The coach our 11thFrame.com (formerly Turbo 2-N-1 Grips) teams turn to before we bowl the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships is Mike Jasnau.
While several of us have personal relationships with Jazz going back to our days on the PBA Tour in the 1980s and 1990s, that isn’t why we consult with him.
It’s simply that our goal is to win Eagles, and that's something he has helped us do and nearly do multiple times.
Jasnau, who has provided individual coaching at the National Bowling Stadium for six Open Championships and four Women's Championships, was the pioneer of team coaching sessions for the Open Championships in Albuquerque in 2008 and in Las Vegas in 2009. During that time, he has helped hundreds of teams find success at the tournament. In fact, he said close to half of the teams in the top 100 in 2008 and 2009 were teams he worked with.
I couldn’t begin to count the number of testimonials I’ve received and seen on how Jasnau helped a team or bowler to their highest score ever at the Open Championships.
His track record includes helping Jackie Wyckoff’s team win the scratch team title at the 2012 USBC Women’s Championships in Reno.
“Team players Kimberly Power and Brittany Hillman took a lesson from Jasnau just prior to our team WINNING the tournament!” Wyckoff recently posted on Facebook. “Mike is a great coach and an even better guy.”
Jasnau was not in Baton Rouge for the Open Championships last year (he provided coaching at the Women’s Championships in Reno), but teams that wanted coaching in Baton Rouge had a stellar option at the Showcase Lanes there in another famed coach, Bill Hall. (We consulted with Jasnau via phone and email.)
With the Open Championships back in Reno this year, USBC’s logical choice for its VIP coaching seemingly would have been Jasnau, who is in his 15th year at Lane 81 in the pro shop booth area on the main bowling level of the National Bowling Stadium.
Or USBC could have brought in Hall again. Or one of the many great coaches on its staff.
Instead, the coach stems from USBC's deal with 900 Global to sponsor the new Showcase Lanes on the ground floor of the Stadium, site of the the new 900 Global side events and the coaching sessions from the $229.95 VIP Program.
The new lanes and new side events are a great addition, but I know from off-the-record conversations that there are important people unhappy that there will be direct competition with the Stadium’s in-house coaching (by Jasnau) and that 900 Global will have its booth in the Showcase Lanes area while all the other booths will be on the main bowling level pro shop area where they’ve always been.
If you’re ever wondering why USBC made a decision, the best answer is to follow the money. A prime example is picking up bracket winnings at off-site casinos, no matter the hassle for bowlers, such as Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas in 2009.
I’m sure 900 Global, which saved a lot of money by not renewing its PBA Tour registration this season, is paying a hefty fee to USBC for what it’s getting at the Open Championships this year.
Such deals aren’t necessarily bad for bowlers — everyone needs to remember that USBC is a non-profit and every dollar it raises in sponsorships is a dollar that doesn't have to come from dues or entry fees!
But it doesn’t mean that 900 Global Showcase Lanes coach Matt McNiel, a 900 Global staffer, is the best choice for those who want to excel in the Open Championships — that is Jasnau, in my opinion.
And that's not a knock on McNiel, who is well on his way to crafting one of the greatest Open Championships resumes in history and offers an intriguing coaching choice.
I like Matt and, as I have written and said on many occasions, I think the world of him as a bowler. Now that he is hooked up with the Linds Lakers, it would not surprise me if one day he becomes the first person ever to win 10 Eagles in the Regular division.
I’ve also heard some good things about his coaching: he's been helping bowlers for several years and working in pro shops for more than a decade. Still, his experience pales in comparison to the world renowned Jasnau, who has worked with more than 40 PBA Tour champions as well as numerous USBC Open Championships and Team USA standouts.
(For those who don't know, Jasnau was an elite bowler with one PBA Tour title prior to suffering a neck injury about two decades ago when his car was hit by a drunken driver, effectively ending his bowling career.)
There also have been a few issues raised regarding McNiel's coaching at the Open Championships.
One is that he wasn't even a certified coach until recently. Ignore that one — no offense to the program, but a piece of paper does not make a coach. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and I've heard good things about Matt's work.
A second is being on 900 Global’s staff while the ball company is sponsoring the Showcase Lanes.
While no one involved would answer specific questions on the record, I've been assured that Matt will only be giving out coverstock/core and surface and layout suggestions, not speaking of specific balls. (I'm sure, though, that if anyone asks for a ball recommendation within a company, he will answer them.)
(Jasnau is with Storm, but I know from experience — my teammates Mike Shady and Marc McDowell are with Ebonite — that he recommends balls from various companies for those who want to remain loyal to another brand.)
A third issue is that McNiel is left-handed. That actually would be the reason I would recommend McNiel over Jasnau to lefties headed to the Open Championships —who better to learn from if you're a lefty than the greatest lefty in Open Championships history?
And I don’t consider Matt being a lefty a big detriment as I’ve found him to be quite astute and "righty-like" in lane play and transition: At the Fusions Realtors Open and 11thFrame.com Open last year, I found his knowledge and thinking to be on par with some of the best PBA Tour left-handers I've met.
Plus, he is with one of the great Open Championships squads in history in the Linds Lakers, so he certainly gets first-hand experience in elite level right-handed lane play and transition at the Open Championships.
