West Virginia Irish Road Bowling


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Health & Fitness

The West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association, Inc. (WVIRBA) is an all-volunteer 501 c 3 nonprofit tax exempt since 2008, located in Ireland, West Virginia. Its Mission Statement was adopted in the Winter Meeting, January 2005.

 WVIRBA Mission Statement

 To teach Irish road bowling to men, women, and children as a sport

providing health and physical fitness


To celebrate nature and the scenic beauty of the country roads of

Wild and Wonderful West Virginia


From the first match in 1995 in Ireland, West Virginia, we have grown. In 2012, the WVIRBA sponsored 19 days of Irish road bowling events free and open to the public. The public was welcomed as spectators to the West Virginia State Championships and the North American Region Finals (national tournament), both also free to everyone. Our road bowling events, at first in north central West Virginia, now are in every region of West Virginia. Anyone living anywhere in the Mountain State can get to a WVIRBA road bowling event in one hour or less.



In our sporting age of pay-per view and astronomical wages, there is something pure about road bowling, in which the crowd is as much a feature as the players, where competition takes place on public roads, with no entrance fees, just the close involvement of a community celebrating the skills of a chosen few of their own. That it takes place in gorgeous countryside and gives the followers who traipse the length of the course almost as good a workout as the competitors is a lovely bonus.

–Paul Lay, London Journalist


Take Me Home, Down Country Roads!

We’ve got roads, some of the most beautiful in America, or in the world. We play this ancient sport in nine state parks or state forests, in parks preserved for their Appalachian mountain beauty.









Irish Road Bowling is a part of the healthy lifestyle solution in West Virginia. In 2012 we put more than 2,028 people walking, running, laughing down country roads just like their grandparents used to do. We can go back again. Developing this sport is a grass roots initiative, from West Virginia to the rest of the country, an inexpensive rural family sport, developed on our country roads. Few sports, if any, combine moderate exercise, just walking, with such high excitement- shots rolling 200, 250, even 300 yards on a narrow country road. It’s amazing.

To donate to the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association, please go to www.wvirba.org.


First of all it’s teams and it’s a lot of teams, and all these teams get spread out along the road … it’s just conducive to a great time! To use an old phrase, it doesn’t get any better than this, and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a state park in my 62 years.

–Jim Mulligan, Buckeye, WV, at Holly River State Park



  See the video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqDcG0YtkVI



Medical Crisis: Childhood Fitness

Every hour spent watching TV, DVDs and videos as an adult reduces life expectancy by almost 22 minutes, an Australian study suggests. And viewing TV for an average of six hours a day can cut short your life by five years. The academics conducting the study set out to calculate the overall risk to life expectancy from watching television. The research involved more than 11,000 people over the age of 25, and used information from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, together with population and death rate data. University of Queensland, British Journal of Sports Medicine.


“I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” A fourth grader in San Diego, from Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

 porte crayon pix

 Our grandparents and great grandparents lived a more rural lifestyle and often walked on country roads, sometimes for miles to find a baseball field, play a few games and have a Sunday picnic. My uncles used to do that from Green Hill in Ireland, WV, to the baseball field and swimming hole at Falls Mills, and back. Five miles each way, plus the baseball games. That is active living! Today, digital technology challenges us to reassert our human values. 


  Outdoor Games vs. Video Games: Nature-Based Recreation

In front of a computer screen, we have engineered physical activity out of our lives.

U.S. kids ages 8 to 18 are using their phones, computers, TVs, and video game systems for 7.5 hours a day or 52.5 hours a week. Rideout V, Roberts DF and Foehr UG. Executive Summary: Generation M: Media in the lives of 8- 18-year-olds. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005.

 TV viewing: Americans spend an average of 4 hours 49 minutes per day in 2008 – 2009, up 20% from 1998 – 1999. The average household watched 8 hrs 21 minutes per day, an all-time high. The Nielsen Company.

