Written By: Elliot Allen
The sport of Bowling in recent years has been considered a dying sport with its best years far behind. The popularity has decreased immensely. Its television exposure has been pretty much non-existent, certainly not to the level of its past glory days. .......
The bowling alleys which were a staple in neighborhoods are now dwindling in some areas to the point of complete extinction. Years ago it was not uncommon for neighborhoods to easily have a choice of 3 or 4 bowling alleys to go have fun bowling. At that time, even with there being plenty of bowling houses it was still not easy to get a lane on any given night due to fully stocked leagues and just the popularity of an evening of bowling.
As we fast forward through the years, things have changed quite a bit. I believe the change is so much more than meets the eye. In order to really see the changes we have to take a close look at what the sport of bowling is about and represents!
Here at MentalConditioningSports.com we of course look at the physicality’s involved in sports but we really dissect and examine the mental aspects of sports. While bowling may not be as fast paced a sport as some of the others, the mental strength it requires is comparable to any other sport in the world. As a matter fact, it’s my personal contention that progressing in bowling builds mental muscle in ways many other sports don’t quite measure up.
My passion for bowling dates back 40 years. Along with basketball, bowling was the first sport to gain my heavy attention and attraction. I vividly recall Saturday afternoons watching the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) which was followed by ABC’s Wide World of Sports which was wildly popular at that time. I was around 4 years old and I would so look forward to Saturday at 3:30 pm to tune into bowling! I was too young to fully understand when exactly the season began or ended. However my Father would alert me “Bowling season is starting in 2 weeks”. Once it began I would be in my living room every Saturday at 3:20 setting up my toy bowling set and polishing my toy bowling balls to compete with the professionals on the telecast! I remember my brother, who is 5 years older than me, coming in and using game boards with my pins to simulate the noise the pins made when they crashed into back of the bowling lane. God Bless my parents for putting up with all that noise. The first 30 seconds of the bowling telecast were so highly anticipated because you got an opportunity to see which bowlers made to the show. I prayed my favorite bowler, the legendary Hall Of Famer Earl Anthony, was competing. It would be a perfect Saturday if he made the show with Marshall Holman, Mark Roth, Mike Aulby, Big Steve Cook, Pete Weber and Walter Ray Williams Jr. just to name a few.
Early on I enjoyed and understood the mental aspect of bowling. As I watched these bowlers and I bowled with my toy set with them I was fully aware of how difficult the sport was. I marveled at the adjustments physically that had to be made to throw the ball down the lane and hit the desired target. Also to see them do this with machine-like consistency was mind blowing to me. Equally fascinating and eye opening was the fact that these pro bowlers would at times miss their mark by inches or they would throw a perfect shot and just get a bad break and not strike. The interesting part was how I saw them mentally regroup and block out the last shot and make a quality shot in the very next frame.
It’s funny, as I am writing this I realize how important it was for me to be bowling in my living room along with those pro bowlers. This experience was great for me at an early age I was able to realize how difficult it was to roll down across the living room floor and hit the pins where I wanted. I had to learn how to make adjustments to get the ball to hit the pins the way I wanted. If I was “bowling” against Mark Roth and he got a strike I felt I had to match him! If I did not match him I realized it was important to mentally regroup and get ready for next frame. If I didn’t do that I would throw a bad shot for the next 4 frames and “bowling” against Mark Roth he would beat me pretty bad. Yes I did my own score!!
As the many years have gone by my love for the sport has remained steadfast. That love has transferred down to my kids. My sons enjoy the game immensely. It has been an awesome mental journey to watch them progress physically and mentally through their bowling. They both started bowling around the age of 4 (their 3 years apart) and have bowled league since about 5 years old. When they start in the league the beginners start out on lanes 1 and 2. As they get older or better the lane number they bowl on increases. The look on their faces as they progress from lane 1 to lane 21 is such a surreal experience. You can see their mental progression developing as they crave that advancement and build their minds to get it. Incorporating skills with mental skill fully dictates their progress in bowling. Bowling has also been a tool in my parenting tool box. The sport clearly provides so many examples of progression we must implement in real life situations to maximize progression. Let’s not forget the main component of the game which is flat out FUN!!! Bowling crosses the lines of all races, genders, ages and beliefs. Everybody on the lanes is just having fun and enjoying the competition and connection of all bowling! So what has happen to the sport in modern day?
In the electronic gaming era it certainly has taken the element out of going out for activities. Most kids certainly prefer to stay at home and play with their electronic gaming systems than to go out to a bowling alley. For that matter even adult’s fall into same line of thinking. With the further advancement of online interactive play, people are even more inclined to compete with others virtually rather than in person. Yes this includes bowling. Bowling can be played in quite realistic simulated electronic gaming systems. Individuals can bowl online against others in the comfort of their homes. Certainly no cost for bowling shoes there. However with all that said there is no replacement for lacing up those bowling shoes and grabbing that bowling ball and throwing it down the lane and hearing the sound of the pins crashing down. There is nothing like the comradery of competing as a team in a tournament or league play. Nothing compares to using your own physical skill and mental strength to figure out lane conditions and throw a high score. That experience can be often imitated by gaming system but never duplicated in essence.
So how do we bring back the glory days of bowling? Stay tuned for Part 2.
BRINGING IT BACK…..