Article Contents

  • 1. Learn all you can about the tournament
    • 1.1. Is this tournament USBC sanctioned?
    • 1.2. Is this a handicap or scratch tournament?
    • 1.3. How much of your entry fee goes into the prize fund?
    • 1.4. What is the lane courtesy rule?
    • 1.5. Is there a dress code?
    • 1.6. How many games? Across how many lanes?
    • 1.7. What are the entry options?
    • 1.8. How many bowling balls can your bring?
    • 1.9. What is the oil pattern?
  • 2. Prep your bowling equipment
    • 2.1. Get your bowling balls ready
    • 2.2. Check your accessories bag
    • 2.3. Flying to the tournament?
  • 3. Learn about the tournament bowling center
    • 3.1. Where will the tournament take place?
    • 3.2. Visit the bowling center
    • 3.3. Practice!
    • 3.4. Research online
  • 4. Use visualization
    • 4.1. Goal-oriented
    • 4.2. Process-oriented
  • 5. Prepare and enjoy!

One of my students recently told me that she would soon be bowling in her first tournament and was dealing with three emotions: “Worry, followed by anxiety, and accompanied by all-out terror.” She asked me what she could do to overcome these feelings. A good question, indeed.

“Firsts” can be scary: first day of kindergarten, first date, buying your first car…these top the lists for many people. The first time you enter a competitive bowling event can also be scary, as casual bowling and competitive bowling can be two very different animals.

I was 12 the first time I was asked to join a league, and the invitation provoked much worry and self-doubt. Certainly, I thought, everyone was better than I was, and everyone was going to be staring at me. But it turned out that all the bowlers were beginners, just like I was, and all of them were too busy being self-conscious and anxious to waste time watching me. I survived.

Your first tournament may also provoke similar—possibly more intense—emotions, simply because tournaments are “on a bigger stage.” Unlike in league, this time you’ll be bowling with and against people you don’t know, so the safety net of familiarity may not be as strong. Sweaty palms and edgy nerves are not uncommon.

So, what can you do to ease the first-time jitters? How can you forget—at least as much as you can—that you’ve never done this before? How can you overcome the fear that you may violate some rule you know nothing about? How can you put aside concerns about your ability? One word: preparation.

Preparation is power. By knowing exactly what you’ll be dealing with, you’ll be able to dispel much—maybe most—of your anxiety. And so, as you prepare to bowl in your first tournament, start asking questions.

Learn all you can about the tournament

Before you even think about entering a tournament, read the rules carefully. Many of them are common sense, but there’s a chance some of them will be new and/or sound somewhat odd to you. Here are a few things to look for.

Is this tournament USBC sanctioned?

If it is not sanctioned, you won’t be receiving any awards when you bowl your first 300 game—or any other award, for that matter. True story: in 2014, one of my students, a young man who’d only been bowling for three years and was averaging just 201 in league, bowled a 900 series in a tournament, only to find out later that the event was ...

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Phil Regan

About Phil Regan

Phil Regan, a USBC-certified Silver coach, has been teaching bowling since 1964. Retired from corporate life, he coaches bowlers of all levels in the northern California area and competes on the PBA50 and PBA Regional tours. Phil can be found online at