Why This Is My Final Season As A Full Time Bowler

pin deck

aka: “Putting The Toys Away #1”

Bowling has been my “sport” of choice for nearly 15 years in a row now. Since 2004, I have been bowling full time, going to leagues every week and competing. Things got a little more serious around 2005 when I bowled for college for the first time. Wishing to bowl in college some more, I decided to take bowling to the next level. That was in 2007. In 2012, while taking time off college, I bowled in my first “megabucks” tournament, where it was possible to win lots of money for bowling well. And things have been more and more intense since then.

I have come to a crossroads where I feel like while there is plenty more for me to accomplish in bowling, I question whether it is a proper use of my time and money. I thoroughly enjoy going to bowling leagues, competing, and hanging out with my bowling buddies. I’ve been enjoying this more than ever, and I’ve begun to question if I even enjoy bowling in leagues as much as I just enjoy just hanging out. After all, I get just as much pleasure going to sing karaoke with my other group of friends or going to the casino with my mother and playing blackjack while she plays slot machines.

Like with money and energy, time is something that should be invested properly. Wasting time is permissible if your goal is to relax and unwind, but in all other cases, time should be used wisely. Money should also be used wisely as well. Bowling in a league combines both money and time. A common league session for me lasts about three hours and costs roughly $20 per week. The common league is 32 to 40 weeks long, and if your team performs well enough, they will get better payouts and awards.

Doing the math, if you bowl in one league, you are investing $640 to $800 and 96 to 120 hours of time spent (not including other costs). For the last year or so, I’ve been more concerned with returns of investment, and it is unfortunate to say that bowling in a league full time is no longer a good investment of my time or money, if it ever was. I’ve spent similar amounts of time and money playing blackjack and I have gotten, at times, significant returns on my investments.

I could spend $200 at a blackjack table, win $50 (which is a common scenario, the way I play) and get comped $20 (at least) in food and drink for it. And my local casino is much closer in distance than any of my local bowling centers. If I spent $200 at bowling league, I would need to wait and hope that my team does really well at the end of the season to see even a slight return on investment. To me, this is not a proper use of my time or money anymore, at least not on a full time, week-to-week basis.

This does not mean I am done with competitive bowling completely. There are still many tournaments where I can win money if I do well and experience a good return on investment for my time and money spent getting to and entering the tournament. I once entered one of these tournaments, spent barely $100, and won $1300 because I performed well. This was at a tournament that took place a couple of times per year. It was something I practiced intensely for.

And there are other bowling tournaments similar to that. Sure, the prizes aren’t as grand, but there is still an incentive to perform in them instead of paying league dues every week and hoping for a big payout in the end that barely pays for my league dues. After so much time spent bowling in leagues weekly, I’ve concluded that there is no real return of investment when it comes to the money and time I spend bowling full time.

Another reason why I have decided not to bowl full time is because there are much better things I can do to stay active. While I have considered bowling one of my “active” days, there has always been a caveat to it: I can’t lift weights the way I like 24 hours before I bowl. If I lift weights like crazy a day before I bowl, it seriously affects my bowling ability because my muscles are still recovering after working out so intensely. This leads to very bad performances in bowling.

Bowling has also taken a toll on my shoulders, particularly my right shoulder. This has taken away from my ability to perform well in the gym as well. If I bowl on a part time basis (only bowling competitively once every 3-5 weeks), I will likely be able to do more stuff in the gym and my shoulder may recover faster.

As I said, I was using bowling as a profitable hobby. When I discovered the strategies involved in blackjack, I discovered that blackjack was much more profitable than competitive bowling ever was. Blackjack places you against your own devices of strategy and discipline. You are directly competing against others when bowling competitively and you cannot control as many results in competitive bowling as you can in blackjack.

When you bowl competitively, you need updated equipment and you also need to have certain techniques to succeed. When it comes to playing blackjack, you just need to memorize and practice basic strategy, counting aces, hi-lo counting, index strategy, and bet spreads (in that order). You don’t need to worry about getting the most effective bowling ball, having consistent rotation, and the numerous other things a competitive bowler must deal with. And that’s if you are interested in making hundreds of thousands of dollars playing blackjack. If you just want to make a few hundred or thousand dollars, you would probably be alright just having basic strategy and counting aces.

So if I am going to attempt to make money by bowling competitive bowling, I’m going to have to update my bowling balls and shoes occasionally, practice my technique, and chart how much I’m spending on events vs how much money I have made per event. In blackjack, the only thing I need to do is chart how much money I have placed onto the table, and how much money I left the table with.

Now, the $50000 question: How am I going to deal with not bowling competitively on a full time basis emotionally?

I’ll admit, there is a certain high you get from competing. It’s true. When you accomplish something really good, it feels really good. However, as I learned a couple of years ago, you can (and should) compete against yourself. Life is you vs. you. If you do nothing but compete against others, your stress levels will blow up. I discovered this when I began dabbling in speedrunning (the art of finishing a video game as fast as possible). Over time, I started enjoying it more than bowling. And for about a year, I have not only enjoyed it more than bowling, but it has now taken over how I view gaming in general.

I will not be affected by not being a full time bowler anymore. And unless the money for league dues are coming out of someone else’s pocket, I have no interest in going to bowling league every week. I have enough expenses in my life as it is, and I have found another hobby that is just as profitable, if not more.

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