Interview with Ted Thompson of Kegel



    Republished courtesy of (June 3, 2007)

    Ted, firstly can you explain to use your role in Kegel?
    ColumnistTedThompson_small.jpg For the past three years my main role has been supporting the Kegel distribution network throughout Europe. Just recently however Kegel has shifted that responsibility to Kegel Master Technician Don Agent. I have also been the liaison with the European Tenpin Bowling Federation (ETBF) and their highly successful European Bowling Tour (EBT) which I will continue to do as well as some other sporting responsibilities.

    As a company you are at the forefront of lane development with your special test lanes, do you have any plans to build something similar in UK?
    The Kegel Training and Tournament Center (KTC) in Lake Wales Florida is very unique because of the special 12 adjustable lanes. Not only can Kegel perform a lot of research about the role topography has on ball reaction, which is much more than people are aware of, but they can also offer this tool and environment to players that train at the KTC. The lanes at the KTC cost over $17,000 each to build with this adjustable foundation so I believe it is cost prohibitive at this time to bring this technology anywhere else in the world.

    What have you got in the pipeline for the near future?
    Kegel’s philosophy is to continue the research and development of products that enhance the sport of bowling and therefore the business of bowling. Kegel will continue to develop products that make the mechanics job more efficient without sacrificing performance.

    Do you intend on going into ball production?
    Kegel’s main focus is lane maintenance and associated products so producing bowling balls is not on the radar screen.

    The CATS system is the best one around by far but there is a lack of systems in the UK. Why do you think that is?
    Bowling ball tracking devices are fantastic tools to help players develop consistency in their game. These tracking tools can really help players “learn the feel” of the bowling delivery by focusing on errant shot pattern data and how those shots “felt different”. With video analysis added into the equation, an accomplished coach can then show the player what was different. But in answer to your question, I believe the reasons for the lack of CATS systems in the UK may the same reasons there are not many of these systems anywhere in the world. One is the system is a significant financial investment and the majority of bowling proprietors are focusing more on the recreational aspect of bowling which limits investment into the sport side of bowling. Another is the lack of qualified teachers of the game of bowling because of that lack of sporting investment. After all, how many bowling centers actually employ a teaching professional?

    How can we attract more juniors into the sport?
    Great question. We all know that that open play is the rising trend with activities like Rock n Bowl, Glow Bowling, etc… and the majority of these participants are the youth. It’s up to the proprietors to harness and create lasting bowling customers out of these youth players. To do that however requires sound instructional and competitive programs and then provide the support to the people who dedicate their time and efforts to these programs. Bowling also has to be a cost-effective viable alternative for the youth players and they need an aspiring outlet to persuade them to continue in the game. The PBA Tour is that in America and the successful European Bowling Tour (EBT) is now doing that in Europe.

    But really, at the end of the day, the effort must be comprehensive from the entire bowling industry. Increased long term participation increases the business for not only the bowling center, but for bowling in general.

    Have you any plans for having interviews with European bowlers on ?
    Len Nicholson (The Phantom) is the host of the Phantom Radio Show and your idea is a great one. I will suggest and think the reigning EBT Champion and UK’s own Paul Moor would be a good start!

    Who do you consider the best bowler in the world at this moment? Also the best ever?
    In the world at this moment…tough question. I have been a part of the PBA since 1980. I won my first PBA Regional title at the age of 19 and went on to become Rookie of the Year in the Southern Region. After that I played on the PBA National Tour against Earl Anthony, Mark Roth and even Walter Ray in his early years. I worked for the PBA Tour managing the Ball Drilling Operation from 1997 until 2002 so I witnessed every event during that time. There is no doubt the American PBA Tour throughout history has the best players. However in my opinion, players like Lasse Lintilä, Jason Belmonte, Paul Moor and Osku Palermaa amongst other world wide players would be very successful on the PBA Tour if they chose to bowl there full time. Unfortunately the monetary rewards at this time do not make travelling around in a foreign country and living out of a suitcase that appealing. This is why some version of a World Tour is so needed. Is there a player somewhere in world as good as a Pete Weber, Walter Ray William Jr. or Norm Duke? Probably not yet, but as more high level events are played throughout the world, someone may surface that is better than the best the PBA Tour has to offer. There is however one player today I could just sit and watch for hours and that is Pete Weber.

