Strokes, Strikes & Spares
Some years after my stroke, I started bowling with the Live Wires, a group of active seniors from my church. Back in my 20s, I had bowled in a league and carried an average score of around 180. My first three game scores after stroke were each less than 100.
Even after seeing how challenging bowling with one hand was, I really enjoyed trying and could see its potential as a fun way to exercise. Quickly, I saw how the 16-pound house ball was too heavy, and the holes were wrong and affected my aim. I bought my own ball and had it fitted to my fingers.
Since I need a cane to assist in walking, I knew I would need a system to allow me to bowl independently. In my first few games, Charlotte, my bride of 47 years, had brought the ball to me after I walked with my cane to the foul line. We exchanged cane for ball, and I bowled from a stationary position after determining the best arrangement of my feet for maintaining balance. Charlotte brought the ball back from the ball return for my second try. Even without strikes or spares, bowling with my peers was still fun. And just like that occasional good shot in golf that keeps us coming back, an occasional spare or strike convinced me that this was not only good exercise, but a skill I could refine with practice. And as we all learned in rehab, I set a goal of bowling a 200 game by Christmas. Since it was August, I thought that would be enough time.
But first, I needed to design a way to bowl independently. I had never used a walker because it required two working hands, and my cane had worked well for one-handed assistance. But walking with a cane and a bowling ball in the same hand was never going to work. I decided to make a canvas sling that would carry the ball while the walker gave me the needed balance. Luckily, the straps on my ball bag fit perfectly between the hand supports of the walker.
Using this set up, I bowled about three games a week, and one of those games was better than the week before. The other games were between 66 and 99. But that one game that tops my post-stroke personal best is always like that one shot in golf that kept me coming back. It didn’t take many weeks to see that my goal of "200 before Christmas" was unrealistic, so I changed it to "150 before Christmas and 200 sometime in 2015." My scores progressed each week — 105, 119, 124 and 134. I could feel 150 coming and maybe I could reconsider the 200 this year! Then I bowled a 148, which convinced me that 150 was inevitable. And then in December, I made my goal!
My point is this — if I can have this much fun with a few months of trying, there are many other survivors who can do the same. The Live Wires have two members who bowl from wheelchairs! I like bowling because it allows you to WIN when you strike out. Get out there and give it a try!
DAVID LAYTON Survivor Summerfield, North Carolina
Editor’s Note: Find more tips and videos from David at singlehandedliving.com
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David shows us how it’s done and bowls us over!