NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The use of advanced technology and in-depth, up-to-the-minute statistics has recently become standard in professional and amateur bowling and the tablet has made plenty of appearances at the NCAA bowling championships.
Rick Barbera of Brunswick Bowling mentioned that tablets first began to appear in bowling alleys around five years ago but were not immediately prevalent.
Of the eight teams in the field, six have opted to use tablets or iPads during a match rather than traditional scoring with a pencil and paper. These tablets are equipped with applications and technology that can track anything from scores to oil patterns and shoe slides, while providing a statistical analysis similar to sabermetrics in baseball.
“We use it quite a bit for the additional items it presents,” Central Missouri coach Ron Holmes said. “What pins are left, what the shots have been, whether they’re on a certain side of the pocket, how the pins carry … that kind of stuff. So it gives us some feedback to be able to share with the athletes.”
Though most tablets being used during a match at this weekend’s championship are operated by an assistant coach or a reserve player, Holmes and Vanderbilt’s John Williamson are the only head coaches to handle the technology during a round.
“It’s the ease and the quickness,” Williamson said. “It gives you a visual display of the pin fall and we’ve developed a program that we could export the stats … for both traditional and Baker games.
“For the longest time there was no real way to keep accurate baker statistics and this app allows us to do that.”
The simplicity and convenience that the tablet provides was the early draw for the coaches. Though some teams have become acquainted with the programs and understand the possibilities that come with this comprehensive analysis, others simply appreciate the speed and ease of digital scorekeeping.
“On the iPad it’s faster because it gives you up-to-date stats right out of the gate,” Stephen F. Austin assistant coach Steve Lemke said. “If you’re doing it by hand, you’re going to have to add up all the numbers. So it’s just faster with the iPad to quick calculate.”
Lemke mentioned that the Ladyjacks don’t use the tablet for much more than scorekeeping, but has recalled some occasions where they’ve made use of the video camera feature to review and analyze a player’s technique after a shot.
“We have a video that we can take. Just in the middle of the tournament,” Lemke said. “Take a video and start analyzing what they’re doing. But normally we use it for just practice only. But if they’re struggling in a tournament … we just take a video real quick and if we catch them doing it again, we can pinpoint right then and there.”
The players seem to be taking an interest in the information provided by the tablet and can often be found huddled around an iPad checking up on their stats.
“Our kids are information driven,” Williamson said. “If you can give them information that says ‘your single pin spare percentage is pretty good’ or ‘your strike percentage is pretty good’ or ‘you need to work on this,’ if you can learn that information, it’s just a teaching tool.”
Williamson was weary of the amount of information that he presents to his players, attempting to avoid overwhelming them with the exhaustive research that Bowl Sheet 2 – the particular app used by Vanderbilt – can provide. He also stated that the statistics help him make lineup decisions and quell any doubts when making substitutions.
North Carolina A&T and Sam Houston State – the two teams that don’t use a tablet during a match – have different reasons for their avoidance the technology. While Aggies coach Linda Grace does not use a tablet at all, Bearkats coach Brad Hagen waits until after the match to input all of the necessary information into a similar program.
“Sometimes with the tablet it’s hard to back track and put in different shots,” Hagen said. “As we go on a traditional pen and paper, we’re able to almost get the information a little quicker, which sounds completely backwards because it’s traditional. But it’s easier for us to go back and look at that as opposed to going back into an iPad.”
Grace said that her predecessor, James Williams, did use an iPad during a match and she kept score by hand while serving as his assistant. This system has stayed with Grace throughout her seasons as head coach, but she plans to begin using the technology next season.