Social interaction is a big part of bowling and one of its greatest benefits. Some people have bowled together for 20 years or more.
Josh Jackson grew up with unusual nursery rhymes: “Nuts and bolts, we’ve been screwed! Call the cops, we’ve been robbed!” Jackson learned this song from his mother when he started bowling at age three. The song acknowledges a player who just knocked down all the pins except the corner one.
Now 21, Jackson still bowls, and works as an assistant manager at Grandview Bowling Lanes in Vancouver. “There is a song for everything in bowling,” Jackson says.
What makes this such a happy sport?
Social Benefits of Bowling
John Helliwell, a professor at the University of British Columbia, is the author of several books on well-being. He believes that people are happiest when they feel connected to society and engaged in their community. “People who connect more with other people, who spend more time with family and friends, are happier than others,” Helliwell says.
Social interaction is a big part of bowling, and it seems to be the main reason why people keep coming back to the lanes. Claude Chenier, the caretaker of Commodore Lanes and Billiards in Vancouver, believes that the design of the Commodore facilitates social contacts. “People come for that; they feel more together,” Chenier says. The lanes are close together, and there are benches to share. Bowlers can have drinks and socialize in the lounge area, which is decorated with bowling trophies and old black and white photos of smiling players throughout the years.
According to Professor Helliwell, “People want to come back to a place where they are doing things together–bowling works that way.”
League bowling in particular, where people come to bowl on a regular basis with an organized group, seems to facilitate social interactions. Jackson, who has played in a league since he was six, agrees. “The social aspect of the league is what I like,” he explains. “You get to meet all these people with different interests; people of all ages. You build connections. I have made tons of friends here.”
There has been a significant decrease in league bowling in the last 20 years, primarily due to the introduction of cosmic or glow-in-the-dark bowling, which creates a nightclub atmosphere and appeals to younger crowds on the weekend. Tammy Marino, manager of Grandview Bowling Lanes, used to see 25 different leagues at the centre in a given week. Now only 10 leagues are left. “We’ve gone from being mainly league focused to being mainly open play,” says Marino.
Yet there are still all kinds of leagues, from seniors’ leagues to ladies’ leagues, which accommodate bowlers of all ages. Anyone can join, regardless of their bowling abilities. Some of them are competitive, elite leagues. Others simply offer participants a chance to have fun and meet people.
It’s not unusual to find bowlers who have played in the same league at the same bowling centre for 20 years or more. Ken Hayden, owner of the Varsity Ridge bowling centre in Vancouver, claims that several bowlers have become romantically involved on the lanes and that league bowling is responsible for at least 20 to 25 marriages over the last quarter century.
At Varsity Ridge, it is easy to see that leagues are not about the game, but about the people involved. In early August of last year, members of the Golden Age League, for people 55 years old and over, gathered to celebrate Alma Smith’s 99th birthday. For the occasion, Smith, who has bowled for the last 35 years, received a bowling shirt with “The Great One 99” inscribed on the back. Smith bowls four times a week and enjoys the comfort of knowing everybody on the lanes. “It is a reason to get out,” Smith says. “You feel that you are not alone in the world.”