    Best of all time? In my opinion it’s Earl Anthony. Earl won more titles in a shorter time span than anyone in history and performed this feat when the PBA entries were at an all time high per event and arguably during the best competition times. During my tenure with the PBA, I had the privilege of getting to know Earl during his last events on the Senior Tour and we had many discussions about the game and how he played the game. Earl actually mastered delivering the ball 27 different ways and what made him so great is he understood why and knew when to use each delivery. He was simply the best bowler of all time in my opinion. As a side note, I was at the event working for the PBA when Earl retired and have the actual bowling ball (autographed) he threw his last shot ever in PBA competition!

    Is there any advice you can give to a junior when they first take up the sport?
    The way the game of bowling was when I began bowling and until the early 1990’s, my answer would simply be to make sure to have a bowling ball that fits your hand and practice the solid physical fundamentals of the time.

    However, the way the game today has developed, I am starting to believe the two-handed delivery may be the best option. If we take the number of two-hander’s participating in world wide competitions and look at their finishing results, it’s incredible. The way the two-hander can use the opposite hand to assist in varying the axis of rotation, the use of the shoulders to create a powerful and fluid movement through delivery, the revolutions that be can created along with ball speed and the lack of “hitting up or grabbing” the bowling ball at the bottom of the swing plane all create the components necessary to succeed physically in the game of bowling at this moment in time. One thing we don’t know about the two-handed delivery is the long term physical effects it will have on the body.

    If a junior bowler today chooses to employ the one handed delivery, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of ensuring the bowling ball fits their hand structure and is adjusted throughout their growth. I have seen many bad habits formed by bowlers of all ages using bowling balls that don’t fit their hand properly.

    One thing that holds true no matter what time in the history of bowling is that a solid spare game must be developed. The best players historically have always been the best spare shooters as well. I would also suggest that any junior bowler develop a positive mental outlook towards the game and set personal goals that are challenging, measurable and attainable.

    Is it important today for juniors to learn about the ever-developing technology in today’s game?
    There is a new saying in bowling, “you can’t out bowl bad ball reaction” so learning about all technologies is very important in the game today, especially with regard to the bowling ball. I believe bowling as a whole has not done the best of jobs educating the participants. The variables in the game of bowling are vast and most are unseen and for too many years the language we used to describe such variables was inconsistent between all the entities. Now with entities like IBPSIA being created and becoming a stronger force, with companies like Kegel, Ebonite, Storm and Brunswick performing seminars at more and more events and internet websites like yours being created, the ways to get high-quality knowledge out to the public is helping tremendously. We (bowling) need to continue to educate our participants and put away that long time fear of “a little education is a dangerous thing” if we are going to grow as a sport.

    Who do you sponsor?
    Kegel does not sponsor any PBA or EBT players since they perform lane maintenance at so many international events. I think you can surmise the backlash that would be created if a Kegel sponsored player won an event they performed lane maintenance at.

    Kegel does however sponsor a Junior Team that is associated with the Kegel Training Center called the “Kegel Junior Elite Team.” John and Linda Davis, Owners and CEO's of the Kegel Company, had a vision in January of 2005. They wanted to create an elite team of junior bowlers and provide them training, uniforms and transportation to enable them to compete in world-class events. The vision took off after a call into the staff at the Kegel Training Center with the question, "What do we have to do to create a program that will result in the best team of junior bowlers on the planet?" After some weeks of training the coaching staff decided on the six junior bowlers based on ability, attitude and love of the game. These six bowlers became the Kegel Junior Elite Team.

    What do you think of Brian Voss’ comments about the importance of limiting equipment (balls) over the importance of controlling conditioning?
    This topic amongst the sporting enthusiasts is the most debated at the moment. There is no question all aspects of the sport need to be continually looked at and at times adjusted to protect the integrity of the sport. The challenge is there are two different subjects that relate to the question and the argument. One is the related to scoring pace in the game today and the other is related to the philosophical way the game of bowling is or was meant to be played.

    With regard to scoring, in bowling the maximum score is 300 and when the participants can achieve perfection in such often numbers as today, all things have to be severely scrutinized and some have to be adjusted.

    By conditioning you mean “oil patterns” and that can be controlled now with the advent of the modern lane machine. If controlling conditioning means by whom and how they use that highly accurate lane machine, that is the challenge. Until we get a system where there are meaningful specifications that are easily followed and verified, we can’t even think about controlling lane conditioning.

    Equipment/bowling balls used by the players however could be limited and controlled fairly easily during the manufacturing process. Of course we have limits in the current specifications but many think those specifications are not tight enough for the sport of bowling.

    There is also a relatively new practice of setting up the playing field (oil pattern) in a minimal number of balls thrown. In short, a player or a small group of players bowling on one pair can take a demanding oil pattern and make it a relatively easy oil pattern in a short amount of time. Another group can take an easy pattern and make it relatively difficult in a short amount of time. We see how squad to squad scoring pace is affected all the time on the PBA Tour and the EBT just by how that squad’s group of players break down the oil pattern. Kegel has so many tape reading records to confirm this it is staggering.

