Competitive bowler and manager for Western Avenue and Fountain Lanes Strike and Spare franchises, Wendy Cox implements their Kids Bowl Free summer programs, which run through Sept. 30. A national marketing effort in cooperation with schools, the program allows children under 15 accompanied by a parent or guardian to bowl two free games each of the five sessions offered weekly. Discounted monthly family passes are also available so adults can bowl with them.
Did you bowl when you were a kid?
I did not. I wish I had. It’s a great team activity and helps kids bond.
Do you have to be good at sports to bowl?
Definitely not! Anyone can bowl. New bowlers can use bumpers—you have more fun if you can knock down pins instead of throwing it in the gutter every time. We also have ramps for those with special needs or the real young ones.
Can you stand closer to the pins if you’re not a strong bowler?
Oh no, you can’t do that. There is a foul line a bowler cannot go past. The lanes are conditioned with oil and slippery, and you would bust your hiney if you slip on that.
What’s the youngest you’d encourage a child to bowl?
Any child who can reach up and push a ball, maybe 3 or 4 being the youngest. Any younger and they’re not really going to get what’s going on or enjoy it.
Really little kids can participate in Kids Bowl Free?
Any child under age 15 can bowl two free games every day we offer the program. But they have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. It’s designed to provide a family function, not for day cares or camps or big groups.
The parent does not have to buy a family pass or bowl when the child does?
They can just bring the child and the child can bowl, and that’s fine. The whole idea is to get the child off the sofa and off video games for a while and doing something active. Bowling two games involves about a half mile of walking and can burn between 300-500 calories. It even improves balance and posture. Knox County Schools, through Scott Bacon, helped us get the word out about the program through 54,000 cards that Tracy Davis-Miller helped us get out to P.E. classes. The school system participates because they are interested in encouraging low or no-cost ways kids can get active with their families over summer break.
You don’t mind if kids use the pass every day?
Not at all. We have several who use their passes religiously, several times a week, weeks after summer break is officially over. I run KBF through Sept. 30 because my youth leagues and youth-adult combined leagues start in August and I like to spread the word through KBF members. Our marketing goal with KBF is to get children involved in the sport, because youth are the future of bowling. We did get a lot of youth bowlers out of the program last year, expanding to more than 50 youth league bowlers from about 20. I would like to expand that many more this year.
Is it pretty popular?
I was really shocked at how many I have signed up so far. As of today, 2,727 youth are signed up at Western and 3,214 at Fountain Lanes.
Do you have to know how to keep score?
Everything that used to be so scary about scoring is now electronic. You just type your name in and hit “Bowl.” But if you want the math practice, we can teach you to keep score.
Are there other new aspects to modern-day family bowling?
We have buffers at Western that are programmed at a different counter and can go up for the adult bowler and then back down again when it is the child’s turn. And nowadays bowling is smoke-free.
Sign up and register for family passes at kidsbowlfree.com or call 888-444-0717 for more information. KBF hours at Western Lanes: Sunday 1 p.m.-4 p.m.; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fountain Lanes Sunday 1 p.m.-4 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Family Bowl (not managed by Cox): Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.-6 p.m.
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