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Bowling: A game for all ages


Bowling is a great sport.  This game is shared by all ages, gender, and abilities and has been around for a very long time.  The first crude bowling game was found in Egyptian tombs almost 7,000 years ago.  In the third century, every German peasant carried a club similar to the Irish shillelagh for protection.  It became a customary symbol of faith in many churches.  A church member would set up his club or Kegel as a target and then roll a stone in an attempt to knock the pin down.  Bowling became a secular sport, the stone turned into a ball, and the multiple pins were added.  Bowling came to America in the 1600s and grew to become popular in the Eastern and Midwest states.  In the mid 1800s, bowling was outlawed because people thought it led to gambling.  People were able to get around the law by having ten pins replace the nine or having an alley in their private homes. In 1901, Chicago held the first national bowling tournament.  In 1918, a women’s league was formed.  In the mid 1950s, bowling grew more popular and machines took the pinsetters’ jobs.  In 1950s and 1960s, bowling became a popular television sport.  Today bowling is enjoyed by 95 million people in more than ninety countries worldwide and is considered a timeless sport.


Terms are important when talking about bowling.  Important vocabulary includes:


alley: The name given to the surface of the bowling playing area.


foul line:  The mark that determines the beginning of the lane.  Players may not cross the foul line when bowling.


frame: The name of the  throws in which scores are entered.


gutterball: A balls that goes in the depression on the outside of the lane.


lane: The playing surface on which the ball rolls.


perfect game: Twelve strikes in a row with a count of thirty pins per frame resulting in a perfect score of three hundred.


spare: Occurs when all the pins are down after the second ball.


spilt: A spare in which the headpin is down and the remaining combination of pins have an intermediate pin down immediately ahead of or between them.


strike: Occurs when all ten pins are knocked down on the first ball.


When teaching bowling, it is important to teach about bowling etiquette.  Just like being a part of a family, it is important that students use proper manners when bowling.  Some of the rules include:



Wait for the bowler to your right and left to deliver her ball if you are both bowling at about the same time.  Always offer to let the other person go first.



Remain behind your fellow bowler while she is bowling.  If not coaching or encouraging the player, sit down and watch your friend play.



Confine your bowling to your own lane. 



Observe the foul line, even in casual play.  Play fair. 



Never bowl in street shoes.  Always wear socks to avoid feet infections such as plantar’s wart or athlete’s feet.



Don’t use another person’s ball.  It is better to get two kinds of the same ball instead of sharing one ball. 



Don’t use bad language or swear.  This is not appropriate for children of all ages.





8.  Be ready when it is your turn.

9. Take turns with your fellow teammates. 


10. Remember everyone is at his or her own level.  Do not be afraid to use gutter guards for a new or special needs bowler.


11.  Make sure pins and machine are ready for you to put the ball down the lane.


12.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help from more experienced bowlers.  Be sure to not overwhelm new bowlers with obscure advice.


13.  Ask for help if machine is not setting up pins or recording the score correctly.  Don’t get mad, just ask for help. 


14. Keep refreshments out of the bowling area.  Go for healthy snacks if all possible.


15.  Give frequent encouragement, be competitive, but have FUN!


Bowling is a sport that requires lots of practice.  Here are some tips for teaching how to bowl in your lane.  Stand with feet close together and the ball held comfortably in both hands in front of the body.  A fifteen-degree angle is the key.  Always step first with your foot of your opposite hand.  If you are left-handed, step forward with the right foot, pushing the ball forward with both hands and a little to the right.  Step with the left foot, allowing the ball to swing alongside the left on it way into the back swing with one hand.  Step with the right foot.  The ball reaches the height of the back swing with this step. It should not go over sixty-degrees backward.  Step with the left foot and bowl the ball forward.  If you are right-handed, start with the left foot.  A four-step approach is mostly in throwing the ball.


There are two types of grips.  There is the conventional grip and the other is the fingertip grip.   In the conventional grip, fingers go in to the size of the joint and the thumb goes in all the way.  The conventional grip is used for a novice bowler.  The fingers go in three fourths in the hole.  The fingertip grip is for the advanced bowler.  Balls are made so that only the tips of the fingers are put inside the ball. When you are retrieving the ball after your first roll down the lane, be sure that you wait until the ball comes completely out of the machine. 


