North American Bowling News

In An Era of Declining Bowling Participation, the Game of Skittles Doesn't Lose a Step

Past 'Division 2' league winners, England's Boars Head team (Photo courtesy of the Berkeley and District Skittles League)

In our high-tech, modernized society of smart- phones, super computers, fast cars, and a general fixation on appearance, the sport of bowling has naturally made strides to attempt to fit into the modern culture. Unfortunately, if not handled gradually and with foresight, and if bowling evolves too quickly, a lot of the game's substance is lost when newer generations are introduced to the sport. Not to mention the fact that when more technology is introduced into a 'blue-collar' game, the more a factor 'money' plays into the equation, and after a while, it can become too expensive for the average person to go out with friends and family to have fun with the addictive game of bowling.

Overseas in the vicinities of England and Ireland, the game of Skittles appears to have neglected technology, and as a result, coincidentally, has maintained its lofty status in everyday society. The "small ball" 9-pin bowling variation is played in pubs without the use of automatic pinsetters, nor fancily constructed backdrops and adornments, yet the game is still going strong. Amazingly, one of its leagues, the Berkeley and District Skittles League (formed in 1957), is comprised of approximately 900 players. Each team fields 8 bowlers per match, and there are at least 7 alternates per team. There is no limit to the number of members on a team (there's one team in the league with a 28-player roster). Including alternates for each team, the Berkeley and District Skittles League is composed of over 2000 available members!!

The league uses nearly 20 different pubs and clubs within an 8-mile radius to accommodate its 110+ teams (spread amongst 7 divisions), scheduled over the course of 3-4 days to complete each week's matches. League duration is approximately 30 weeks.

Skittles leagues are treated as casual and fun outings, but they do adhere to a strict set of league rules. They don't play for much money at all, but rather they compete for trophy awards to the higher finishing teams and individuals. Perhaps we can learn a basic lesson from our overseas neighbors— when a game maintains its basic simplicity, it thrives and survives.

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