By: Maurice Ware
The smell of fresh oil being spread. The thud of bowling balls hitting the lane.
The loud crashing when the balls collide with the pins, causing them to perfectly explode leaving none remaining. The cheers of friends, families, and teammates. The competitive nature.
These are all things that bring a smile to my face every time I walk into a bowling alley.
As someone who grew up around the sport of bowling and was in a bowling alley almost every weekend, this sport brings up memories of fun times bowling with my parents, playing hide and seek and tag in the parking lot with some of my closest friends, and also some of my greatest sporting accomplishments. Bowling is what helped me get through the social isolation since March 2020.
Sports have been used throughout history to provide civilizations with a way for people to exercise, for entertainment, and for relief from stress. This relief has become even more important during these days of COVID lockdown, and now recovery.
The coronavirus left much of the world stressed, lost, and, in some cases, lonely. In 2020, with no warning, the world was suddenly closed off and left alone in the face of fear from a deadly pandemic. We were advised against seeing our loved ones and spending time with those we don’t live with.
Now it’s more than a year later and our society is living life day by day, adjusting to the unknown. For many that causes a lot more stress than they are normally used to. This unusual amount of stress has caused a spike in mental health cases. But it is important to remember that even in a world of chaos and unknowns, we must find things to make us happy.
“Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood,” psychologists Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, and Melinda Smith wrote in an article on the nonprofit health site, Help.org titled The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise in October 2020.
Endorphins are neurochemicals created by the central nervous system that are released during pleasurable activities such as exercise and help reduce stress and anxiety.
As the world starts to slowly open back up, and we look for things to enjoy with friends and family, don’t forget about your local bowling alleys. Although you may still have to wear a mask when you bowl in some areas, these alleys provide a place for you to relax, clear your head, get some exercise, and enjoy friendly competition between your friends and loved ones while still following COVID guidelines.
Bowling is not only a way of getting physical exercise - it also exercises the mind. In fact, bowling is very similar to playing chess: You go in with a game plan, but if that game plan doesn’t work you have to figure out what will. Every bowler has a style they are comfortable with; some play straighter while others throw balls with huge hooks.
There are several different oil patterns that can be placed on the lanes that cause the bowling balls to react in different ways. For example, when lanes have a lot of oil on them (otherwise known as being “flooded”) it’s more likely that the bowling ball is going to slide more and you won’t see a ball hook too much.
As you continue to bowl, the oil starts to dry up and shift around and you’ll see a much bigger hook. Learning how to “read the lane” and react is what makes you a better bowler; it will determine which ball you should use (because they all do something different) and where you should roll the ball to come out with the most-effective results.
It’s all about your approach, making adjustments and staying ahead of the changes in the lane, which is why I love it. No matter what’s going on in the outside world, bowling clears my head because it’s so much to focus on while competing - so there’s no room for outside distractions.
Urban Health Media Project contributor Maurice Ware graduated in 2020 from Rowan University in New Jersey, where he was a broadcast journalism major and a defensive tackle on the football team.