Bowlers Behaving Badly – Part 1

Bowlers Behaving Badly - Part 1

It has often been said that there is no defense in bowling. To an extent, this is true: you roll the ball, you attempt to make the pins fall, and once that ball has left your hand, you’re nothing more than an observer.

However, since we acknowledge the importance of the mental game in our sport, we must also acknowledge the potential distractions caused by the behavior of our fellow bowlers. These can be either intentional or unintentional, although both can throw us off our game. Additionally, there are equipment and lane manipulation techniques—some legal and some not—that can affect your pinfall no matter how well you execute your shots.

In this series, we are going to be looking at a plethora of bowler behaviors. Each behavior will first be discussed and classified, and then solutions for dealing with each behavior will be proposed.

Defining our terms

Before we delve into specific bowler behaviors and actions, let’s define our three categories of behaviors.


For our purposes, sportsmanship involves one bowler pitting his or her skill against another’s. At the end of the league session, whoever executed better and more consistent shots, made more spares, left less splits, and made faster and better adjustments, will be the winner. The bowler who employs sportsmanship is aware of any gamesmanship around him or her, but chooses to focus on executing quality shots, rather than also resorting to distraction tactics. It’s a straight-up contest designed to bring out the very best bowling skills we possess and to leave it all out there on the lanes.

One could argue the need for a category of “poor sportsmanship.” However, for the purposes of this article and our discussion, I am including all intentionally distracting behaviors—such as intentionally poor sportsmanship—under the category of gamesmanship.


Gamesmanship involves doing something to another bowler in order to create an advantage for yourself. Usually, this implies a need to compensate for one bowler’s potential lack of skill versus his or her opponent, in order to either level the playing field or tilt it in a favorable direction. Gamesmanship may or may not be illegal, but it certainly is not the same as sportsmanship.


An action classified as “neither” falls into the gray area between sportsmanship and gamesmanship. Intent is the determining factor: if a behavior creates an advantage for one bowler over another, but was not done intentionally, this would ...

Joe Hoenig

About Joe Hoenig

Joe Hoenig is a USBC Silver coach and a graduate of the Dick Ritger Bowling Camps. A Licensed Master Social Worker by profession, Joe works full-time as a Clinical Trainer and Educator for a health insurance plan and takes his love of teaching and bowling onto the lanes, coaching both youth and adult students of all ages and skill levels. Additionally, Joe is a volunteer coach for the Suffolk County, NY Bowlympics youth travel league, which calls South Levittown Lanes its home.