Bowling 101: how bowling as a team works

Inside look at how bowling matches and tournaments function.


Sofia Tinker

ACHS bowling team chants before beginning a match.

Bowling matches and tournaments are more confusing than they may look because there are many rules bowlers must follow. Matches are against one team only, and they play two regular games where both teams stay with their team on a lane while the opponent is in the lane adjacent to them. 

Everyone gets 10 minutes to practice with their team and switch lanes halfway through. Both teams have five players and a substitute which differs from head coach Whitney Walsh’s playing days.

“It’s different from when I was in high school, so it’s taken me a minute to adjust but we can sub a girl in from the same level at any time after a finished frame,” Walsh said. “If I want to pull up a girl from JV and have her compete for varsity, it has to be at the end of the game.”

When the practice time is finished, both teams do a chant to start the match. Chants are said before every match and tournament to encourage the team. Afterward, each team starts to bowl when they are ready, but they must be aware of lane courtesy. According to Bowling Lane Courtesy Variations, lane courtesy is when a bowler has to wait for neighboring lanes to bowl their ball before going onto the wood, which helps ensure the best possible outcome for everyone participating

One person goes at a time in order until all five players have bowled for that frame. The two teams switch lanes until both games are finished. Then they play two baker games, which is when all five players bowl two frames all on one score.

The way scoring works for matches is there are nine total points available. Each standard game played is worth two points, and both baker games together are worth two points. The last three points are the total number of pins for the baker and regular games. Bowling matches are not easy to get the hang of, as junior Ugne Aleksaite, who joined bowling last year, was a bit confused initially.

“It is something I had to get used to,” Aleksaite said. “After a while, it was easier, and the games went by much faster.”

Tournaments are not much different because the rules are about the same though tournaments do not have baker games. Instead, each team plays six games. In the beginning, each team is announced one by one to line up for the national anthem. Like matches, tournaments also have ten minutes to practice before the games start. Most tournaments have every team switch lanes after every game. Almost all tournaments have a lunch break that begins once the last team finishes their third game. After the lunch break, everyone gets ten minutes to practice before the last three games are played. Once all games are finished, awards are announced to the top teams and players.

The way tournament scoring works is that the total amount of pins combined in the six games is the team score, and the total pinfall combined per person is an individual award. Typically, the top 10 to 15 players and the top three or five teams get medals.

Overall, bowling matches and tournament schedules may take some time to get used to, but once figured out, they are extremely fun to play and worth the math.