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How To Join Your First Bowling League, Originally Posted: 6/6/2012; Updated: 7/17/2023

If you are a beginning bowler or a newcomer to the game and are interested in learning how to join your first bowling league, then there are a few steps you can follow to get started. Most new bowlers will join friends or family and participate in recreational or social open-bowling for fun and entertainment. Open bowling simply does not provide the level of competition as do leagues so learning how to join your first bowling league is an important step toward your advancement in the game.

One of America's most enduring past times is bowling. Bowling is a sport that almost anyone can play. Bowlers young and old and of all experience levels play side by side in the hopes of having fun, winning a competition, or rolling the perfect game. If you are interested in improving your bowling skills or bonding with colleagues, the best approach is to join a bowling league.

Here are a few simple guidelines to choosing the right type of league for your needs:

1. Shop around for the right bowling center for you before committing to league play. Most cities have at least two bowling centers to choose from and league players need to consider how convenient the location is for members of the team. Before signing up for a league, bowl a game or two at a potential center to get comfortable with the surroundings.

2. Check with the control desk personnel and ask to speak with the league coordinator or a league manager who is responsible for organizing bowling leagues and getting people signed-up for the coming league season. Ask if there are any instructional leagues available if you are in dire need of coaching prior to joining a competitive league with experienced players. Many centers offer free coaching sessions to bowlers who are signing up for a league.

3. Ask the league manager at your center of choice for a list of leagues scheduled to begin the next season. Try to find a league which needs a new bowler with your relative experience or skill level so you can join a team of compatibly experienced bowlers. Normally, joining a low team average handicap league is a great place for new adult bowlers to start.

4. Handicap leagues make competition fair and equitable for all league members. If you’ve never bowled in a league, don’t worry. Leagues assign you an average until you establish one or apply your initial average retroactively as soon as you bowl a few games. Handicap leagues allow you to plan and to compete against other bowlers with varying levels of skill and ability and have an equal chance of winning.

5. Once you decide to join a league, try and get together with your new teammates and practice a few games to familiarize yourselves with one another. Bowling in competition is easier when you are friendly and relaxed around your teammates as opposed to joining in competition with no prior experience and with people you have never met prior to beginning league play.

6. Speak with friends and family who may want to join your league team as an alternate. Teams will encounter illnesses and scheduling conflicts throughout the months that they are scheduled to bowl. Alternates can fill in for missing players on short notice.

7. Speak with each member of your new bowling league team to determine their goals for the upcoming season. You should ask if a particular member has a specific average score they want to achieve or a less specific goal that they want to work toward. Your understanding of each team member's goals is invaluable to ensuring everyone is having fun.

8. Consider investing in personal bowling balls, shoes and bags as a team. Personalized equipment, such as team shirts, can be made with matching colors and fonts to increase the spirit of teamwork while ensuring comfort during games. Bowling pro shops might offer discounts for a specific league or team purchases if you inquire accordingly.

9. If you have not found a league to join by asking bowling center personnel, utilize the internet to find a bowling league in your city. Web sites for major bowling chains such as AMF and Brunswick have search methods for interested bowlers. Search results will often give details about league requirements and fees along with a league officer contact information so you may inquire about openings for individuals or new teams.

10. Once you join a league, your league Secretary will help you join the United States Bowling Congress (USBC), the sanctioning body for bowling making the rules and regulations of play, and you will receive a sanctioning card to begin league competition.

The object of a league is to enjoy yourself and have some fun with your teammates and with others in your league. Handicap leagues usually bring out goodwill in most of the bowlers and an atmosphere of friendly competition emerges. Bowling in handicap tournaments as team events can be rewarding both by remaining competitive because of the handicap system and because of the enjoyment brought forth by competing for prizes or monies.

In time, if you become an accomplished bowler with a relatively high average, you can step up in levels of league competition and join more challenging leagues if you have outgrown the competitive status of your first league.

There are senior leagues for adults 55 years and older available at every bowling center in America. Of course, there are junior leagues for youngsters 18 years or less. In between are leagues for men, for women, and mixed leagues where you can bowl with family and friends at virtually every level of competition.

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