I received a video in my email this past week that really
made me think. It showed an older gentleman sitting on a bench with an adult,
younger male reading a newspaper next to him. A bird lands on a branch of a
nearby tree and the old man says, "What is that?" "It is a
sparrow," the younger man answers.
A few seconds later, another bird lands on a nearby bush and
the old man inquires, "What is that?" The younger man looks up from
his reading and says, "It is a sparrow." Still another bird lands on
another tree branch and the old man again asks, "What is that?" The
younger man looks up, visibly annoyed, and answers, "It is a sparrow, a
sparrow, the same as the other birds you asked me abouta s-p-a-r-r-o-w!, Why are you doing this to
The older man stands up and heads into the house they are
sitting in front of. He comes back out with a book (it turns out to be a diary
or journal that the old man has kept), turns to a page, and asks the younger
man (by now I have figured out it is his son) to read the passage he points to.
In summary, here's what the son read out loud: "Today,
I was sitting in the park with my young son and he asked me the name of a bird
that had landed nearby. I answered him that it was a sparrow. Twenty-one times
he asked me, 'What is that?' and, twenty-one times I answered that it was a
sparrow. Twenty-one times I hugged him because of the affection I felt for this
young son of mine…"
What does that have to do with bowling? On the surface there
seems to be no connection, however, as a coach, I sometimes have to answer the
same question over and over again. Because it is a student of mine asking the
question, I tend to be very tolerant. Sometimes, before we can move forward
with a lesson, a point must be clearly understood or the coming lessons might
not make sense.
Patience - "It is a sparrow." "It is the
second arrow." "It is a smooth follow-through." "It is a
pendulum swing." "It is a reactive resin bowling ball." "It
is your pre-shot routine." "It is your positive mental attitude."
"It is your ability to adjust to different lane conditions." "It
is your practice session routine." "It is your 'why'?" "It
is your love of the sport." "It is a sparrow." - Patience. It
is, indeed, a virtue.
Kids bowling on Saturday and/or Sunday mornings in an organized and monitored junior bowling program are the future of our sport.
I grew up in a junior bowling program that bowled on Saturday mornings. That was the greatest thing that could have happened because it took me off the streets and away from getting into trouble. My circle of friends changed from the government housing arena to a group bowling in an organized, well-coached, and chaperoned club.
The head coach became my surrogate father and he made sure that we worked hard to remain in the club. Our report cards and all school work went to him first so that our eligibility for continued membership rested in our hands. Very simply, if you wanted to continue in the kids bowling program, you made sure you had passing grades.
From 1960 through 1966, youth bowling was organized nationwide under the American Junior Bowling Congress (AJBC) and later, the Youth Bowling Association (YBA). This would later become the current Young American Bowling Alliance (YABA). Regardless of the governing body, getting kids involved with an organized junior bowling program from a young age helps them to develop into responsible adults having learned about teamwork, organization and taking leadership.
By age groups and divisions, a good program they will have elected officers such as President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. This helps the youngsters to build their self-esteem and develop their sense of responsibility. They are taught bowling etiquette and courtesy, help to increase their math skills learning how to keep a score sheet manually, and learn general respect for each other and the bowling accessories and equipment. Learning how to socialize with their peers is another important aspect of them belonging to a kids bowling program.
It should not be overlooked that with regards to YABA and the United States Bowling Congress (USBC), many events have scholarships as prizes. This means that beginning at an early age, kids can win funds for college. While medals, patches, and trophies may be nice for immediate recognition, winning scholarship money can spur and direct them into thinking about getting a higher education.
Any way you want to look at it, getting children involved with a junior bowling program as early as they show interest can be very beneficial for parents. I know that my mother was very grateful as she remarked quite a few times that when we began taking an interest in bowling, she rested easy because we weren't running around creating mischief. With many of our friends ending up on the wrong side of the law in later years, she had much to be thankful for.
Bowling is growing in popularity after a 20 year decline in participation and is poised for even greater growth because of the female and junior bowlers.
In the heyday of the 1960's and 1970's, automated machinery and equipment along with modernized and cleaner surroundings in bowling centers began to bring the sport of bowling into the forefront of family-style entertainment. With the help of television programs such as "Championship Bowling," "Bowling For Dollars," and the "PBA Tour," the game was given a much needed thrust into the national spotlight.
Beginning in the early-1980's and continuing for over twenty years, however, the popularity of bowling experienced a steady decline in participants. There are many studies, reports, and statistics attempting to explain why this occurred, but, when you get right down to it, they don't really matter. What matters is that bowling is gaining popularity again and as a recent issue of the US Bowler magazine stated, "the latest National Sporting Goods Association Sports Participation Study" showed "there were 45.4 million regular bowlers in 2005, which is a 15.2 percent increase from 2003." The study continues that, "bowling is ranked number 5 in growth among the 47 sports studied."
Further to those statistics, the Winter 2006/2007 issue of the US Bowler cites a study by The Simmons Research Co. reporting thatin the preceding year (2005) nearly 70 million people went bowling. Membership in the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) is 2.7 million people (2.4 million adults and 0.3 million youth bowlers). While I have yet to see any statistics reporting how many are female, my travels in and around Arizona have me believing that young girls and women are becoming a larger portion of those regular participants.
Although it's not based on any organized, scientific study, my observations while watching my granddaughter participate in junior leagues and tournaments conclude that an equal number of young girls are actively participating in the bowling competitions alongside their male counterparts. Additionally, in my role as a promoter of amateur bowling tournaments, I am also seeing an increase in the number of women willing to enter and challenge the men for the prize monies and prestige.
While many lament the demise of the Ladies' Professional Bowler's Tour (LPBT), it may be seen in future years as a blessing in disguise. The women are now "forced" to enter so-called "Men's Competitions" instead of only competing among themselves (like in all other sports). Bowling may be the one sports competition that truly embraces the "level playing field."
Indeed, there are now some top female bowling athletes bringing down the barriers at the professional level and it will not be very long before many of them make it to the television broadcasts on a regular basis.This is a welcome phenomenon that can only serve to help the image of the sport of bowling and help to advance the popularity of the game.