting position and a focal point. Evaluating our current alignment is worthwhile only if it provides guidance on how to proceed in the next shot. The 3-Point Targeting System was developed, based on research, to maximize the margin of error a bowler experience, yet significantly improve their consistency and scoring capability. The 3-Point Targeting System is an advanced lane play targeting technique that best ensures more consistent pocket shots, more strikes, and fewer splits on any lane condition. In short, using the 3-point system, you will less likely overplay the lane.
The 3-point targeting system uses three points experienced as the ball travels down the lane: an exit point, a focal point and a visual target. Using three points, it is possible to visualize and understand the path your ball takes. Subconsciously, you will mentally improve your technique and accuracy prior to each shot taken.
Point 1 – The Exit Point
The exit point is the board location where the ball is at the end of the oil pattern. The exit point, based on research, is the ideal board location where the ball should exit the oil pattern to maximize the chances of hitting the pocket as it turns inward toward the pocket. The exit point differs from the breakpoint. The breakpoint is the point in the trajectory of the ball travel where the ball makes its greatest change in direction. The breakpoint is where the ball changes directions inward toward the pocket. With that distinction, let’s focus on the exit point, a key point used in targeting.
USBC studies suggest the “Rule of 31”. The team of engineers at USBC determined that subtracting 31 from the total distance of the pattern should tell you at what board the breakpoint should be. In its essence, the rule is based on the fact that the longer the lane pattern, the deeper (more toward the center of the lane) the breakpoint will be. USBC research has determined that subtracting 31 from the total length of the pattern indicates the ideal board the ball exits the end of the oil pattern. This is where the exit point is located. The Rule of 31 states, for example, that if the oil pattern is 37 ft long, the exit point is the 6 board. If the pattern is 40 ft long, the exit point is the 9 board.
Point 2 – The Focal Point
The focal point is located at the end of the lane, and together with the Exit Point, provides a guide where to establish an appropriate launch angle and body position.
When using a pin as a Focal Point, the position on the pin used can be divided into 5 basic areas on the pin. These five point roughly correspond to the number of boards. When using the center of the pin, the bowler uses this central point as 3. When adjusting one board right, the bowler would use the right base of the pin as the number 2. When adjusting one board further, the bowler would use the outside edge of the pin as a 1.
If a Focal Point adjustment is 1 board right, the bowler would use the 2-point of the pin. If a Focal Point adjustment is 2 boards left, the bowler would use the 5 point on the pin. This enhances the bowler’s ability to make smaller, more precise Focal Point adjustments.
Point 3 – The Visual Target
The visual target is the point where a bowler focuses as they launch the ball outward. The Visual Target, together with the Focal Point, and Exit Point, guides where to best play the lane.
Aligning the Three Points (Exit, Focal, and Visual Targets)
The bowler, aligning the three points, visualizes the path through these three targets from the Focal Point, through the Exit Point, to the Visual Target.
Step 1: Determine the Exit Point.
Determine your exit point based on the Pattern Length in feet and the Rule of 31. Simply subtract 31 from the length of the pattern. For example, that if the oil pattern is 37 ft long, the ideal Exit Point is the 6 board. If the pattern is 40 ft long, the Exit Point is the 9 board. The Exit Point is where the ball should exit the oil, and begin the Hook Phase of the ball motion. This point remains constant for a specific bowler and lane pattern.
Step 2: Determine a Focal Point.
Mentally visualize a line extending from the exit point to a pin location (a Focal Point). The focal point pin location might be the 6 pin for medium length patterns and medium oil depth. The pin location might be the 3 pin for longer patterns or heavier oil depth. The focal point should be closer to the headpin for longer patterns and heavier oil. The focal point should be closer to the channel for shorter patterns, or lighter oil.
The focal point is primarily used to set an appropriate launch angle when the ball is released. Although the ball is launched and skids toward the Focal Point, the intend is not to reach the Focal Point, but to:
- Launch the ball along an appropriate angle toward the Focal Point, reaching the Exit Point, and enter into the Hookp Phase of the ball.
