Monday, January 23, 2012

Knowing Your Enemy - Steve Barker

Knowing your Enemy
If you were to ask anyone who has been around this game for a long time what the most rewarding gift they’ve gotten out of 5 Pin is, one of the first two answers you will almost always receive back is the people they’ve met and the friends they’ve made.
For those who play competitively, great friends can actually start out as rivals.
This particular time of the bowling season often introduces our YBC bowlers to a strange (to them) situation, where they are teammates of other bowlers one week and rivals the next.  Here in Southern Ontario, the schedule has the Youth Challenge Provincials one week and the 4 Steps to Stardom Zone finals occurring the following week. This means that the same people that they are cheering with and for one week will soon be the competition.
Many of us coach Youth Challenge teams consisting of bowlers from competing YBC houses. For bowlers who are successful at the Youth Challenge Provincials, they could be teammates one week, competitors the next, and then Winter Games teammates again after that! The same goes for coaches. The kids we are coaching one week are often the competition the next.
Anyone who has played the game for any length of time at all has had to compete against a friend.
This is a concept that the adults learn to deal with relatively quickly. The majority of people can handle it. I’ve always tried to remember that my competitor wants to win as badly as I do, and that it is not personal. It has been my experience that men have fewer issues in this regard than women. Even if issues do arise, guys usually have their say, or battle over it briefly, then discuss it amicably over a beer. (Some) Women tend to let issues linger.
Sometimes, it even means playing against one of your best friends at the Open Provincials. When I was a member of the winning Ontario Durham Men’s team, one of the teams in the finals was 1000 Lakes (now Kawartha). This meant playing against Iain MacLean, who I’d been close friends with since meeting in YBC. Their team also consisted of three other guys who travelled from Lindsay each week to play in our league in Oshawa. In addition to that, five or six of us from those two teams combined to play in most of the team tournaments that were commonplace back then. In cases like this, everyone involved has to go all-out to win and you can’t worry about feeling guilty if you come out on top.
There are instances where outside influences can make a friendly rivalry turn ugly.
In my YBC days, there was a sometimes nasty rivalry between my centre (Motor City) and the other house (Oshawa Lanes) in town. And both places were owned by the same family!! (The Englands, who later closed both and opened North End Bowl/Neb’s Fun World). This was around the period where YBC allowed Seniors to bowl in more than one program, so many of us bowled both Fridays at Motor City and Saturdays at Oshawa Lanes. We represented our own centre for the 4 Steps to Stardom, but combined to play some open team tournaments. Many people within our YBC programs didn’t like this and got very vocal in supporting their own. They failed to realize that we were friends outside of bowling, and it was more social than manipulative. When we competed against each other in tournaments, we understood that both sides were trying to win.
Another situation that can arise is playing against a sibling. In my “23 Questions” article with Jeff Young, he talks about competing for Open positions with his brother, John.
Jeff also experienced a bitter rivalry between bowling centres, and in the interview talks of the hostility between Mountain Lanes and Sherwood Centre in Hamilton. Most issues like these usually involve coaches who want to put their stamp on their bowler, and these people need to get over themselves!
Okay, getting back to present day…
How can you bowl with someone one week and against them the next, you ask?
For starters, ask yourself,” what is the goal at hand and what is my best way to achieve it”? If you are on the same team, then you have to work together in order to be successful. It’s the same as if you are on the same squad as someone that you may not be particularly fond of. (Many of us have been there). You just have to suck it up! And when you are competing against each other, the same thing, just remember that each of you wants to win! In the long run you will make each other better.
It’s important that you always play hard, but be a good sport and don’t go out of your way to make enemies because you never know when you’ll be on the same team!


  1. Bowling is an unique sport in which we have very little influence over your competitor. None actually in a physical sense.

    Because of this, I learned long ago that you bowl your best game and just hope it is enough.

  2. One of the biggest reasons I think that I've been as successful as I have throughout YBC has been the competition from my friends. In Bantams and Juniors, there was always a sense of competition between myself and those with higher averages than me. Then when it came time to bowl together, in 4 Steps and eventually the Youth Challenge and Winter Games, we already had enough competitive experience against each other to focus on the tournament, as well as enough of a friendship to play well together. That balance of friendship and rivalry was very important in helping me be a competitive player.