Team Building Exercises Through Bowling

Bowling balls laying at the ball return in bowling alley during a team building activity.
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It's good to develop your own team-building exercises whenever possible. No outside consulting company knows your employees or your company culture as well as you do. You can do a variety of exercises or play a variety of sports as part of your team-building efforts. Some people are concerned about using sports for ​team building, but the event can be successful, even for non-bowlers.

Bowling Is a Team Sport

Although bowling is usually seen on television as an individual sport, it is more common for bowling to be enjoyed as a team sport. Most bowling alleys have league competitions for teams every night of the week and leagues for children on the weekend. While individual bowlers compare their scores against other individuals, bowling teams simply add their scores together and compare that against the other team's cumulative score.

It is easy to build on that team aspect of bowling to use it as a team-building exercise for your organization.

Building the Teams

The people you assign to a team will have to work together during the event to succeed. That determines how you assign them. For instance, if the finance department was to have a bowling-based team-building exercise, they would have to decide whether to make the teams along the functional lines—an Accounts Payable team, an Accounts Receivable team, a General Accounting team. This structure could strengthen teamwork within those groups. Or, you can consider making teams with members of the different functional groups to build teamwork within the department as a whole.

Try to balance the teams. If you have a few good bowlers, make sure you distribute them among the teams. Make sure you balance athletes versus non-athletes across the teams as well. The people with bowling experience or athletic skills will need to help their teammates. That's what team building is all about—the people with a particular skill helping their team when it needs that skill.

Getting Ready

First, select a location. Pick a bowling alley that is conveniently close to the office or in a location that everyone can easily find. Most bowling alleys of any size have some sort of foodservice and in some, it's quite good. Many also serve some sort of alcohol and most are non-smoking establishments.

Some alleys have a specific person on staff whose job it is to help coordinate parties and events like team building. If you don't know an appropriate bowling alley, ask around. The bowlers in a local organization can recommend a place or two and then you can check them out.

Bowling requires special shoes that allow the bowler to slide when throwing the ball and that won't scratch the wood floors of the bowling alleys. Bowling alleys rent those shoes and they are usually included in the prices they quote for team building events.

Your bowlers may have their own bowling balls, but the bowling alley will have a selection for the other participants to use. Bowling balls vary in weight from about 10 pounds to a maximum of 16 pounds. Bowlers should pick a ball that's weight is easily controlled. It is not necessary to pick the heaviest ball. Make sure the ball you select will slide easily off your fingers when thrown but is not so loose as to fall off on your backswing.

Encourage the experienced bowlers in your group to help the novices. Doing this will help build leadership abilities.

Different Bowling Games for Team Building

Most bowling alleys now have automatic scoring systems that keep track of each bowler's score and totals. The easiest team building event would be to have each team bowl three games and add up their scores for each player for all three games. You can easily vary by adding different styles of games.

For example, during game one, everyone bowls normally. With game two they switch to their opposite hand—righties bowl left-handed and lefties bowl righty. For the third game, pins knocked down only count if they exceed the frame number.

The automatic scorers will total the first two games for you, but you'll need someone on each team to keep track of scores for game three.

Reinforce Team Building with Awards

Decide ahead of time what awards to hand out at the conclusion of the event. Identical prizes should be given to all team members of the team with the highest score and of the second- and third-place teams.

You may want to award a few individual prizes for the highest score in each game. Humorous awards like most improved, worst bowler, lowest score, can lighten the mood as well as give you a way to include more non-bowlers in the prizes.

The Bottom Line

A bowling-based team-building exercise can work for your people. It provides positive reinforcement of teamwork and lets them build interpersonal relationships that can help on the job.