- Calm head motion in that the bowler’s eye will not move from the target outward to the pin area. This increases a steady head position during the approach and release.
- Move the eye along a meaningful path from the Visual Target through the Exit Point and outward to the Focal Point. Scanning the 3-points steadies eye movement along the intended path, and increases focus. Instead of random eye movement, eye movement is along the intended path of the ball.
The Focal Point can be further refined using points on a pin. The center of the pin can be visualized as a “3”. The base of the pin can be visualized as “1” and “5”.
Step 3: Determine a Visual Target.
Visualize an extended line back from the Focal Point, through the Exit Point, and select a visual target. A suggested visual target should be closer to the exit point on shorter patterns, and closer to the arrows or dots for longer patterns. Many advanced bowlers select visual targets at or around the arrows, especially for more complex lane patterns.
Now, Don’t Choke!
A Quiet Eye Is the Key To Improving Targeting Accuracy
A great deal of information is emerging from the world of sport science research having important implications in for improving the performance level and promote enhanced repeatability in shot-making. The results of this research fits in with the 3-Point Targeting System.
Research conducted on enhanced targeting techniques such as the 3-point targeting system discussed earlier also reveals a direct relationship of how targets are viewed and performance levels. Most skilled individuals, regardless of their pursuits, learn how to harness their mental imagery, their performance level rises. Regardless of the task at hand, identifying methodologies of relaxing and creating a quiet place with few distractions, performance is enhanced. The connection between performing and mental preparation is undeniable.
Research conducted by Dr. Joan Vickers, Director of the Neuro-Motor Psychology Laboratory at the University of Calgary, demonstrates how elite athletes focus. In simple terms, when an athlete learns how to fix their gaze in a relaxed, well thought out manner, their ability to target proficiently and more accurately. Measured visual imagery enhanced less skilled individuals significantly improves performance. As demonstrated an image from this study, see how the subject’s eyes don’t actually focus on a single point, but on other details as well.
Eye Movement in Sports
Golf, tennis and hockey players of varied skill levels participating in this research were able to learn where and how to best visually target, and how long to focus on their targets. Specifically, they learned how to mentally practice using these techniques. Practice, after all, is practice, regardless whether it is mental or physical. Essentially, the harder you work before the shot, the easier it will be to relax and perform more accurately and consistently during the shot.
To start the process, elite bowlers were asked to wear a head mounted digital eye tracking system. The eye tracking system measured the point of the bowlers gaze (where they were looking), and the motion of their eye relative to the head. This eye tracking system measured their eye positions and eye movement. This data was extracted and recorded. These records of eye movements show that the bowler’s attention is usually held only by certain elements of the intended area rather than a specific target. The bowler’s eye movement essentially reflects the human thought processes; so the bowler’s thought are basically followed to some extent from records of eye movement (the thought accompanying the examination of the particular target.
Through a study of several sports, Vickers discovered that there are significant differences between how elite athletes use their eyes for targeting as compared to less skilled players. Specifically, elite athletes have far less eye movements in their targeting and have a longer sustained gaze on their targets.
Most athletes believed they were looking longer at a single target. In reality, the eye tracking system demonstrated that most athletes actually looked at many things, and were unaware that they were not truly focused. Bowlers, then mentally think they are focused on a single target, when in essence, they look at a target, where they want the ball to enter the pins, and then at alternative targets, distractions, and just plain wander around. During a spare shot, your eyes instinctively look at each pin, and possible targets and paths that will result in hitting all of the pins. This instinctive action causes a loss of focus. The bowler’s focus can be disturbed by noises, other bowlers, and idle chatter as well. Here is an example extracted from some of the research done at the Neuro-Motor Psychology Laboratory at the University of Calgary.
As one researcher stated, “It isn’t about aiming, it is about dwelling.” This requires a purposeful focus on increasing your gaze time on your target and reducing your unconscious tendency of just looking around without awareness. But how? Enhanced focus on three points along the intended path of the ball narrows the wandering of focus into a narrow path rather than a wider area during targeting. This is the key of calming eye movements along a line rather than across an area. Narrowing and calming eye movement results in more consistent targeting, and accuracy.
