The cycle of life and the lanes: in order to improve, apply the lessons of your life to bowling—and then use what you have learned to make yourself even better away from the game – Lane Logic

The cycle of life and the lanes: in order to improve, apply the lessons of your life to bowling—and then use what you have learned to make yourself even better away from the game – Lane Logic – Cover Story

Kim Adler

DIVING INTO MY FIRST OFFICIAL article for BOWLING DIGEST, I spent a lot of time wondering what you would be interested in reading. I could (and will) talk about anything related to bowling and plan on giving you a style and tone unlike what you’re used to reading on these pages, but I wanted to get started with a bang. Eventually, I figured the best way to do just that would be by starting where it all begins: the mental game.

Intensity, focus, and determination are some of my greatest strengths as a bowler. Pro-am bowlers, students, and colleagues alike swarm me like happy buzzards to learn as much as they can about how to develop the edge and fortitude necessary to pile up wins on the lanes. So I want to help guide you down the path to developing a strong mental game, starting with some of my life stories that have helped me grow from a solid bowler into a successful professional.


Everyone has a moment of awakening, if he or she is lucky. Mine arrived in the second week of October 1988.

I’d hit rock-bottom. Two months had passed since my father’s death after I had just turned 21. I had inherited from my father the traits of stuffing my emotions–non-acceptance–and it all erupted in what is called a “disassociative episode.” Basically, that means I lost a few hours of time: One minute I was at my bowling center working, and the next thing I knew I was about 30 miles away in a different town, sitting in my running car, staring out at a lake. Doctors say that disassociation–a mental shutdown for self-protection–is more common than you might think.

After this scary moment, I began my life anthem of “becoming aware.” How appropriate that even in death, my father helped me realize, for the first time, that emotions should be felt, not put away.

How does this relate to your bowling? Becoming more aware means that it is OK to enjoy the moment, or to be angry when you miss an important spare, or to step up to the line so nervously your hands shake. Those are your feelings. They make you alive–feel them! Trying to “not be nervous” only takes your focus away from what you have to do. Experience your moments fully.


I have been lucky when I’ve come to finding guides in my life, but I have also made a conscious choice to seek out mentors. Be humble in your selections. Everyone and everything in life can allow for a moment’s lesson that can, in turn, help you with your bowling.

My ex-husband, pro bowler Pete Couture, taught me how to persevere and harness the same gritty determination that even today helps him to succeed. I would practice endlessly with him; he gave of his knowledge freely. But some of his best lessons as a mentor came from just watching him bowl. Watching those you admire can be a great gift. Emulate their positive traits, but also realize that a mentor cannot supply you with all the answers. Your mentor is human, with his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

Another mentor, BOWLING DIGEST contributor Bill Spigner, excels at teaching me how simplicity, a quiet mind, and patience can help my game. And as one of my coaches, he also has a great eye for my physical approach. He has seen me from my first steps as a junior bowler through to becoming a professional.

Your search for a mentor can take a long time. I have had to look across the country for people suitable to help me with my game.

I’ve had great teachers who are not bowlers. My husband, Tommy, doesn’t bowl; you’ll rarely see him in a bowling center. But he knows my mental game inside-out. He knows my mental strengths and weaknesses, and he constantly challenges me to stretch my limits.

Tommy knows what I am capable of and keeps me balanced. He is my “real world” link, my grounding force who helps me put bowling into perspective. He makes me understand that bowling is not all there is to life. And that brings me to my next point …


The more you see of the world–the patience, courage, pain, excitement, and joy of simple things in people–the more your bowling will improve. It’s called life experience. Here’s an interesting example: Endless PBA and PWBA members have bowled their best just before a marriage or the birth of a child.

Soak it all up. I have my share of strengths and weaknesses, like anyone else. They yielded their ugly side after September 11. I “felt” too much, and I got burned-out. I did not see the importance in what I was doing.

You might feel burned-out from time to time. You don’t want to bowl. Worse yet, you bowl without caring. It’s OK. You are at a crossroads, a life transition. Take your time, as I did, to rediscover why you started bowling in the first place. A crossroads is a gift given to all of us, to remake ourselves. If you find your way back to bowling, it will not only make you savor the great moments, but bowling will also mean more to you. You won’t take the sport for granted.

If your path leads you in a different direction, so be it. The tree that bends in the storm is the tree that lives and grows. The moment I accepted not trying so hard, when I stopped training all of my focus on pushing to make things happen instead of allowing them to unfold naturally, things came easier. “Trying” to make the show and “trying” to throw 12 perfect shots now comes with less effort than before … because, well, I quit “trying.”

Is this the basis of the strong mental game that everyone talks about me having? Perhaps. But you have your own path of self-discovery in front of you. Draw upon the picture of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” at the start of the Yellow Brick Road. I, like you, am not yet at my strongest, but I am on the road. Put on your ruby slippers and get moving!


A year and a half is a long time to struggle with your game. Well, at least for me it is. Sometimes it seems like the more things you try to fix, the worse it gets; your tires are spinning in the snow and you aren’t getting anywhere.

When you’re slumping, that means it’s time to get some chains on those tires, and hopefully some light can shine on you that will help melt the snow. No matter what, you have to get out of the rut in which you’re stuck.

First, let’s define a slump. We all know the product of a slump: poor bowling. But what is really happening when you’re slumping? There are several possible factors of a run of bad bowling:

Approach. Slumping in your approach means that you add or subtract from your movements to fix something that doesn’t feel right, but nothing seems to click.

Solve such slumps by getting to the thoughts, or mental keys, of your first good bowling lessons. Were they focused on the shape or tempo of your ball placement? Were you standing in a different position? Did you walk slower on a night when you bowled well?

