Singles Youth Scratch

Detroit Summer Junior Sport Challenge illustrated innovation


An interesting side benefit of Sport Bowling is that it is encouraging bowlers to think beyond the same old competitive formats. A great example is the Summer Junior Sport Bowling Challenge at Sunnybrook Lanes in Sterling Heights, Mich., a league that evolved to address challenges that arose out of the Detroit area's adult Sport Bowling program.


"You can't put a price on the experience you gain," league bowler Brandon Tarabeck said. "It's immeasurable. I know it has helped me already and will continue to help me in the future." "Kids need to learn the more difficult conditions now instead of when it's too late. If we want to be the best, especially when we go to college or on to the pros, we have to bowl on these conditions." - Tom Weaver, 18 years old


In many ways, that's how the league began. Area youth bowlers became regular spectators at Sunnybrook Lanes' Sunday night Sport Bowling League and started wondering aloud why there couldn't be one for youth bowlers. The seed of interest grew into a summer league with 35 young bowlers from as far away as Bay City, Lansing and Saginaw signing up. When all was said and done, the field of young players came into the league with a 207 composite average and concluded the inaugural campaign with a 186 league average.


The 21-pin drop across the board didn't exactly send the young players running. In fact, it did the opposite. For 2003, the league grew to 43 players. The lure wasn't simply "join a league," however. This league includes a unique combination of elements that create a tournament atmosphere throughout its 10-week run. It's a concept that was attractive enough to encourage 18-year-old Tom Weaver to drive 145 miles EACH WAY from Ionia to bowl every week.

"I don't like bowling on today's easy conditions," said Weaver, who plans to become a part of the highly-regarded Saginaw Valley State collegiate program. "Kids need to learn the more difficult conditions now instead of when it's too late. If we want to be the best, especially when we go to college or on to the pros, we have to bowl on these conditions."


The Sunnybrook league wasn't a typical league, however. For starters, it was an individual, four-game scratch league with heavy emphasis on earning weekly points. Just for showing up, you earned five points. From that point, things got interesting:


Each bowler rolled the first three games for "position." After three games, all players were ranked based upon their three-game series totals for a "position round" match. The leading "qualifier" for the week bowled one more game against No. 2, No. 3 bowled against No. 4, etc.


For the fourth game, bowlers received their actual pinfall plus 30 bonus pins if they won their match (15 each if they tied). Weekly standings were re-calculated based upon the four-game total (including match play bonus pins). The top five advanced to a stepladder final; everyone else received one point for each person they beat that week (example: if 40 people bowled and you ranked 10th for the week, you earned 30 points for finishing ahead of 30 other bowlers).


The top five each earn five bonus points for qualifying for the stepladder. The top qualifier earned another five points for being No. 1 for the week. The top five also earned points based upon where they eventually finished, i.e., the stepladder winner would earn an additional 40 points, the runner-up would earn 39 points, etc.


Weekly attendance was very important because total points for the 10-week season determined the top 10 bowlers who advanced to the season-ending roll-offs. (Additional 25-point bonuses were awarded for high game, high series, high average and best match play record for the 10 weeks).


During the "top 10" roll-off, players were seeded based upon their point totals. The 10 players then bowled a 10-game match play round (one match against each other finalist plus a position round at the end). Each match win was worth 30 bonus pins, but points were earned or lost against a 200 base score. Example: if you bowled a 150 game and lost your match, 50 points were deducted from your total. If you bowled 180 and won, you added 10 points to your unning total (you lost 20 points against the 200 base, but gained 30 for winning your match).


The top five bowlers at the end of the 10-game match play session competed for a $1,000 scholarship first prize in a season-finale stepladder contest the following week at Turbo 2-N-1 Grips' Institute of Bowling Technology. The Wednesday league, which charged $20 weekly, was sponsored by Turbo 2-N-1 Grips, which contributed to the league's more than $3,000 in scholarship prizes. All league members also received complimentary Turbo 2-N-1 Grip t-shirts. In addition to the youth league, Sunnybrook Lanes conditioned eight lanes on Monday nights for league members and others interested in experiencing Sport Bowling.


"This is the future of our sport," said proprietor Randy Shank. "We need to support the kids in whatever means necessary. When I was approached about doing this program, my answer was very simple: whatever we can do to help, consider it done."