Know How to Calm Your Focus.
A knowledgeable athlete knows their gaze is scattered around the target and not actually on the target. Since you know you need to calm that wandering eye, consider the following process: Once in the stance, the bowler’s heart rate increases, and their breathing is shallower. As they look out at the shot and their target, eye tension increases. If you are that bowler, you can actually feel the tension in your vision as you focus on your target. Now the process of implementing the quiet eye begins.
Step 1: Focus Where You Want the Ball To Go. You know the ball is going to skid through the oil up until it reaches the Exit Point. We’ve determined that the Exit Point is the one point research has shown to be stable throughout your targeting process, and is exactly where you want the ball to go. Hold your gaze on this point for a 2 full seconds or until you feel your eyes relax. Practice this, and you’ll feel the eyes relax.
Step 2: Move Your Focus to your Focal Point. The Focal Point aligns the Exit Point with a point on the pin deck (usually a point on a specific pin). Allow time for your eyes to relax. With practice, you can feel that moment.
Step 3: Bring your eyes smoothly to your Visual Target. At this point, do not look anywhere other than the Visual Target. You need to train yourself to move from the target down the lane to a visual target without looking around. As before, maintain your focus on this visual target until you feel your eyes relax. As a side note, as you smoothly move your focus from the Focal Point to the Exit Point toward the Visual Target, take a deep breath, and slowly exhale. With practice this moment will coincide with the relaxing of your eyes. And you are ready to roll. In other words, you are moving your eyes in a longitudinal motion rather than allowing the eye focus to wander.
Step 4: Maintain your eye on the visual target after the ball passes through it. From the beginning of your approach until the ball passes through your target, keep your eye on the visual target. This will take practice as you will want to immediately watch the ball. Work to keep your eye remaining on your visual target after the ball has gone past it. This will also help you improve your finish position and leverage at the line.
Final Note: You are incorporating the 3-Point Targeting System with a Quiet Eye, so first understand, and be comfortable with this system. Simply hold the gaze on the focal point for 2 seconds, then the exit point for 2 seconds and finally the visual target for 2 seconds before starting your approach. Take a deep breath, and slowly exhale, and then smoothly begin your approach.
The 3-Point Targeting System with a Quiet eye has been repeatedly demonstrated by the best athletes in the world to improve performance and found in the elite athlete of every sport. Focusing on implementing a quieter eye into your routine can enhance the consistency of your game. This enhanced system can lead to better execution, better shots, time after time. Skilled athletes target more quietly, their brain waves are more calm and in harmony whereas the less skilled players are looking all around. This causes the brain waves of these players to become disconcerted or chaotic. These findings were particularly true for the parts of the brain that control vision.
With less eye movements and longer target gaze times, the process of targeting utilized by experts in all sports revealed that quiet eye contributes to keeping the athletes calmer. Specifically, in a number of studies, athletes who held their gaze longer also were calmer mentally and physically. In one study, increased alpha waves were released in the left hemisphere, reducing the analytical side of the brain.
Visualize the ball’s trajectory line, pausing at each point. Use a Quiet Eye technique together with the three targeting points toward improving your accuracy and increasing your consistency.
The concept of the three-point targeting system is to better organize, visualize and project your ball toward a path from your launch point to the end of the lane. Projecting your target outward assists in visualizing the angle of your shot. Using your defined points enhances visualizing the path of your ball, and strengthening your understanding of how to adjust the trajectory of the ball.
When bowling on longer patterns, your lower and upper body will be more square, and then adjust your focal point closer to the head pin. Conversely, for shorter patterns, open your lower and upper body to increase the launch angle, and then adjust your focal point closer to the channel.
Looking further down the lane will result in your ball getting into a roll later. Looking closer will get your ball in a roll earlier. I, as an example, use the Focal Point rather than the Visual Target just as I would when aiming a rifle. I look at the target, and not either the near sight or the far site. I simply keep the target in line with the near and far sights. The Three-Point Targeting system works well, and is well worth your consideration.
I can’t change the lane conditions, but I can always adjust the path to my destination.