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Many geeky kids don’t ever want to get into ‘sports’ as a category. The aggression tied into some sports may turn them off, or the competition that can lead to teasing may make the socially awkward shy away. Most traditional youth sporting leagues (baseball, football, soccer) often are not the right atmosphere for kids with the nerd gene.
But bowling is different.
Bowling is a thinking person’s sport. It’s a sport grounded in a very simple concept – roll a heavy ball down a lane and knock down pins. It’s also a sport filled with the kind of science that can make geeks drool. Did you know:
Modern bowling balls use various symmetrical or asymmetrical cores to induce different rotational motion through the length of the throw.
- The bowling balls also use differing surface materials to induce a variety of reactions with the lanes, allowing the ball motion to change depending upon the core, and the lane surface conditions. It is acceptable to change the friction of the surface of a bowling ball with sand paper.
- The lanes are coated with oil. The oil may be laid out in patterns that vary in width, length, and thickness, and which will require bowlers to understand how those conditions will cause the bowling balls they use to act.
- Because the most effective path for a bowling ball is a curve, learning how to throw a bowling ball well teaches a bowler to think spacially, and understand geometry.
- The ability to roll a bowling ball effectively (roll as many strikes as possible, make the spares you leave) requires thought, strength, accuracy, and endurance.
There’s more. A lot more. So much more than anyone who has ever just bowled because of a birthday party, knows.
It’s also a very inclusive sport. You know how kids get benched in little league or basketball? That doesn’t happen in bowling. You know how teams are often segregated to boys and girls leagues? That doesn’t happen in bowling. If you can find a bowling alley (commonly referred to as a ‘house’) near you with an active youth program, there will be leagues for kids just starting out, kids getting comfortable with the game, and kids who are as good at bowling as any of us can hope to be.
Not unlike golf, bowlers carry an average that denotes their level of skill. When they bowl in leagues or in tournaments that allow it, they get additional pins added to their score, so that their ultimate result represents how well they did against their current level of ability. This is the PERFECT way for kids to grow into a sport, because as long as they keep working at it, their progress will always be rewarded. Ultimately, like golf, they can become “scratch” players; good enough that they don’t need extra points added to their scores.
Kids can bowl competitively through high school, and bowling is even a collegiate sport. There are sponsorships at the local, state, and national levels available for talented players. Women’s bowling is NCAA-certified.
So, if you’ve got a kid who doesn’t fit into the standard proto-jock sporty-kid mould, consider finding an alley near you and see if they have a youth program.
Here’s a crazy note, too: bowling is the most popular participatory sport for adults in the US. It just doesn’t get a lot of love on TV these days. There was a time, back from the ’60s up and into the early ’80s when televised bowling was bigger than college basketball or even college football. It kind of faded from the national consciousness as a spectator sport, even if everyone was still playing. But it continues to be a lifetime sport – you can start bowling at age 5, and keep bowing for as long as you can stand and swing your arm.
For more info, check out youth bowling at the USBC, or search out the alleys in your area, and find out if they have strong youth programs.