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Is Bowling A Sport Or A Game?

One question debated through the years has been: Is bowling a sport or a game? Although a variety of opinions have been expressed, it is likely considered to be both a sport and a game, and also a recreational activity.

In my opinion, because the industry made a push to get bowling added as a demonstration sport in the Olympics many years ago, it thereby qualifies as a sport because of international athletic implications.

In 1988 at the Seoul Summer Olympic Games, bowling was an official demonstration sport for the first and only time. Unfortunately, only 20 nations competed in bowling during the 1988 Games held on September 18th at the Seoul Royal Bowling Center and the events were never adequately covered by television nor the media because of the demonstration status of the competition.

It is important to remember that all international competition has always been fiercely contested. Bowling is and has been an international competition and will likely continue to be for years to come. Because of this status, it can clearly be called a sport.

Although bowling has been the Number One participatory sport for many years, it is not a sport which provides inexpensive nor easy access to most youngsters in third world countries to develop skill and proficiency. If bowling merely required an open field and a ball and pins, it might be easier for young people to capture interest in the sport.

Bowling requires use of expensive facilities just to expose prospective athletes to the game. Bowling can also be expensive to pursue due to the cost of linage and equipment. Other than possibly golf, most Olympic sports are less expensive to pursue than bowling.

No doubt that if bowling ever became an Olympic sport the industry would grow and prosper because of the spotlight of international exposure and media attention. There would be a significant boost to the popularity and perception of the game around the world.

It would bring the world of bowling together to work at an initiative of which benefits would accrue to the game from inclusion into the Summer Games. No doubt the Olympic exposure certifies any athletic endeavor as a sport on the world stage.

The decline in participation in competitive bowling over recent years, as evidenced by the vast reduction of sanctioned league bowlers from nine million several years ago to 1.5 million bowlers today, does not help the industry create an aura of wealth. For this reason, bowling is likely considered only a game, a recreation, to most observers.

My real belief is that bowling does indeed qualify in levels of difficulty and with challenges to excel from a sport aspect, despite the perception of many people that bowling is merely a recreation.

No professional who ever competed regularly on PBA National Tour ever left the experience doubting that the touring players were highly skilled enough to be considered athletes.

Propelling a bowling ball at nearly 20 miles per hour with a precise axis of rotation down a 60 foot narrow lane, hitting a one inch sighting target, and knocking down 35 pounds of lumber is not necessarily the easiest undertaking on earth.

Bowling is a game which can be played as a competition at extremely high levels and considered to be a legitimate sport although it has been too quickly perceived only as a game or a recreation.


There is no question, that bowling is also merely a recreation when we go social bowling for fun with our friends and family where scores do not matter. Bowling is also a game because of bowler participation in literally thousands of leagues each week of the year.

Because of this casual aspect of bowling, it can be considered to be a recreation and a game. Because of the highly competitive aspect presented by the highest levels of fierce competition on the Pro Tour or in top Amateur tournaments around the world, it is also clearly a sport.

It is my hopes that bowling will one day experience a renaissance, a rebirth, and will flourish again at local levels and at national and international levels and one day become an Olympic sport.

For now, it will take a great deal of effort to encourage new bowlers to join our sport and get hooked on making bowling a permanent part of their lives.

The greatest ambassadors to the sport of bowling are ourselves. We can make a difference by dedicating our time in helping youth programs, in promoting the game, and encouraging bowling center proprietors to do the same. Long live the game and sport of bowling.

Rich Carrubba
bowlingball.com