 “The replacement of vigorous outdoor activities by sedentary indoor ‘videophilia’ has far reaching consequences for physical and mental health, especially in children. Videophilia has been shown to be a cause of obesity, lack of socialization, attention disorders, and poor academic performance.” Coincident with the rapid growth in video games in the 1980s and 1990s, less time outdoors means less contact with nature, less interest in conservation, parks, camping, fishing, and per capita park visits are declining. Fishing declined 25% from 1981 to 2005. Hiking the AppalachianTrail was down 18% from 2000 to 2005. Oliver R.W. Pergams and Patricia A. Zaradic, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 2008


Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) height and weight of 30% or more. Body Mass Index is defined as the individual's body mass divided by the square of his or her height. Since the 1800’s, BMI is considered to be the best proxy for body fat percentage among ratios of weight and height.

From 1980 to 2008, obesity rates doubled in adults, and tripled for children. 17% of all American children are now obese. For the first time in memory, “today’s children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.” F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America, Trust for America’s Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued annually.

Fewer than 10% of public schools have daily physical education.

More than 33% of students in grades 9 - 12 do not participate in “vigorous physical activity.” National Association of Sports and Physical Education, American Heart Association, 2006 report, Shape of the Nation.

 Being overweight at a young age is far more destructive than adding excess weight later in life. Heaviness in adolescence “may produce permanent changes in the body” including early buildup of plaque in arteries to the heart that that increase the risk of heart disease for the rest of an individual’s life. This study is the first to carefully document the risk and to show that the danger is independent of adult weight. “For cardiovascular disease, you are going to pay the price for a higher weight in those early years later in life, even if you adopt a better lifestyle and are not overweight when you get older.” Amir Tirosh, Harvard School of Public Health in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Only 13% of high school students eat at least three servings of vegetables per day. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007 data.

There are about 28,000 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide; “one fast food hamburger contains meat from dozens or hundreds of different cattle.” Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser

 More than 25% of all Americans 17-24 are unqualified for military service because of weight.

 Social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual's chances of gaining weight. 12,000 people were tracked over 32 years. Obesity really spreads from person to person, especially friends, like an epidemic - a social contagion. "What spreads is an idea," like a fad, spreading the risk from friend to friend, and it spreads like wildfire.

 The study also showed that people close to someone who lost weight were more likely to get thinner. "These same social networks might be used to turn a disease like obesity around." Nicholas A. Christakis, Harvard Medical School, in the New England Journal of Medicine, and James H. Fowler, University of California at San Diego.

 This is not just a West Virginia problem, this is a USA problem. Colorado, with the lowest obesity rate of 19.8 percent in 2008, would have had the highest rate in the nation in 1995. Trust for America’s Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 Irish Road Bowling is a part of the healthy lifestyle solution in West Virginia. In 2012 we put 2028 people walking, running, laughing down country roads just like their grandparents used to do. We can go back again. Developing this sport is a grass roots initiative, from West Virginia to the rest of the country, an inexpensive rural family sport, developed on our country roads. Few sports, if any, combine moderate exercise, just walking, with such high excitement- shots rolling 200, 250, even 300 yards on a narrow country road. It’s amazing.



“There’s been great feedback from staffers AND families about Irish Road Bowling.

It is definitely our hope that many participants will embrace this activity as well.

Great family oriented exercise that’s fun!”

–Shannon Holland, Executive Director, WV on the Move





“The road at Camp Virgil Tate just north of Charleston, WV was like any other road on a Friday morning with a little fog slowly rolling out and the road still moist from the dew left there overnight, but today it would see something for the first time. The Irish were coming! Once a year the Charleston Catholic High School takes their incoming class on a day long retreat where the children get to know one another through a myriad of team building events. This year Irish Road Bowling was one of those events.

 Mrs. Debra Sullivan, Principal, and Mrs. Colleen Hoyer, Assistant Principal for Student Affairs, approached the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association with little previous knowledge of the sport and asked if we could be a part of this year’s retreat. The children were separated into 8 groups of 8, the perfect amount for two teams of 4, as they rotated through the different team building stations. Ms. Ashley Shepler, Health and PE, was there to assist each group at the Road Bowling station.

