The 2008 ETBF European Youth Championships at famed Tali Bowl in Helsinki Finland showed what can happen in the modern bowling environment when all parts of the scoring environment are predictable and at a high level. During the Championships, 12 of 15 girls scoring records were broken and 11 of 15 boys scoring records were broken. There were also five 300 games during the Championships. However, the closer you look and dissect the possible reasons why those records were broken and scores were achieved, the less anyone should be surprised.
The youth players of Europe are more knowledgeable than ever and the overall level of coaching is at an all time high. Add to the fact that eastern European countries are increasing in participation numbers and they are treating bowling as a sport. Even world renowned coach Sid Allen has been attracted to Europe being hired as head coach of Latvia. This proved to be a great move on the Latvian Federations part as it helped them achieve the country’s first Gold Medals in Major Championship events. In fact Latvia won a total of five medals during the Championships, 1-Gold, 3-Silver and 1-Bronze. A fine testament to what a solid coaching program can bring to a Federation.
The Scandinavian countries have long been setting the standard in Europe by developing great player after great player. The Finns, Swedes, Norwegians and Danes all took medals in the boys divisions and from watching the youth competition at the 2008 EYC, the Scandinavian’s still are generating many great players.
But there are also some very good up and coming youth players from other parts of Europe because of solid coaching programs and Federation support. We should look forward to watching them in future European Championships and tournaments like the European Bowling Tour for many years to come.
Another item coming into place within Europe is increased equipment knowledge which is a huge part of being successful in the modern game. Until now and mostly because of language barriers, Europe as a whole has been behind the learning curve of countries where English is spoken or understood in high numbers. That however is changing and they are catching up fast as was evident by observing ball choices at this event.
But back to the environment, the scoring or playing environment that is. Tali Bowl is somewhat of an anomaly in the world of bowling. Built in 1972, the Finns might have known something very few knew, or at least practiced, about the installation of bowling lanes. Even after the replacement of the wood lanes to Pro Anvilane synthetic panels, all lanes at Tali Bowl consistently have a certain topographical characteristic and the key word here is “consistently.”
Many of the synthetic lanes we have checked over the years have showed very little regularity with regard to topography throughout any specific lane but not Tali Bowl, all lanes follow the same topographical features throughout the entire lane surface. When lanes are installed in as a consistent manner as they are at Tali Bowl, players have to adjust very little as they move across the center during any one block of bowling.
As Team Norway Coach Trond Syvertsen said, “Only thing we did, was not to move too much and keep the ball rolling forward.”
Just imagine not having to take one, two or even three frames to figure out how the next pair of lanes is playing in relation to the last pair and only having to concentrate on releasing the ball the same way. This adds a minimum of 10 pins to the scoring pace right off the bat.
As far as the specific topographical character of the lanes at Tali Bowl, lanes can be crowned, flat or depressed. But because it has been requested by Tali Bowl representatives to not make certain aspects of the installation public, here is how different types of topography act to a bowling ball.
Crowned lanes act like a banked curve that is falling away from the apex of the turn. You won’t see race tracks built this way but we do see many lane surfaces that are installed this way.
As the bowling ball travels towards the channel, crowned lanes decrease the pressure between the ball and the lane which also decreases friction. This decreased friction of the bowling ball keeps the ball from slowing down at the normal rate and therefore also decreases the hook potential of the bowling ball.
Basically, on a lane that is crowned the bowling bowl is rolling down a hill as it travels towards the channel and then has to climb a hill as it makes it moves towards the pocket. This topographical property also decreases pin carry because it lowers the entry angle of the bowling ball into the pocket.
Crowned lanes are also more sensitive to release variations or ‘mis-hits’ which can cause inconsistent ball motions for the less repetitious player. For right handed players, the 2-10 spare combination is a common leave on lanes that are crowned.
Flat lanes, or lanes that are in the plus or minus 10/1000 of an inch range, are very rare in synthetic lanes of today but there are actually a couple documented examples. One is the Kegel Training Center in Florida. The other is the bowling center that held the USBC 5 person team scoring record of 3905, Chacko’s Bowl in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. That record was broken in 2004 but Chacko’s is still the host to the USBC Men’s three player team series record of 2443. Flat lanes provide the most predictable ball motion for the greatest variety of styles.
Depressed lanes act like a high banked curve at a race track. Just like a banked curve helps a race car turn easier, depressed lanes help the bowling ball curve back to the pocket easier.
As the ball travels towards the channel, depressed lanes increase the pressure between the ball and the lane which also increases friction. This increased friction of the bowling ball helps the ball slow down and therefore hook into the pocket with more regularity. This not only helps with consistent ball motion, it also helps with pin carry because it increases the entry angle of the bowling ball into the pocket.
