By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator

When it comes to sport, you might thrive on head-to-head competition or seek to play for the social benefits. Five-pin bowling not only checks both those boxes, but is a sport you can play year-round for decades.

“The concept of Sport for Life applies very directly to the sport of five-pin bowling,” said Lorne Sproule, Technical Director of the Manitoba Five Pin Bowling Federation. “You can basically play the game from the time you’re four years old until you’re 104 years old.”

As we move toward a safe return to sport, the local five-pin bowling community has a lot to offer Manitobans while keeping activities safe.


Learning the Basics

Five-pin bowling is a Canadian sport invented in Toronto, Ontario, where the pins are worth different points.

The head pin is worth five. Each pin on either side of it is worth three, and the corner pins are each worth two for a total of 15 possible points each frame.

The bowling balls are relatively small, light, and easy to grasp, making it accessible to kids, adults, and seniors alike.

When a young bowler is just starting out, it’s about teaching them the basics.

You put them at the foul line and show them with the dots on the lanes where their feet are supposed to be and get the ball in their hand and show them how hand-eye coordination works,” said Deanne Zilinsky, Executive Director of the Manitoba Five Pin Bowling Federation.

From there, as they progress in age or through the different skill levels, they can go from a two-handed throw into the one-step approach, and eventually the three-step approach and the slide.

“It’s a very gradual progression, especially when you’re working with a new bowler at a young age,” said Deanne.


A Sport You Can Do At Any Age

Apart from learning the rules and skills of the game, Lorne said it’s good exercise.

“It’s particularly good exercise for kids and seniors, because it helps you focus on your balance and your focus in delivering a ball to the same target over and over, and is a fairly easy game to learn,” said Lorne.

“It’s tougher and tougher as you want to get better and better and if you want it compete at a national level, but it’s also a sport where virtually anyone can succeed.”

Lorne has also coached and run clinics for seniors.

“I remember a couple years ago [coaching] a couple of ladies who were cousins, they were 81 or 82 years old. They were so determined to beat one another, but they were having trouble throwing strikes. It was basically to do with the fact that the were using their arms more than their legs. When they got to use their legs a little bit, even though they had some mobility issues, they were able to drive the ball with their lead leg. That gave them a little more power at the far end without throwing the ball harder,” said Lorne.


Personal Achievements

So what is the goal for a five-pin bowler?

It really depends on each person. But Deanne said if you talk to any competitive five-pin bowler, one of the major achievements is to bowl a perfect game of 450.

Deanne has been involved in five-pin her entire life and has achieved this goal.

“I really used to thrive on the competitiveness. When you’re going into a national championship and you’re playing for three days of competition and you’re playing sometimes 21 games in three days — that’s a lot of play. And you’re playing head-to-head match play. You want competitive? You got competitive. That’s not for everybody, but it certainly was for me,” said Deanne.

Ultimately, there’s personal accomplishments up for grabs for everyone, no matter your skill level.

“You can have a personal achievement of bowling a perfect game. You can have a personal achievement of graduating from league level play or open play to competitive level play, or a personal achievement in the Master Bowlers’ Association of Manitoba from teaching division to tournament division,” said Deanne.

Five-pin has also worked closely with Special Olympics Manitoba.

“Special Olympics have said out of all of their sport variants, that five-pin has had the most participation,” said Deanne.

Of course, many people just want to get out there for the fun of it.

“You can bowl with your family, you can bowl with your friends. You can bowl on your own in whatever context you like. If you’re simply looking for some social interaction, you can go and bowl in a social league,” said Lorne.


Opportunities to Grow: Manitoba Bowling School for Youth and Coaching Development

Lorne has been coaching since the early 90s and has been a certified competitive coach for more than 10 years. He has led his teams to many national medals, including more than 20 with his program out of Dakota lanes.

As the Technical Director, he runs the Manitoba Bowling School for Youth and Coaching Development: a three-day program designed to develop coaches and young bowlers through mentorship.

While last year’s bowling school was cancelled due to COVID-19, Lorne is hopeful they’ll be able to hold the next one this August.

Essentially, the bowling school is a kind of workshop where mentors work with the participants. Bowlers improve as athletes and coaches develop their coaching skills.

“It’s not necessarily going from being an average bowler to being a champion bowler. It’s taking the next step to become the best that you can be – whatever that happens to be,” said Lorne. “Same thing with the coaches. They’d learn the techniques and tricks that those mentors have had success with at national tournaments.”

Each day, they head to a different bowling centre. This way kids can get the feel for the atmosphere at other bowling lanes.

Any Youth Bowl Canada (YBC) member or coach who has taken a community level coaching course can attend the bowling school.

In the past, there have been participants from across the province, including bowlers from Minnedosa and Thompson and coaches from Gimli.

And while the school is targeted toward ‘improve your bowling’ for youth, Lorne said there’s potential down the road to add a ‘learn to bowl’ component and possibly offer this kind of school to adults, too.


Five-pin: A Warm Community

When it comes to the environment of the sport, many of the bowling centres in Manitoba are family owned. Deanne said it creates an open, friendly space with no judgement.

I think that makes a big difference in today’s society and today’s culture,” said Deanne. “When you walk into a bowling centre and it’s family owned and operated, I feel there’s different level of community.”

“I know for myself, walking into many bowling centres in Canada, it doesn’t matter if I would go to a national championship as a coach or a player, it could be 10-15 years apart, but you walk into that bowling centre, and it’s like you’re walking into another home again. Because these people are like family, they offer the greatest service and they remember who you are,” said Deanne.


Safe Return to Play

As we know, many parts of life look different right now, including sport.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, five-pin bowling has protocols in place that will allow Manitobans to enjoy a safe return when the time comes.

Five-pin is definitely one of the safest sports to return to,” said Deanne. “People come in wearing masks and all the sanitization protocols have been taken, such as hand sanitizers, and the balls are cleaned after every use.”

To add some extra separation between groups of people, a lot of the bowling centres have also purchased lane shields.

Lorne said the proprietors have done a marvelous job in terms of maintaining social distancing.

“Bowling is not a largely physical contact sport anyway – about the biggest physical contact you get is a high five and when we were able to get going again in the first part of the fall [last year], you’re able to eliminate that from the process.”


Getting Involved

The good news is, if you want to take up five-pin, Lorne said it’s one of the easiest sports to get involved in.

“You simply have to show up at a bowling alley, talk to a proprietor, and they will get you involved in a league or if you desire coaching, whatever you need,” said Lorne. “It is one of the least-expensive sports to play. You rent shoes and the bowling balls are on the racks, you don’t have to own your own balls. You have no major investment other than your time and your effort.”

As five-pin is a Canadian sport, Lorne said it’s also of interest to New Canadians who are looking to try something unique.

“When you have multi-generational families, you have kids, parents and grandparents, and it’s a sport they can all play. It’s something they can all learn how to do and have fun,” said Lorne. “And that’s the sole biggest thing. When we work with kids, we stress two aspects. One, we want you to have as much fun as you can possibly have. Secondly, we want you to achieve at the optimum level at which you can achieve.”


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