PARKERSBURG - In bowling, life may give you the 7-10 split but there is always another chance and another ball to knock down all the pins to come out ahead.
Bowling has remained a popular activity locally as both bowling alleys in Parkersburg, Emerson Lanes and Pike Street Lanes, continues to see good crowds regularly with a wide age range and continued league play. However, some local bowlers are worried as they have been seeing a decline in interest in the sport as electronic devices and more are vying for people's attention.
John Fazio, manager at Emerson Lanes, said many people come out to bowl regularly from children to senior citizens.
Casey Friese of Parkersburg bowls at Emerson Lanes in Parkersburg as part of a youth league. A number of younger people have taken up bowling, but some older bowlers feel more young people need to take up the sport or it might fade away. Friese is looking to eventually get a bowling scholarship to college. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
Cody Nelson of Parkersburg is one of a number of participants in a youth bowling league. Both male and female players play on coed teams locally and have participated in a number of tournaments. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
Derrick Bates of Parkersburg is one of a number of participants in a youth bowling league. The youth were practicing at Emerson Lanes in Parkersburg getting ready for regular competition in the coming months. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
"It has something for everyone," he said. "It is fun for all ages.
"For many, it becomes a lifetime activity."
Many families regularly come out and bowl, Fazio said adding many people also hold birthday parties and bowl. Many couples still come to bowl on a date and the bowling alley has hosted a number of high school kids after their proms have concluded, with many still in their formal wear and dresses.
"It is still an inexpensive way to have an evening out," he said. "It is also a very safe environment."
Duane Smith, co-owner of Pike Street Lanes, said they see people of all ages as they gear a lot of their activities to family outings, church groups, birthdays and big family get-togethers.
People don't have to be good at it to participate, Smith said adding many people just do it to have fun.
"It is an activity everyone can do," he said.
Smith said their busiest nights are Friday and Saturday where they can average between 200 and 600 people. During league nights during the week they can be 85 percent to 100 percent full.
They also regularly have around 300 seniors who bowl.
"They enjoy the exercise and getting out and meeting new people," Smith said.
Both alleys have people well into their 90s who bowl.
Emerson has a 94-year-old gentleman who comes out 3-4 times a week and bowls, Fazio said.
"Many seniors bowl because it is fun," he said. "It also helps get them out to socialize and make new friends."
One senior bowler, Sharon Seaman of Washington W.Va., has been bowling, on and off, for 40 years.
"It is just a fun sport for me," she said. "It provides many seniors with a chance to exercise."
For many seniors, bowling provides a chance to get out and be with other people. Seaman said.
"It is something to do," she said. "Otherwise they would be sitting at home by themselves.
"I think it is a great sport for people to get into."
Many seniors are involved in league play.
"We have leagues as high as 20-22 teams with four people on each," Seaman said. "That is like 80 people and they bowl 2-3 times a week, ages 59 to 95.
"It is amazing. Many 80-year-olds bowl 2-3 times a week. It is their social life."
Seaman and her husband, Bud, sponsor an annual bowling tournament, the Pap and Nana Tournament, to raise help raise money for Alzheimer's research.
"We have done it for three years," she said. "This past spring we raised $2,400, the highest amount we have ever raised.
"To me, it is very touching because there are a lot of seniors with Alzheimer's who bowl."
The routine of bowling helps many to focus and remain active.
"What better way to keep them going," Seaman said.
Jamie Friese of Parkersburg, who is the coach of a youth league and regularly bowls herself and in leagues, has been bowling, on and off, for 30 years.
"I like it because it is all about me," she said. "If I go up there and throw it in the gutter, it is all about me and only me.
"I just love to bowl no matter what. It is nice that when you are frustrated you can go and hit something and get by with it."
She likes the team environment because it is about who well the group performs as opposed to the individual.
"There really is no 'I' in 'team,"' Coach Friese said. "That is what we tell everyone. Everyone helps everyone else out.
"You don't have to try out for it to make the team. You can just come out, bowl and have a great time."
Coach Friese said there are a lot of good young bowler here in Parkersburg.
"We have kids here from PHS and South on the same team," Friese said. "A lot of these kids bowl all the time."
Ryan Patterson of Parkersburg just finished his freshman year at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois where he also bowled.
While in college, Patterson was averaging 40-50 games a week. Now that he is out for the summer, he is averaging 30-50 games a week in addition to other activities.
"I grew up in the bowling alley," he said. "My grandfather works at Pike Street Lanes. I have always had a bowling ball in my hands."
Bowling was always something his family did. He stayed with it, practiced and got good at it.
"It is fun and you get to meet a lot of cool people," Patterson said. "It is something anyone can do.
"You don't have to be super athletic. You don't have to be a certain height or a certain weight. You have guys and girls competing together. It is a great sport for everyone to do."
Nathan Brookover, 16, of Parkersburg has been around bowling all of his life.
"It is fun," he said. "All of my friends do it. It is a chance to get out and hang out and spend time with them.
"I have a new challenge every time. I am always trying to shoot 300 (which he has done a number of times.)"
Brookover has five 300s and three 800s.
Casey Friese, 13, Parkersburg who is Coach Friese's son, has been bowling regularly for three years.
"My mom and grandpa always bowled," he said. "We went out to Pike Street Lanes and I use to sit on the benches and watched them bowl.
"A few years ago I finally got the time between other sports in order to bowl. This is my third year bowling and I have accomplished a lot."
Bowling has become something of a passion for him as he is always striving to improve.
"I can bowl with my friends and it feels good when you bowl good," he said.
Some days are better than others, but there is always another chance to improve.
Casey said a lot of college level coaches come to high school tournaments. Next year he is planning to bowl for the team at Parkersburg South.
His mother said his goal is to eventually get a scholarship to college.
"In these tournaments you can get scholarship money," Coach Friese said. "It also gives the coaches on the college teams a chance to pick up a name.
"Some kids do football or basketball. He has figured out he can go to college on a bowling scholarship."
For all the opportunities bowling can provide, Seaman and Coach Friese said the sport does not seem as popular as it once was.
"We need more younger people because our older adult leagues are getting smaller and smaller because no one wants to commit to it," Coach Friese said.
Also, many kids are losing the ability to interact with others because of all the social media and electronic devices. Many don't go outside much anymore
"Kids don't really talk to each other anymore," Coach Friese said. "We got to get them back out."
Seaman is afraid bowling is beginning to fade away.
"I am starting to think that bowling is becoming a thing of the past because kids have too many hand held gadgets," she said. "This is a good sport.
"It gets people out, exercising and it gets them together with others."