During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been giving lessons all over Northern California, from Chico and Corning down to Salinas. In those 12 lessons alone, the most common question is my position on the use of Bowler’s Tape.
Bowler’s Tape has been a huge product in our industry for several years now. It’s uses range from the truly necessary to wanting to just look cool. If you have money for the latter, I wish you well. For the former, there are true benefits to be gained from its use, but misuse can cause more problems than previously existed.
Our skin is the largest single organ of our body, covering every square millimeter of it. It serves as a barrier to injury and infection, and as a transport system for water, thereby helping to control our body temperature. Our hands and feet (along with our faces) have more sweat glands than any other area, presenting a problem for some players: a consistent grip on the ball with our thumbs. Too dry, we hang up . . . too damp and we drop the ball, or worse, overgrip the ball to the detriment of our release timing. Many factors play into our thumb fit, the first of which is a proper initial fit as a baseline for adjustment.
There are several causes of thumb fit issues, a few of which are: weather, diet and hydration, and contamination. In hot weather, we perspire and the issue is maintaining a grip. Our diet and the level of our hydration is another. If we’re loaded up on fluids, our hands are slightly larger and our fit will be tighter. The last is contamination. Failing to have a clean, dry hand after a bunch of French fries or a piece of pizza from the snack bar can contribute to contamination. Always have a clean, dry towel for your hands and maybe even some disposable Handi Wipes. If you’ve gained or lost weight recently, your general fit can change one way or the other. If the change is significant, it can even necessitate a plug and re-drill if tapes can’t make up for the change.
Tape can be used to change the diameter of the thumb by adding or removing tape and the feel can be tweaked with special tapes that come in a variety of tack or slip. Personally, my hand doesn’t change enough even after as many as 12 games in a tournament. I adjust my feel by sanding the thumb to various grits of Abralon or even polishing with compound. Tape isn’t cheap, selling for as much as 50 cents each, and I see folks go thru half a dozen a night. Some people buy their tape off the web by the 500-count roll, which I find amazing. I’m just not a big fan. I’d prefer a player first look into adjusting their thumb pitches slightly to aid in either being able to stay in the ball longer or shorter. If that fails, look at other remedies. In many cases for the novice player, release issues can be traced back to a problem with their mechanics and timing – far easier and cheaper to correct with a little coaching than by modifying your equipment. If you have issues, consult with a high-level coach who is versed in analyzing mechanics and can access a good video to look closer. Always keep your pro shop operator in the loop with your changes. I’m much busier with my professional coaching now, so call ahead or drop me a line for advice.
Wilson is a U.S. Bowling Congress Silver Instructor and an International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association ball technician.