How to start and run a bowling league

Bowling is fun for many people and a good way to socialize during the colder months of the year. There are many leagues all over the US but if you can't find the right one, you may want to start your own. I ran one last year with one other person and with just a couple of hours of work per week, we found it entirely achievable and fun to do.

Who does what

There are generally 3 roles required to manage a bowling league: President, Treasurer and Secretary. The President is in charge of all executive decisions, communicating with the captains, dealing with the alley and most other human-resource type things. The Treasurer's job is to collect the money, pay the alley, allocate expenses and prizes and either keep the physical cash safe or manage the account it's kept in. The secretary's job is to keep track of all things related to scoring including the overall statistics, ongoing team ranking, awards, setting up the computers, handling substitute players and assigning lanes every week.

In summary, the President deals with people, the Treasurer deals with money and the Secretary deals with the game/scoring. All other tasks should be able to find the appropriate official. If you're not sure what you're doing right now but you're the only one doing it, then just assume you're the President.

The Average Bowler's Bowling League, 2006/2007The Average Bowler's Bowling League, 2006/2007
Starting figures

When asking people to join, they will generally want to know how much it will cost, when it starts, how long it will run, what day and time it's at and how competitive it's going to be. You may not know your day and time just yet, but you should at least be able to answer all of the other questions.

Determine a start and end date with a number of weeks. You can do as few as 10 weeks or as many as 30. We ran 12 weeks of bowling for our rec league and it was about as much as anyone could handle. More serious leagues tend to run longer seasons. If you're going to be giving away prizes, make sure to factor that in to your weekly league dues. The amount charged per person by the alley is variable, often times between 5 and 10 dollars. It's common to charge 20 per player per week and put the remainder into a prize pool.

Tally up your bowlers

Before you can start asking alleys about your league, you'll need a rough idea of how many people and teams you'll have. Talk to everyone you would like on the league and set a date for them to get back to you with teams. 2 weeks should be adequate. Teams generally consist of 4 people with 1 being the captain, who is in charge of all administrative functions for the team. Make sure to have the team assign a captain right away so that you only have to deal with that person for the team. It will make your life much easier.

Try to end up with an even number of teams if possible. It's much nicer that way as you don't have to have 1 team play a phantom (empty) lane each week.

Find your venue

Now that you know how many bowlers you will have, you can find an alley that will accommodate. Call around local bowling alleys to find one that you like with the right price, size and time. Make sure to get a guarantee on your spot. Now is also a good time to make deals with them for drinks, food or any other amenities they may have to offer. Often times you can get them to put on a special just for your league, such as $10 pitchers of beer. Calculate out how much money they'll be taking in off of standard player fees as well as food and liquor and try to use that to leverage. You'll be glad you did later.

Before leagues start

If you don't want to do all the work yourself, assign people to be the treasurer and secretary.

The treasurer needs to either set up an account, or get a fire-safe box ready to hold the cash. Also it's time to write up a budget. Expenses are generally weekly awards, special weeks (for food, entertainment, etc) and the prize pool for after leagues are over. If you've never set this up before, it might be a good time to learn a little excel.

The secretary and president must decide on a point system and on handicapping. Handicaps are used to even out the skill of the players. A handicap generally is described as a percentage of a cap, so 90% of 200. What this means is that a player with an average of 100 has that subtracted from 200 then 90% applied, so 90 would be his handicap. At the end of each game, your handicap is added to your score to get your final handicapped score, which is compared to the other team's score to determine the winning team. Mathematically what that specific handicap did is make it so that the difference between a player with a 100 average (hcp 90) and a player with a 200 average (hcp 0) is now only 10 pins, because if they both threw their average, the scores would be 190 vs 200. This makes it achievable for the 100 average player to beat the 200 average player. If you don't want to use handicaps, then you'll be running what's called a "scratch" league. This means you just use the raw pin count, which can lead to a very one-sided league. This is generally only used in more competitive and professional leagues.

We used a 4 point system for our league, which means that for every match consisting of 3 games, there can be 1 point scored for each game and then 1 point for overall pins for the series. The team with the highest number of points at the end of the season is the winner.

The actual numbers used for handicaps depend on the league, but it seems that 90% of 200 or 90% of 210 are fairly standard. If a player doesn't have an average established from a previous league, their first game determines it and then the handicaps are applied retroactively to determine points.

The secretary needs to set the league up in a scoring system and make a schedule of match-ups. I used and found it to be a little buggy but adequate. The schedule is kind of a pain to set up if it isn't automatically generated in the software you use. The trick is to try to make it so that every team plays every other team an even number of times and every team plays evenly across all the lanes of the alley. I started with team 1 vs team 2, team 3 vs team 4 and then took it from there.

A 12 week bowling scheduleA 12 week bowling schedule

There are also special weeks called Position weeks that need to be factored in. A Position week is one where the top ranked team plays the bottom and the second ranked team plays the second lowest and so forth. Position week gives the worst team a chance to take some points from the best team. Position weeks should be held in the middle of the schedule. The actual match-ups can't be determined until the end of the week before because you don't know the teams' positions until then.

On league day/night

Make sure to tell everyone to come 15 minutes early and have the lane assignments posted clearly for everyone to see. Also, have envelopes ready and numbered per-team to collect dues. Talk to your alley to see if you can set up the computers ahead of time or if they have to do it. If they do, you can probably give them a print out of your lane assignments for them to use.

If your league starts at 7pm, then usually you'd have practice start at 6:45 and the games starting promptly at 7. Be ready to get on a microphone to announce everything as the alleys can get really loud. If someone is absent when the games begin, they must be marked absent for that game and the absent score given. We used the player's average score minus 10 points. If a substitute is there, they must play under their own name as to not skew the averages or have an unfair advantage against the other team. Their own average and handicap should be used.

