When you play team sports, you can improve your mental health and foster a close-knit community. One Gabriel Homes resident, Dave, bowls for a team in a league of some of his closest friends. The league consists of 22 teams, each with four bowlers. Competitors like Dave meet every Wednesday night over a 30-week season at the Bowlero in Fairfax. 

Bowling has always been one of my favorite sports. I love rolling the ball and watching the pins get hit. The sound is so satisfying.

It’s How He Rolls

David Whitcomb, one of Dave’s teammates, has bowled with Dave for over five years. Since they first met, Whitcomb says he’s seen Dave’s average score per game increase by over 20 points. 

“After each game, Dave gets on his phone and writes down all his scores,” Whitcomb says. “He’s always talking about his averages going up. I get a thumbs-up from him whenever he reaches a new high score.” 

Dave stays open to feedback so he can roll more strikes. Whitcomb spends extra time working on his stances like elbow positions so he can have more control over the ball when he rolls it. 

“Bowling has gotten into our blood,” Whitcomb says, chuckling. “I want to see him get better each week, and he gets better over time. The other night, he bowled a turkey, which means he rolled three strikes in a row!”

The Community Lane

Beyond just bowling, Dave enjoys chatting and making friends. He plays the part of the Bowlero mayor; he goes out of his way to visit everyone’s lanes and check in on his friends. 

“Dave is our biggest cheerleader,” says Aileen Hedden, a friend from another team. “When he comes by our lane, he asks us what our scores are because he wants us to succeed as well.” 

The league isn't competitive, which means huge cash prizes aren’t at stake. Having lower stakes keeps every night’s mood upbeat. Groups often celebrate when their friends roll strikes. 

“He’s super positive,” says Tony Stephens, Hedden’s husband and teammate. “I like to cheer him on when it’s his turn to bowl, and he does the same for me. Dave is a ray of sunshine around everyone.” Still, many bowlers want to compete and win, and Dave is known for his friendly banter with those close to him. “He’s a big trash talker,” Whitcomb jokes. “He puts his arm around you and lets you know you’re going down when you face off against him.” 

Looking One Pin Ahead

Once everyone turns in their shoes and packs up their equipment, Dave is already asking about next week’s matchup. 

“I can always expect a text from Dave the next morning,” Whitcomb says with a laugh. “He asks me who we face next week and what place in the league we’re in. The next competition is already in his sight.” 

Hedden and Stephens agree that Dave being in the league makes everyone feel welcome. Both consider their friend group at Bowlero to be their community and look forward to the following Wednesday as much as Dave does. 

“I just love bowling,” says Dave. “I may be competitive, but I love seeing my friends and cheering them on.”

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