 “At first the children were hesitant of this strange sport. Only one person knew of road bowling prior to this retreat, but the children were very willing to learn. This was a new and strange event for them. After a brief history of the sport and a discussion on safety and rules, they were eager to try it for themselves. They started slow but all of the teams picked up on the concepts fairly quickly. All the teams cheered and encouraged each other. Some took the safe route and yelled ‘bowling’ prior to each bowl, but more enjoyed the traditional Irish battle cry of Faugh a Ballach!

The total distance of the course was only ¼ mile, but this was plenty of road to allow each child to fully experience road bowling. Some teams took to the sport more naturally than others allowing them to bowl out and back and to also see how the road can play differently in opposite directions. The scores for the matches were on average 10-13. Some teams were able to complete the course in only 6 throws! It is clear that there are plenty of future road bowlers in West Virginia.”

 –Stephen Wallington, WVIRBA volunteer and 2012 WV State Champion, Novice 2


 “You know, Dave, I threw that shot,

it went a long way and I took off running after it.

Suddenly I realized that that was the first time

I had run in 20 years!”

–Hill Marple, age 75, Ireland, WV


 “Some of the obstacles to physical activity in our rural, mountainous area are a lack of facilities, (parks, bike trails, sidewalks, etc.), transportation, and the cost of some organized activities. Irish road bowling is a team sport that requires a $5.00 28-ounce iron ball and a quiet country road … nothing more!

 “The physical requirements are minimum. If you can move yourself a few feet at a time and throw 28 ounces in an underhand motion you’re home free!

 “We have 8-year-old girls who bowl as well as 82-year-old gentlemen. …[I]t is the perfect sport for those who have been away from sports, and for that matter physical activity, for a long time.

 I’ve seen it many times … the thought of walking a mile and a half seems daunting for some, but, when they become engrossed in the fun they hardly even notice they have done so.

 “Now don’t get me wrong … for some, the sport is very competitive, full of skilled athletes. But, for the rest of us, it is an evening of fellowship and physical activity so enjoyable that one forgets he is getting exercise. Picture a group of friends walking down a quiet country road on a summer evening, laughing, talking, encouraging each other and at the end, not realizing they have walked 1.5 miles and developed some upper body strength along the way.

 “I have lost over 20 pounds myself. It gives us something to look forward to a couple evenings a week, and gets people together away from the television set. It has done me a world of good, and I know it would for many of my fellow West Virginians if they would only try it.”

 –Danny Kuhn, a WVIRBA founder and volunteer, Glade Creek United, Beckley 




  To donate to the West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association, see www.wvirba.org   








2012 West Virginia Irish Road Bowling Association Tour Events Participation



Irish Spring Festival



Irish Spring Festival



Coopers Rock State Forest



Pipestem Resort State Forest



Pipestem Resort State Forest



Kanawha State Forest



Strawberry Festival



Strawberry Festival



Blackwater Falls State Park



Canaan Valley State Park



WV State Championship at Coopers Rock State Forest



WV State Championship at Coopers Rock State Forest



Cacapon Resort State Park



Doddridge County Fair



Barbour County Fair



Wheeling AOH Ohio Valley Championship



Shepherdstown Pack Horse Ford Cannonball Run



Mountain State Forest Festival



Preston County Buckwheat Festival



Holly River State Park



Chief Logan State Park (in 2011)



Stonewall Resort (in 2011)





Other events in West Virginia



Wounded Warriors Veterans of Foreign Wars Benefit, Salem



Philippi Blue & Gray Reunion Kids Day (Bob Wilkins demonstration: students learning to throw)



Ronceverte River Festival



Charleston Catholic High School Field Day (students & teachers—Stephen Wallington)



Union Farm Heritage Day (community event)



Fort New Salem benefit









TOTAL in West Virginia in 2012 = 2,089