On the six-month break before the current season, part of my training was a review of old videos of my wins. I asked all of the questions above as I watched. I saw that my best bowling came when I walked a bit slower, and my ball placement was a bit different than what I had used during the 2001 season, helping me to find my way back. I tried then to duplicate the motions and the feelings I had at my best.

Mind. During a mental slump, you may not ask for help. Feeling hopeless, you retreat into an attitude where you think you can’t do anything about it. I call it Self-Pity Land. On the other hand, you might panic, and start thinking and feeling everything in your swing and approach. You ask everyone for help, and take any advice offered without much of a filter.

When your mind is playing tricks on you, do things to quiet it. Remove excess stresses in your life, because they will carry over into your bowling. You might be surprised to learn that I helped solve my “mind slump” by rededicating myself to meditation.

Exercise and the right diet will also help you to make the proper decisions. You need to have a plan for each game. For instance, a mental checklist of five things that have to happen for a good shot is always helpful. Your plan needs to be established well before you step up on the approach, allowing you to have a simple, clutter-free mind when you take a shot.

Equipment. Study your equipment. Chances are, it’s at least one year old, qualifying it as “older” equipment. You might use the same two balls all the time, but you drag 10 to 12 balls to the center every time you bowl in your league. And among those dozen balls, you might find you have 10 balls that hook or 10 with a similar drilling or 10 with the same surface. Or you have 10 balls but no favorite, because none of them seems to work just right or helps you play the lanes the way you like to. Every ball reacts the same.

You need to review your equipment on a regular basis. I spent most of 2001 learning about my new equipment. It’s common for bowlers to rely on others for their information–that buddy on your team who has found a “can’t-miss” new surface on his or her ball, for example. Remember, you give up some control of your game when you rely on others to make your decisions–including your pro shop operator.

Sometimes “eliminating” the mind in your shots is a great idea, but in doing so you may not be dedicated to your shot because you aren’t fully confident in your equipment selection.

Learn about radius of gyration, flare potential, and surface preparation. You will then be able to work with your pro shop operator to help make the decisions that are right for you, especially when it comes to best spending the next $200 on your game.

I decide on the drilling and surface of each of my new balls. Because I am the person who makes the decisions regarding my equipment, if a mistake is made, I have only myself to blame.

I am sure you have your own stories that have led you to the level you have reached in bowling. The reason I love bowling is because it is a path for me to learn about myself and to experience so many parts of life at a very intense level. And, yes, like any relationship, I’ve had my love-hate moments with bowling.

You, too, can use bowling to learn more about yourself, beginning with the suggestions I have outlined. The game is always changing–the balls and oil are constantly in motion and the equipment is always improving. If you can find a way to keep moving and always learn new things–to go with the flow–you’ll get the most out of your bowling … and the most out of your life.


THERE MAY BE BOWLERS WHO work as hard as Kim Adler, but no one outworks her. While she considers the strength of her game to be on the mental side, her practice regimen and dedication to improvement also impress.

After a difficult 2001 season, Adler has parlayed her work ethic into an outstanding start in 2002, winning the St. Clair Classic and ranking as the tour’s top bowler in earnings and points through seven events. It’s no secret that she’s undaunted by the PWBA’s move to the sport condition, as she was the first woman to record an 800 series on that oil pattern.

For her career Adler has won 15 titles and rolled 21 perfect games; she is the fifth woman in history to roll back-to-back perfectos. She’s been named a bowling All-American five times, and captained the team in 2000.

Stretching further back, Adler was the 1999 U.S. Open champion, as well as the runner-up in the 1993 PWBA Player of the Year voting. She also was the tour’s 1991 Rookie of the Year

Adler adheres to a vegetarian diet and is extremely active off the lanes, pursuing hobbies as strenuous and varied as mountain biking, surfing, diving, snowboarding, skiing, rock climbing, camping, and hiking.

Adler started her sideline business Kimbo Creations–one-of-a-kind jewelry and handmade glass art pieces–in 2000. In 1994, she married paramedic Tommy Adler who assists her on the tour and in maintaining her Web site, [see page 39]. They both enjoy traveling the country in their motor home with their two cats, Jaxy and Sparky

–Brett Ballantini

RELATED ARTICLE: Want to know more? Join me online.

MY HUSBAND TOMMY AND I got my bowling Web site,, up and running this past January. It’s been a fascinating experience for me; I do all of my own work on the site, as Webmaster, designer, writer, and even sometime photographer. Tommy partners with me to edit my writing and shoot most of the photos on the site.

What will you find at I try to offer a direct glimpse into the details of tour life, which isn’t something you see from many professional bowlers. In addition, I have two articles on site that offer tips on your game, and I will be expanding that archive as time allows. I offer message boards that enable fans to connect with one another, as well as a link that signs you up for my weekly e-mail newsletter.

The newsletter is very much my regular connection to fans. It includes my week in review, a “techie” area where bowlers can get the inside scoop on how I attacked the lanes that week (ball-drilling, lane surface, oil, and so on). Some of my favorite sections are my “Rants and Raves” and “Tour Chatter” areas, which really allow me to get fans deep inside the PWBA tour and all the buzz of the week.

Since Tommy and I do all the work on the Web site, when the tour is in full swing, we’re updating on the fly–and even then, we’re only able to spare an hour or two a week to get that done. He found a way to work on the site using our cell phone, so in June I was able to host my first chat session with fans, which was a lot of fun. I’ll be doing more of that over time.

I like engaging in this kind of grassroots work. I’ve approached work on my Web site much like I approach my bowling: I try to always be prepared for moments of pleasure … and frustration. So far, it’s been delivering some of both.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing

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