Top strike for David born with retinopathy of prematurity

Did you know that tenpin bowling is one of the fastest-growing leisure activities in Australia? There’s something quite exhilarating about the highs and lows of achieving a strike.

It’s certainly a favourite pastime of six-year-old David. Born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), he has less than 10% vision. Despite his vision impairment, he’s now become Western Australia’s Bowl Patroller Boy of the Year. An impressive accolade for someone so young who started tenpin bowling sixteen months ago.

David stands clutching his Bowl Patrol award smiling. David was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity
David has proved he’s a champion tenpin bowler

Bowling into something new

Mum Natalie is proud of her son, who always looks forward to his weekly bowling sessions.

“David had been asking me for a while to try tenpin bowling. He’d seen it somewhere, so I took him along to a free trial session of Bowl Patrol, and now he loves it!”

The Bowl Patrol program is a scheme that actively encourages more youngsters to experience tenpin bowling. It’s open to any children between the ages of six and twelve.

Coaches go to great lengths to ensure the game is accessible for children of all abilities.

“In the beginning, they created some visual aids so he knew where to roll the bowling ball. The coaches created a device with lights and small bells on because of his vision loss. It was a rigid frame across the alley, so he knew where to roll the ball.”

Highly contrasted coloured cones and a laser aided David’s progression. Initially, he bowled from a closer distance using a shorter mat. Now with more experience, he bowls further. Wrist bands denote how well he’s doing – they’re coloured and work like judo belts.

David stands next to a member of the Bowl Patrol and has a writs band put on his wrist
David is making progress and collecting more wrist bands

The numbers add up…to enjoyment

The tenpin bowling fanatic is now five terms into the program. His mum says he’s just as keen as he was at the start.

“One of the reasons he enjoys tenpin bowling is because he likes to count how many pins he has knocked down. It’s a social pastime and David has made good friends at Bowl Patrol,” Natalie adds.

His enthusiasm for tenpin bowling has also led to his school signing up for the Bowl Patrol Program, making use of a Sporting Schools grant from Sport AUS.

“Skills can develop pretty rapidly. You just need focus and a level of commitment,” WA’s Sports Development officer Mia Buswell explains.

Bowled over with his award

Only one child each year becomes Bowl Patroller Boy of the Year in Western Australia. The award recognises determination, enthusiasm, and dedication to tenpin bowling. David received a certificate and a full-size trophy pin.

“He’s collecting different coloured wristbands that denote his level of competency,” Natalie explains.

David smiling with fellow bowler in the background
David bowls every week

The Bowl Patrol Program (link opens in new window) is run by the Tenpin Bowling Association who’s currently looking for more coaches. Full training, mentoring and support is provided. Anyone interested in becoming a coach should contact

Retinopathy of prematurity is a rare disease where abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina, and leads to vision loss.

David has been receiving therapy and support from VisAbility’s Children and Youth services since he was three-years-old.

How to get support

Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

There are a number of low vision support groups within Perth and across the state.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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