Whatever tactics bowling alleys are taking to lure young customers, they’re working. According to White Hutchinson, a consulting firm that creates compelling leisure and recreation venues, more than one-third of all children age 6 and older bowled in 2007. And those who are convinced that their daughters won’t like bowling would be surprised to learn that 46 percent of bowlers are women.
“Everyone can bowl. Not very many people are that good at it, but on the surface it’s a relatively simple game,” says Derek Dobson, who runs one of the bowling leagues at The Gutter in Williamsburg.
The key to a successful bowling experience, like in any sport, is solid fundamentals. Children will need a ball that fits their hands and isn’t too heavy. They’ll also need to learn the proper stance, arm swing, approach, and release. Taking lessons from a certified bowling coach will help ensure that your young bowler doesn’t pick up bad habits.
Parents might also want to call ahead to the lanes where they plan to bowl to see if the bowling center has youth programs after school. The chosen bowling alley should also have children’s balls, shoes, bumpers for those who throw gutter balls on a regular basis, and accommodating hours. Families might have a better experience bowling during specific times when kids dominate the clientele.
“Bowling is a unique sport, too, in that the parents can play right along with their kids,” Beck says. “It offers kids the opportunity to challenge themselves as they attempt to master the skills necessary to be consistent in making spares and rolling strikes.”
Those who still can’t banish the image of that cinematic, pudgy ’70s-era bowler should remember that there are physical benefits to the sport as well. The Bowling Proprietors Association of America reports that bowling burns roughly 240 calories per hour while strengthening and toning the bowler’s arms, shoulders, and chest as well as leg muscles. Bowling also improves heart and respiratory fitness, increases endurance while maintaining bone density, and speeds up your metabolism.
Unlike other sports, children may not even realize they are improving their physical fitness. “After all,” Beck says, “what kid doesn’t like to knock things down?”
Check out our list of the best bowling alleys in the NYC area for families: