Featured Bowler – December

Curtis Hooper

What are you studying at university? Maths

High Game: 300 (x9)

High Series: 802

How long have you been bowling? 14 years

How did you start bowling?

My mum told my dad to do something with me on Sunday mornings and he chose to take me bowling!

Is there anyone who has been influential on you as a bowler?

I never had any real individual coaching when I started, I learnt from watching others, finding similarities in what good bowlers do and basically copying them. I worked on the basis that if all professionals do certain things, there must be something in whatever it is that they all do. For instance, I would watch league bowlers try and absolutely rev the cover off the ball and they would have arms and legs all over the place in trying to do so, but no professional did that, so neither did I.

The closest bowler who I could watch in the flesh when I started who had style like the pros, was Jake Daggett from Leeds – he’s the person I modelled my own game on. Growing up, I watched an awful lot of the pros on YouTube and noticed how effortless all of their styles were, but they still got an awful lot of speed and power into the ball. Jake’s approach was easily the smoothest and most effortless out of all the juniors at that time. If he wasn’t there, then who knows who I would have tried to copy!

You represented Team England in the World Youth Championships in Nebraska this year. What was that like?

Honestly, it was terrible.  I’d just come off of a great tournament in San Marino the week before and I simply couldn’t get matched up to the condition. Looking back if I’d have played first arrow game 1 onwards as opposed to game 13 onwards my scores would have definitely been higher, but still nowhere near close enough to compete with the top guys.

Bowling abroad this year with the pros has taught me that if I can match up to the lane condition and stay matched up throughout a block, I can score with the best in the world. The better bowler you are the more conditions you can match up to and therein lies the skill of the game:  repeating shots, accuracy, technical knowledge, versatility, mental game, etc.

Nebraska highlighted a weakness in my game and hence I couldn’t score with the leaders. It’s annoying that it had to be found out at a world championship, but that’s my fault for not being able to play that condition well enough.

You have also been playing in the German League this season. Can you tell us a bit about the format, and what you have learnt from that experience?

Playing in the German League has been such a learning curve and I owe a lot of my success down to it. I can’t thank my good friend Ray Teece enough for getting me on his team.  It’s a pleasure to bowl with and against quality bowlers, and that’s exactly what you get in the top division of the German League. Leading averages rarely go above 225 so it’s often a massive grind fest with a major emphasis on sparing. Lane craft on breaking down a lane as a team and communicating how the lane transitions is also imperative to bowl well and succeed.

The format is simple. There are 10 teams in each division, and every round you play a 5 man team game against each other team (so 9 games each round). The highest team score scratch wins two points and a tie results in 1 point each. Bonus points are also awarded at the end of the 9 games for the total scratch team pin fall which gives incentive to keep on trying even if you are well behind in your current match. It is all about the team score.

I’m also a huge plane geek and absolutely love flying, so the fact that bowling is allowing me to travel quite a lot more than most 21 year olds is fantastic! I don’t take it lightly and I’m very fortunate to do so.

In addition to all your league, national and international bowling commitments, you have been working with the NAYBC Academy as well. How did that come about?

I suppose there was a little bit of a running joke between myself and some of the academy coaches as I was coming to the end of my junior days as to how long it would be before they got me in the academy. Well they didn’t have to wait long! I got my coaching licence as soon as I could and I joined the coaching team when I was 19. I am currently the year 1 course presenter and I absolutely love doing it.

What has been your most memorable moment on the lanes to date?

My most memorable moments both came from playing for England.

Winning a European Youth Championship Gold medal with Hadley Morgan in the doubles. I watched England win the EYC doubles gold in Sweden back in 2009 when I was 14 and I thought “I’m going to do that” and I made it my goal to win an EYC gold medal to finish my junior career. I got selected for the EYC 2013 in Vienna and I achieved my “dream goal” for my junior career.

Getting to the team final at the 2014 World Youth championships was also a very special moment.  The part I remember most is the last qualifying game, all of the teams who were in contention for a semi-final place ended up within a couple of lanes of each other and it made for such an exciting final game! We made the cut for the semis by 23 pins I think and we (Matty Clayton, Chris Lam, Elliot Crosby and I) were the first English Mens team to bring back a WYC medal. Unfortunately, the semi-final was a memorable moment for all of the wrong reasons – we all had an absolute stinker of a game!

Thanks to our coaches on those trips too, Keith Bringloe and Ray Teece respectively. We wouldn’t have brought anything back without you.

What are your targets/ambitions for this season?

I don’t have a lot of goals for this season as I have cut back on tournament bowling and bowling in general to concentrate on finishing my degree. I’m not taking a break or anything, just being much more selective in what I play. I’m planning on bowling the European bowling tour “summer swing” in July again, so I’ll start to get myself ready for those events closer to the time.

What will your preparation for the summer swing involve?

I won’t have worked on anything major during the time between now and the summer, but all of the little changes I’m currently working on will be fully incorporated into my game by then. I will only have a few weeks from my exams finishing to the first tournament in Madrid starting, so in those few weeks I’ll be just be getting my head in the right place by assuring myself that I can actually bowl! Quite a major factor in my head being in the right place will be how well my summer exams go, so I need to make sure that they go well so I’m not worrying about them (as if them being my final exams wasn’t a good enough reason to prepare well for them)! I’ll practice playing different parts of the lane and do some sparing exercises every session.

What kit is in your bag at the moment?

Largely Roto Grip stuff. Most notably I’ve had a lot of success with the Hectic and Menace (so both ends of the spectrum!)

What one piece of advice would you give to our new tour members?

Get involved and have fun. Some of the best tournaments I have ever bowled have been on the BUTBA tour. Don’t be shy and enjoy the game with a great bunch of people!