And last but certainly not least is the lengthwise levelness of bowling lanes. Lanes that predominantly go downhill from foul line to pin deck make the bowling ball slow down less and therefore decrease hook potential. Lanes that predominantly go uphill from foul line to pin deck make the bowling ball slow down more and therefore increase hook potential. As in crowns and depressions, flat lanes are the most predictable for most styles.
An example of how lengthwise level affects ball motion is a bowling center Kegel checked during their lane maintenance years on the PBA Tour. In this particular bowling center, the high end always played significantly tighter than the low end which had lanes that were added on after the initial installation.
After mapping the entire center, the difference was found to be in the lengthwise levelness of the lanes. All lanes in the high end went downhill almost two inches from foul line to pin deck. The lanes on the low end were relatively flat.
As stated in the opening paragraph of this section, the most important thing about a bowling center installation is “consistency” in lane levelness from the first lane to the last lane. For the bowling player, this gives the most predictable ball motion from lane to lane and that equals the highest scoring potential. If there is one thing we can say about the bowling lanes at Tali Bowl, they have very consistent topographical features from lane to lane.
The Pin Carry
Tali Bowl has long been known for good pin carry. The pins used during the 2008 EYC were Brunswick Max’s but it was not the pins that made the difference, it was the lane installation plus the entire pit area at Tali Bowl. The side boards (kickbacks) are tight, the pin decks are solid and the pin spotting was good.
The last 300 game bowled in European Youth Championship history in the boys division was, you guessed it, at Tali Bowl in 1994. The first and only 300 game by a European girl was last year in Thessaloniki Greece at another consistent lane installation but that bowling center has since closed down.
The Oil Pattern
Ah yes, the oil pattern. The one thing everyone likes to focus on because it is invisible and therefore open to discussion, controversy, interpretation or whatever analytical word one can come up with.
Being a mixed youth event that employed a single condition, the main goal for the 2008 EYC lane maintenance team was to provide a playing environment where many different bowling styles had a chance to succeed. In order for that to happen, it was important to provide an oil condition that complimented the lane surface.
The pattern used for the 2008 EYC was 39 feet in length as announced in Bulletin II. Standard procedure in ETBF Championship events is to announce only the distance based upon the pre-tournament inspection which is normally six to nine months in advance.
At the 2008 EYC, oil pattern information was transparently provided to the teams like never before. As usual the teams were provided the lane machine settings, the forward volume, reverse volume and the total volume of conditioner. However this time they were also provided with the front-to-back taper ratios and side-to-side ratios.
For all ratio readings, USBC Sport Bowling calculations were used which averages the unit amount of conditioner from boards 18L to 18R divided by the average unit amount from boards 3 to 7. Currently, USBC Sport Bowling has the only official guideline for competitive oil patterns in bowling and states side-to-side ratios must be 3:1 or less. The WTBA and ETBF do not have definite oil pattern specifications so the goal for the 2008 EYC was to hit the high side of the USBC Sport Bowling ratio parameters.
The front-to-back taper ratios at the 2008 EYC were 2.2:1 on the inside and 2.7:1 on the outside portion of the lane. This means in the front part of the pattern there is 2.2 and 2.7 times the amount of conditioner in those zones compared to the amount at the end of the pattern. A 3D visual of the oil pattern was also provided.
Also shown to the coaches and players were the side-to-side ratios from six different tape readings. The pattern ratios at the 2008 EYC were 2.5:1 at 6 feet, 2.9:1 at 14 feet, 3.0:1 at 22, 27 and 32 feet and 3.2:1 at 37 feet using USBC Sport Bowling calculations.
In comparison, the side-to-side ratios of the 2008 EYC pattern were the same as the 2007 PBA Greater Detroit Open and PBA Spartanburg Open. In those PBA events, the ratio at the end of the pattern was also 3.2:1 but all PBA tournaments must pass USBC Sport Bowling standards. Therefore, the 2008 EYC pattern also passes USBC Sport Bowling and was on the same difficulty level as those PBA patterns.
Too many people think scoring pace is all about the oil pattern. Of course the oil pattern can make the scores higher or lower but so do many other abovementioned areas of the playing field.
However, should we not just have some specific oil pattern parameters and let the scores be what they are? Bowling should not penalize a good installation and reward a bad installation because of a perceived perfect scoring pace and until now, that is what bowling has been doing.
The play and competition during the 2008 European Youth Championships was fantastic. There are many very talented youth players in Europe right now and all the record breakers and medalists should be very proud of their accomplishments because they earned it.
I also hope the players realize how lucky they were to be able to compete in an arena like Helsinki Finland’s Tali Bowl. It is arguably one of, if not the best, bowling arena in Europe. And the ETBF European Youth record book proves it.