Tell everyone to hand their money envelopes to the treasurer and their scorecards to the secretary, unless the scoring is all held by the computer in which case it should be printed by the alley manager at the end of the night.

Other things

It can be a lot of fun to bring your own music to the alley if they allow it. Make sure to ask first. Also, there are many trophy makers, but you will want to order them well ahead of time. It generally takes 3 weeks to have a large set of trophies made. Other weekly prizes are fun as well, such as setting up special headpins that on a strike get you a free beer, soda or burger. Most alleys will set that up for you if you ask them.

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Post a comment here or discuss this and other topics in the forums

Starting a league

Robert, your info here was very helpful. It was the best I have seen. Really helped me.

junior bowling program

We have just started a junior bowling league, at an alley that has never had a sanctioned junior league. How do we make teams, when we have new kids joining weekly?

This Website

Hi Robert,
What a great help this website is. Thank you.


depending on how many teams you have... you can go to wal-mart and get many many different colors for agout 2.99 a shirt

league help

The management of the center your league bowls should be able to help you with every aspect of your
league developement. Everything from talking to potential team sponsors (Bar owners) to discounted offers, other perks, etc. It is a win/win for the center management to work for you. League play means guanteed filled lane beds and is the heartbeat that keeps the center doors open

Our Treasurer gets 75 cents

Our Treasurer gets 75 cents per bowler- That is enough for the Treausurer, the Secretary has alot more work an and should be at least $1.00

Treasurer's Pay

Can anyone out there tell me what is the average pay a League Treasurer should recieve? Right now she is making 75 cents per bowler per week and she would like is raised to $1.00 per bowler per week. Is that too much?

Using The Entering Average

I am new to setting up leagues. I've bowled on many leagues, but never had to set them until this last year. The first round went great, everyone was new and established averages over the first 3 games. Summer League, returning bowlers wanted to use the average achieved at the end of last season. So I put in the entering average of each bowler calculating over a 3 game period. Now everyone is grumbling that averages are too high, they can never win, etc. Searching the internet I've seen various combinations for entering averages. Over 6 or 9 games, give new bowlers a higher entering average, etc. What is the fairest way of doing this? The USBC really doesn't set a standard on this.

Need help in a new fun league

hey there Im president of a league this year and well really it has fallen to the waste side these last few years. Im looking into some new ideas like a beer league the bars sponser a team and such any ideas how i can make this work as this is my first year as an appointed position. Thanks for anyone that can help me save this league

somebody help...

im 12 and i want to make a summer bowling league to raise money for a trip. i have 2 other friends that would love to help for the same reason. i know im kinda planning 6 months early but im 12 and i hav to go to school. i really just need a set of rules and a list of fees and upfront cost that i would need to know about.if u guys can please help thanks.


Does anyone know of a relatively cheap source of bowling shirts? I see that a lot of leagues don't even have league/team shirts anymore but I'd like to see if I can find someplace inexpensive enough to do it. I remember when I was a kid tagging along with my dad when he bowled his league games, back then seeing a league that didn't have team shirts was rare. I'm making my 1st attempt at organizing a league and any help would be appreciated.

Did you check out that

Did you check out that pinsetter website? I'd get that or buy the bowling management software. Don't calculate scores manually. It's very tedious. Ask another league how to do it if you're not sure. If people have an existing average (they showed you a score sheet from last year that has the average), you can start them on that, otherwise everyone bowls the first 3 games, then the average of those is retrofitted and the handicap is applied. Research what most leagues do. I don't recommend running a scratch league because it's very hard for a bad team to have fun.

I was voted secretary of my league and don't have a clue!

I was voted Secretary and I don't have a clue as to what I'm suppose to do. Am I going to get some type of software that will do the math for me or will I be calculating the team members scores myself? I'm so afraid that I may mess up someones average. Or give them the wrong postion when I comes to who is in first, second or third place.

1) Pick an alley 2) Call

1) Pick an alley
2) Call the alley, ask them what slots are available for leagues and if you need a license.
3) Follow the secretarial instructions and such that I provided in the article
4) Bowl!

bowling team

I want to start a bowling team, I would to know do we need lic, how do we find league

On, you need to

On, you need to create a game for each week, putting in the match-ups that you've decided and then for each one of those weeks, you need to enter the scores. If you're having problems, please contact their support or poke around a bit more. It took me a few tries to figure out but once I got it, it was easy.

Entering weekly scores

where do i enter weekly scores

re: How to start and run a bowling league

Thanks for the info. I want to start my own summer (non-sanctioned) league. Wish me luck!

re: How to start and run a bowling league

Greeny! My friend Jen and I met you at Simmon's Proshop a couple years back. Remember us? We run the Monday night winter league at Fireside. Just came across your site when I was searching for a bowling management tool.When does your league start? I may want to join another you have room?Ali

re: How to start and run a bowling league

What are the rules for a two person bowling team, when neither member of a team shows up and hasn't pre-bowled?

re: How to start and run a bowling league

I am wondering if there is a maximum handicap.

re: How to start and run a bowling league

We made our own ruleset, but if you want you can become an ABC/USBC (American Bowling Congress / United States Bowling Congress) or WIBC (Women's International Bowling Congress) sanctioned league. I believe you just need to apply for it if you want to be sanctioned. If you do that, you must play by their rules and there are some other things that apply. We didn't bother with that because we wanted to be more casual.Technically, you don't need to license anything. You just announce your league, set the rules and schedule for the league and take team applications. After that you simply collect dues, pay the alley and keep weekly postings of scores and standings.

re: How to start and run a bowling league

Robert,what are the licensing requirments for starting an amateur sports league such as the bowling league you refer to.What licenses/regulations applied when you started your league?