Wednesday, July 25, 2012

First Written April 11, 2007

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.

First Written April 10, 2007

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 that  in 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.