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Team bowling that requires more complex skills found in sports

This is an excerpt from Enhancing Children's Cognition With Physical Activity Games by Phillip Tomporowski,Bryan McCullick & Caterina Pesce.

Team Bowling

Team Bowling may not sound like a game requiring even moderate physical activity. However, this game not only elicits some vigorous physical activity, but also requires more complex skills found in sports such as basketball, soccer, and most notably, team handball.

Teacher Essentials and Explanation Points

Similar to team handball in many respects, Team Bowling involves the use of rolling, passing, and shooting skills to knock down an opposing team's pins. As in the sport of team handball, players face ball-handling, running, and shooting limitations. Teams can range from five to seven players (depending on class size and the space available), and the shooting line should be roughly 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 m) from the pins. Each team has five to seven pins. Play areas look roughly similar to team handball courts (see figure 11.1) and have two teams of up to seven players each. One team per play area wears pinnies. As in traditional bowling, students try to knock down pins. However, in Team Bowling students are on teams and try to knock down the pins of the opposing team. To start, cluster the pins relatively close together.
Activity map for Team Bowling.

You will need to clearly outline the rules. We recommend that you use a rules sheet (as may be used in golf) in the form of a poster or slide that can be hung or projected onto the gym wall to remind children of the rules. The rules require all players to roll handballs along the ground when passing or shooting at opponents' pins. When a player acquires a ball, he may take only three steps before passing to a teammate or rolling the ball at a pin. However, players on the opposite team can intercept any passes or rolls at pins as long as they are not inside the area delineated by the shooting line. All children will be tempted to use their feet, but they may intercept a rolled ball with their hands only. Be sure to remind players that they may not go behind the designated shooting line unless they are going to retrieve a missed shot by the other team.

Teams may quickly adopt long passes as a strategy for moving the ball down the court quickly. Although this is a good strategy, it may exclude many children from playing. Consider allowing teams a certain number of long-range, full-court-type passes per round. Also, make sure students do not camp out on one side of the court the entire time; everyone should strike a balance between playing offense and defense.

Challenges Posed

Ask children to consider how a shooter may knock over more than one pin at a time, the best way to keep the other team from stealing the ball, the length of shot that has the highest probability of success, and how to guard the person with the ball. Children need to be aware of tactical issues, and some tactics require help from others.For example, children must learn that they need to pass the ball repeatedly to be successful in this game. Passing requires that the offense be spread out, and this requires the defense to spread out as well. Close-range shooting is more effective than long-range shooting, but it requires a more concerted effort from teammates.

Almost invariably, passing and shooting from close range seldom occur during the first few trials of this game. We suggest that you stop the game and point out to the class instances in which a team used multiple passes while spread out to shoot (but not necessarily make) a close-range shot. In fact, it is probably even more critical for you to do this when the shot is not successful because children usually equate success with making a shot, regardless of how it was achieved. Stopping to discuss a missed shot based on good decisions, and labeling the shot correct can underscore the notion that strategy is critical and will, more often than not, result in success.

Small Modifications and Moving On

Note whether children make good passes before they can shoot the ball.They will likely struggle with the three-step rule at first, but their performance will improve with time and reminders. Children should be able to complete multiple passes per ball possession and have regular chances to shoot before moving to the next game. Actually, a team should exhibit the ability to spread out during play rather than cluster around the ball (during offense or defense).

To modify the game, you could require a certain number of consecutive passes before a team shoots the ball, or require that everyone on a team touch the ball before a team member may take a shot.

Game Breakdown

Because the skills needed for Team Bowling are minimal, it is quite inclusive, which helps with groups of children with varying ability. Furthermore, equipment is readily available if needed.


Needs based on a 30-student class:

  • Two or more team handball balls (or other similar balls)
  • Five to seven bowling pins per team (or similar targets, 30 maximum)
  • 10 or more cones (tape or poly spots may also be used to delineate the shooting area)
  • Pinnies or flag belts (for team identification)

Skills Needed

  • Rolling and passing (a ball)
  • Aiming at a target


  1. Players may pass the ball in any manner, but must roll the ball when shooting at the pins.
  2. A player holding the ball may take only three steps before passing to a teammate or rolling to (shooting at) a pin.
  3. Players may intercept passes with their hands only.
  4. Players must stay outside of the area designated by the shooting line during play unless they are going to retrieve a missed shot by the other team.
  5. Out-of-bounds balls result in a turnover to the team without the ball, from the spot where the ball went out.


  • Is it possible to knock over more than one pin at a time?
  • How can you keep the other team from stealing the ball?
  • Is it better to take a longer or closer shot? Why?
  • Should everyone try to guard the person with the ball? Why or why not?

Learn more about Enhancing Children's Cognition With Physical Activity Games.

More Excerpts From Enhancing Children's Cognition With Physical Activity Games