    When applying competitive oil patterns, Kegel technicians have proven and say it all the time to players, “the oil pattern that was just applied on the lane is not the same after practice and one game of play.”

    So with all that said and at this time, I don’t believe we can honestly set meaningful parameters on oil patterns until we minimize the rapid changes in those oil patterns whether it be with new conditioner technology, new bowling ball technology, new lane surface technology, a combination of all or something else on the horizon that may yet be invented.

    Where do you think the sport is headed in the future and what impact do you think oil application will have on it?
    The first part of your question really relies on the strength of the sanctioning bodies of the sport itself to control technology so it is of positive value to the sport and not damaging to the sport. I am very optimistic on the direction of the ETBF and the path they have chosen. Of course there is also the definition of the sport itself and what it takes to succeed in the sport. The WTBA has defined what it takes to make a world class player in VPARK; Versatility, Power, Accuracy, Repeatability and Knowledge. Every skill should be recognized as equally valuable, although it will not always be the case that all skills are rewarded equally. Players will acquire or develop skills in varying levels and will therefore be “balanced differently”. One player may win over another player because they could have a better developed skill, for instance versatility, to overcome the better developed skill, for instance accuracy, of the other player. How our other sanctioning bodies define and protect the definition of the sport will determine where the sport is headed.

    As far as the impact oil application has on the future of the sport; as long as there is an object that rolls across a surface that can wear, there will need to be a substance applied to that surface to minimize wear and a method to apply that substance. Whether that substance continues to be oil based or something else remains to be seen. With conditioner in its current form, there has been much advancement in recent years. Conditioners today hold up much better than those from the past and this is an example of technology having a positive impact. Much like Formula One does for street car technology, companies performing tournaments and disseminating that data has also done the same for conditioner technology.

    Currently the lane machines of today are the most accurate in the history of the sport and this is another example of technology in a positive manner. Prior to 1987 and John Davis’ invention of Sanction Technology, conditioning a lane across an entire bowling center day after day was more hit and miss at best, not anymore. Kegel technicians take tapes after every conditioning at all events and those readings are the same which is documented and proven. Now whether the lanes play the same or not is a different story but we can be sure it’s not because the machine did not apply the same condition.

    What is the goal of a lane maintenance person using conditioner?
    Use as little conditioner as possible to protect the lane surface and have the oil pattern hold its integrity for the given number of games before conditioning again. That unfortunately has been an almost impossible task for lane maintenance people for many years.

    At the same time however, oil is only one part of the total environment that makes up the bowling playing field. I applaud the ETBF and their new Premier Certification Program which addresses and rewards above standard lane surface installations and maintenance as well as proprietors that care about such things. As the program gains in numbers, sport bowlers should seek out those ETBF Premier Certified Bowling Centers and support them.

    You have travelled to tournaments all over the world, what destinations have you enjoyed the most?
    While playing and working with the PBA I travelled all over the USA. Some of my favorite places to visit was Reno (Lake Tahoe), Seattle and San Diego. Of course my home state of Florida is a favourite because I love and grew up on the water. In 1999, I was contracted by Brunswick to drill balls for the WTBA World Championship and spent three weeks in Abu Dhabi. That was a very interesting place to see and an experience I will never forget. What made it even more special was my Fiancée, Andrea Mirschel, won three medals during those championships! Europe of course has so many nice places but one in particular that has a soft spot in my heart is the country and people of San Marino.

    Finally, Kegel is the Official Lane Maintenance Partner for the European Bowling Tour, would you encourage the Juniors here in the UK & Ireland to play events on the tour as well as their home events to gain experience & learn more about their game?
    I would encourage any bowling player that is interested in playing the game at a higher level to compete in tournaments whenever they can and especially the European Bowling Tour. I always found what areas of my bowling game needed the most attention when competing in tournaments. Tournament play is when you’re mental and physical faults will show up and instead of making excuses for poor performances we should open our minds and try to figure out what went wrong.

    It’s not any different for manufactures of bowling balls, pinsetters, scoring systems, lane machines or conditioners; tournament play will show the faults of their products as well. If a product or player can perform under the demands of a high level bowling event, there is a very good chance they can perform in everyday bowling life as well.

    Ted, we would like to thank you and the team at Kegel for taking time out to do this interview and all the staff at would like to wish all at Kegel the very best in the future!

    Big thanks to Stephen O'Connor for arranging the interview and to Hels for conducting it.