Bowling with face masks? Not easy, but new normal likely to call for it, says federation boss

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Jun 07 2020 11:16 AM

National bowler Merwin Tan in action during the 2019 SEA Games. With the pandemic forcing many sports to the sidelines, Tan says he misses bowling “a lot.” George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file

Philippine Bowling Federation secretary-general Olivia "Bong" Coo and other officials of the sport's national governing body recently visited a bowling center and tried to simulate playing in lane conditions under the “new normal.”

“Mahirap huminga (hard to breathe),” recalled Coo of bowling with face masks on after the experience.

Although essentially a non-contact sport, the multi-titled kegler acknowledged that this was just among the gamut of challenges that bowlers and bowling centers are likely to face once the national government authorities allow their sport to resume.

Hopeful that the Inter-Agency Task Force overseeing the virus crisis would give the thumbs-up for bowling activity to resume, Coo bared that the PBF drafted its own quarantine protocols patterned after the rules and regulations laid down by World Bowling, the world governing body for the sport. 

She said the guidelines were drafted in an online meeting last May 19 with the PBF board led by president Steve Robles together with the national coaches and its advisers. The PBF chairman is Senate President Tito Sotto, a former national bowler. 

These protocols, she added would cover “new lane movement for all games: practice, league or sanctioned tournaments.”

“We also took some pointers from what the Italian bowling federation and what our Hong Kong counterparts are doing doing in formulating our protocols,” said the PBF official.

She sent a video link to demonstrate the simulated playing conditions in Italy, as well as a picture of what Hong Kong bowling leaders had done at a 48-lane bowling center where its national team has resumed practicing.

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“We made some revisions to what is being done in Italy,” she said.

“There is a partition between two lanes for physical distancing in Hong Kong. We were thinking of using plexiglass because the opaque dividers look claustrophobic,” Coo noted. “We might even use hard plastic at the bowling center if the ceiling is low enough.”

Among the new normal bowling rules is limiting play to a maximum of four bowlers, who will have to don face masks. This means that only singles, doubles and four-person events are permissible. Each bowler has a designated spot in the settee immediately facing the lanes with physical distancing of a meter each before they bowl. Play always begins on the even-numbered lane.

Only the performing bowler will get to stand while the rest must remain seated until it is their turn to take a shot. Once the first bowler is finished with his frame, he moves over to the opposite lane while the next man up takes his spot to bowl. This is done in a counterclockwise fashion, until the game is over.

Bowlers are allowed to wipe their balls with rubbing alcohol and towels only while bowling. Coo said spraying the alcohol on the balls was discouraged since “the playing floor might get wet and the bowlers might slip.”

A bowling center in Hong Kong has put up barriers between bowlers’ seating areas to minimize the chances of COVID-19 infection. Handout

She warned that under the guideline, any other alteration of the bowling surface other than this during a game while playing would be penalized by “zero pinfalls,” or no score for that particular game.

Players are not permitted to high-fives their fellow bowlers and express their emotions — body English — within the confines of the playing area after a shot. Teammates must remain seated while cheering for the others in action.

Fans and followers present are required to wear face masks and are not allowed within the playing area, as they maintain proper distance of at least a meter from each other and the bowlers. They cannot have any physical contact with the athletes.

As for the bowling center environment, the PBF urged its owners to have all their staff tested properly to ensure they are COVID-19 free while maintaining proper health requirements inside the area such as foot baths at the entrance, temperature checks before entering, hand sanitizers, especially at the designated player lanes, and disinfection after each use of the bowling lanes.

Below are the guidelines plotted by the PBF:

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Coo acknowledged that these conditions might mean additional costs for bowling center owners, “but we have to safeguard the safe and healthy of everybody inside the arena for bowling to resume.”

She said her foremost concern in wanting the sport to get back rolling was the training of the bowlers in the national pool, who have been confined to their respective homes for nearly three months now since Luzon went on lockdown in mid-March to contain the spread of the lethal virus.

“We don’t have a national training center unlike before (which was at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex) so we hope one will be available should bowling be allowed to resume,” Coo said, adding that presently that the 24 pool members were merely holding online workouts thrice a week. 

National bowler Merwin Tan was OK with the new protocols for the well-being of the athletes, adding that he was eager to get going after being shuttered with his family in Antipolo for quite a long while.

“I feel empty away from my sport. I missed it a lot,” rued Tan, a silver medalist in the four-man event in the last 30th Southeast Asian Games, who turns 21 on June 18 and has been playing since he was eight years old.

The amiable southpaw said that his present routine was doing household chores, bonding with the family “and praying to the Lord that this pandemic would end.”

Without a doubt, everyone shares the young bowler’s plea. 

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