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Back to school means back to being busy, but it’s also a great time to get your kids involved in some extracurricular activities. Youth sports like soccer, football, basketball and gymnastics are popular with many families, but a sport you may not have considered is bowling. Youth bowling leagues are currently forming all over the state of Arkansas, and it’s a fun sport for the whole family.
The popularity of bowling was at an all-time high in the 1960s, and while participation wavered over the next few decades, it was still a favorite pastime of many. In 2014, families in particular began to rediscover bowling, and the sport began to grow. Bowling grew from a $4 billion industry in 2014 to over $10 billion in 2018. And it keeps on growing. In fact, growth is expected to rise another 6% in 2022.
Bowling is one of the most inclusive, widely-available and family-friendly sports out there. Bowling is perfect for all ages and all abilities, and it’s relatively inexpensive to get involved. Lane fees include all the equipment you need, and there are nearly 30 bowling alleys all across Arkansas, so there is likely an alley near you.
Bowling is the perfect activity for families. Games are relatively short in duration, and everyone can play together. Ramps and bumpers are available for younger bowlers to help to boost their confidence. No gutter balls!
Bowling leagues are a staple of many bowling alleys and allow participants to compete with other bowlers, earn a league ranking and handicap, and start working to beat their personal best scores. In youth bowling, bowlers are matched with children of the same age and skill level and work with coaches every week to improve form and skill. League and state tournaments are available, and participants can earn scholarship money. What other youth sport pays you to play?
The youth scholarship program is one of the main things that drew me to get my son involved in bowling. We were looking for an activity he could participate in but the cost and time commitment to join the local youth soccer league was much more than we needed for our 5-year-old. Bowling was the answer.
Here in Arkansas, the youth bowling leagues have a fall and spring season. Your seasonal entry fee includes two to three games of bowling each week (depending on age), shoes, a ball and access to coaches who assist students with skill building. The best part is that most of the youth bowling leagues in Arkansas are returning a fair portion of those entry fees through their generous scholarship program.
Students who participate throughout the season are eligible to compete in various state youth tournaments, including local league tournaments. Prize funds are awarded as scholarships through the United States Bowling Congress. The United States Bowling Congress awards scholarships through SMART, which manages and tracks the funds, dispersing them to your child once they have graduated high school. Funds can be sent directly to a post-secondary educational institution or may be requested as a reimbursement of tuition, textbooks or required supplies and/or equipment such as a computer. Funds may also be used toward off-campus housing and student loan debt. SMART also matches Pell Grant funding dollar for dollar as an added bonus to eligible students.
In my son’s first year of youth bowling, we watched him learn new skills, gain confidence and build friendships with other bowlers. He learned sportsmanship, courtesy and kindness. Additionally, he was awarded over 90 dollars in scholarship money that will be waiting for him when he graduates high school. Plus, when he’s not bowling with the league, we can enjoy bowling together as a family.
2022-2023 youth leagues are currently forming across the state, and most begin fall play in mid-September. The easiest way to get involved is to visit your local bowling alley and ask about youth bowling. While not all bowling alleys participate, many do and if your local bowling alley doesn’t, parent volunteers like you are needed to get a league started. Practice typically takes place on Saturday mornings and usually lasts about 90 minutes. Optional tournaments are located across Arkansas but offer a fun way to test your skills against other youth bowlers and the opportunity to add scholarship dollars to your SMART account.
If you aren’t sure if bowling is right for your child, the Kids Bowl Free program is the perfect way to ease into the sport. Each summer, bowling alleys across the country offer kids the opportunity to bowl two FREE games every single day. Most participating lanes also offer highly discounted family passes that make bowling super affordable so the entire family can join in. Find participating Arkansas lanes here.
Conway Family Bowl – Conway
1010 E. Oak Street
Conway, AR 72032
AllFam Bowling – Cabot
2350 Lakewood Dr
Cabot, AR 72023
Bowling World – Ft. Smith
6100 S 36th St
Fort Smith, AR 72908
Hijinx – Jonesboro
3102 Shelby Dr
Jonesboro, AR 72404
Millennium Bowl – N. Little Rock
7200 Counts Massie Drive
Little Rock, AR 72113
Oddball Social – Harrison
116 Hwy 43 E
Harrison, AR 72601
Ozark Lanes – Fayetteville
2300 N College Ave.
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Professor Bowl – Little Rock
901 Towne Oaks
Little Rock, AR 72227
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