Bowling is a frontal motion with abduction, adduction as each ball is thrown.  Many upper body muscles are recruited in each ball that is thrown down the lane.  Some of the muscles use includes pectorals major, the latissmus dorsi, the serratus anterior, biceps, and triceps.  Secondary muscles include the quadriceps, biceps fermoris, leg and foot extensors and flexors. Good posture and form are important in execution of the ball.


Games are great to teach bowling.  Many toy companies provide inexpensive bowling pins and balls.  Teachers can also set up an alley in their classroom using small water bottles and a lightweight ball.  If you are using water bottles, be sure that if you are playing outside that you weigh down the bottles so that they are not knocked down by the wind.  Some games include:


Beanbag Bowling

Players use an underhanded throwing motion with the beanbag sliding toward the pins.  The object is to hit as many as possible.  Players should rotate between throwing and setting up the pins for the next bowler.  The winner is the player who knocks down the highest number of pins.  Challenge the players to knock down as many pins as possible.

Frisbee Bowling

This is just like bowling except that the pins are hit with a Frisbee instead of a ball.  Each player gets two throws per frame for ten frames for each game.  Players work in groups of two and take turns setting up the pins.

Soccer Bowling

Players are allowed two balls per frame for ten frames and the winners are the ones who hit over the most pins.  Regulation bowling rules or followed and players rotate between bowling and setting the pins up.  Dribble the ball with your feet instead of throwing it with your hands.


Aerobic Bowling

One partner begins, as the bowler and the other person stand ready to set up the pin.  When the bowler releases his ball, he starts running toward the pins ready to switch players with his partner.  The partner who set the pin up now becomes the bowler.  Play continues in this fashion throughout the game. 

King Pin

Materials: one hula hoop,  one playground ball and one bowling pin per team

Have the players pair into teams.  One partner is the guard, while the other partner starts as the roller.  Each team is given a hula-hoop, ball, and pin.  Each team places their hula-hoop anywhere on the gym floor and sets the pin up inside the hoop.  Do not have the pins near walls or corners.  Each goalie, whose job it is to defend against having their pin knocked down by opposing players, starts the game by standing outside their hula-hoop   ( they cannot go inside the hoop at anytime except to set up a downed pin.)  Each roller, whose job it is bowl and knocks down the opponent’s pins, begins with a playground ball and one foot inside their hoop.  On a starting signal, the roller bowls their ball while the guards defend their pins with their hands and bodies.  Since the hoops are scattered throughout the gym, shots can come from all angles.  Rollers can then leave their hoops to gather balls, but they  must return to their hoop and keep one foot inside before releasing a ball.  One point is scored each time their pin is knocked down.  The two team players keep a running score by adding and subtracting points throughout play.  Have the partners reverse halfway through each game.


Bowling Challenge

Set up a lane with ten pins.  Have children do various actions on each frame with two throws apiece. 

Frame 1 Roll the ball with a normal bowling approach using their dominant hand.

Frame 2 Roll the ball with your non-dominant hand.

Frame 3 Roll the ball through your legs.

Frame 4 Roll the ball through your legs backwards.

Frame 5 Close your eyes as you throw the ball.

Frame 6  Lie on the floor and push the ball with both hands.

Frame 7  Lie on the floor and push the ball with your feet.

Frame 8 Roll the ball without moving your feet.

Frame 9 Roll the ball in a kneeling or cross-seated feet position.

Frame 10 Roll the ball with a hopping approach.

Frame 11 Roll the ball with a skipping approach.

Frame 12 Bowl like an animal of your choice.

Bowling is an ageless sport.  It is the sport that lives through other fads and fancies. So if you are looking for a game to span all ages try bowling.






References for more information on bowling:


Bailey, Guy The Ultimate Playground and Recess Game Book, Educators Press, 2001


Bowling Etiquette


Bowling Math


Bowling Stretching


Bowling Stretching Part 2


Family Fun Bowling


History of Bowling


How to Keep Score


Mullen, Michelle, Bowling Fundamentals,  Human Kinetics :Champaign, IL,2004


Panegyrize, Robert P. and Dauber, Victor P. Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children, Ninth Edition, Mc Million Publishing Company, 1989



Special Olympics Bowling









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