But there will be right-handers who simply want to be coached by another righty.
Davey Rosen, a solid senior bowler from the Chicago area, posted this on my Facebook page when McNiel originally was announced as the Showcase Lanes coach:
“I will equate it to something I know a little about. Photography. You can have the best camera and years of classes but until you’ve actually shot pics of a family with 4 kids or been out in the wind or in bright sunlight or any of the million other situations that arise RIGHT NOW, you will be behind the guy who never took a class but has shot 10,000 sittings of all kinds. You and your team (our 11thFrame.com guys are all righties) could teach more in 5 minutes about lane conditions a righty will experience and how to react than any lefty on the planet. And that’s cause you’ve been there.”
It's worth pointing out that the Showcase Lanes are a new install, while the Stadium’s lanes are several years old, and Jasnau’s lane 81 is from the Stadium's original install nearly 20 years ago. So there are going to be differences in how the main lanes play and the coaching lanes play. But that also was the case last year with the Showcase Lanes and competition lanes in Baton Rouge, which were very different, according to many who bowled on both. (They were on different levels and it was far warmer on the Showcase Lanes level.)
"From my experience, Lane 81 does have a bit more friction than the tournament lanes," Jasnau said. "To me, the ball scoots through the heads cleaner/quicker on the tournament lanes which in turn also makes for a stronger backend motion. Adding a touch more surface to the ball for the tournament lanes was the appropriate course of action to achieve a similar ball motion to what was seen on Lane 81. I make it a point to let all of my customers know this so they aren't surprised when they go out and bowl their team event. From the feedback that I've gotten from my customers, it really wasn't an issue at all. The main difference is that I don't have the dark marker boards down the lane on Lane 81 as on the newer lanes. I assume that if we keep a lane in the pro shop area, barring USBC's interference, a new lane will be installed with the reconstruction of that area."
One point against lane 81 is that it won’t have fresh oil multiple times a day as the Showcase Lanes will — Jasnau said his lane is oiled by the Open Championships staff early in the morning and he wasn’t sure if he would get more oilings with the new schedule for the Open Championships this year.
Another is that he can’t realistically accommodate a 10-person coaching session with his single lane, although he will have the team event pattern down, as will the Showcase Lanes.
But you can do what our teams did before we won the team event in 2011 in Reno: after practicing on the pattern at home, two of our guys got a coaching session with Jasnau early in the day we bowled team while several of the rest of us observed and listened.
If you really want to practice as a 10-man group, rent a pair for an hour at the Showcase Lanes. (I believe you can do that with or without the coaching, which was the case last year in Baton Rouge.)
Jasnau said he would like to have worked something out with USBC to be the coach for the Showcase Lanes but that he could not give up his position as coach of Lane 81 to do that: "I love coaching here at the Stadium and working with the bowlers that come here for Nationals and other tournaments. I'll be staying on Lane 81 because USBC wanted all of its coaching to be done on the new Showcase lanes and I just didn't feel that it would be right for me to leave my position here to go downstairs and work for USBC, and then in a sense compete with the host center's coaching offerings that I've been a part of for so long. My goal here at the Stadium has always been to provide effective coaching at a high level and I plan to continue that."
Jason Overstreet, USBC managing director-marketing and communications, emailed me this statement from USBC:
"The primary reason USBC selected Matt McNiel as coach for the Showcase Lanes is we believe he will provide a great experience for our bowlers. The new lanes downstairs will be an eye-catching attraction with a luxury feel that everyone will be drawn to see. Matt brings an outgoing personality to compliment his bowling background making him a terrific fit as an ambassador for the Showcase Lanes concept and the USBC VIP program. Matt understands bowlers will have a wide range of brand preferences and will have product promotion events separate from coaching lessons.
"Mike Jasnau is a fantastic coach and we see great value in the experience he creates also. Last year coaching at the Open Championships became so popular, we couldn’t always meet the demand. With the USBC Open and Women’s Championship both in Reno, demand will likely be even higher. People are starting to realize that instruction before the Championships really pays off. Our hope is this rising tide will benefit all our partner coaches in Reno keeping them busy with business growing."
Based on the demand for coaching with Hall last year, that is likely and Jasnau and McNiel should both be busy in Reno.
Jasnau’s offerings at Lane 81 again will include lessons with video and CATS (Computer Aided Tracking System) analysis. Each person taking a lesson leaves with a DVD with audio containing Jasnau’s analysis and recommendations.
A package with CATS is $160 and takes about 90 minutes. A package without CATS is $110. Those who take a lesson also get a coupon for $10 off select Storm equipment.
Slots with Jasnau tend to fill up quickly, so reservations well in advance are recommended. They can be made by contacting Jasnau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-335-8841.
More details on Jasnau's offerings in Reno are included in this news release from Storm.
Our teams haven't finalized our plan yet, but I know we will be consulting with Jazz and will have a team practice session or two at home, getting work in on both Open Championships patterns before heading to Reno. Once we arrive, we'll likely bowl either one of the 900 Global side events (which have their own lane pattern) or the BTM 1-2-3 to get some work on the Open Championships team pattern, and a Bowlers Journal shift to get some work on the Open Championships minors pattern. I imagine one or more of our guys also will have a lesson with Jazz at Lane 81.