Fight the Decline in league bowling

Posted by: shotcat

Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/23/09 12:54 PM

I have been a bowling proprietor for over 25 years and have watched league bowling and USBC membership decline year after year. I have also seen big growth in open play, cosmic rock and bowl, birthday parities, companies, food sales, etc. But league bowling is still the backbone of the sport, and this industry, and nationally it is still in decline. There are a lot of reasons for decline, most of them are social, and the Internet is one of the reasons. We have been working on combining league bowling with the internet as way to put a little more relevancy and excitement in league bowling, something to help fight the decline. To make this concept work the format (handicap, verification, bowlers on a team, etc.) of the leagues should be developed from the input of bowlers from around the country. I put up a post about online leagues earlier today looking for thoughts and bowler input. I just looked back and the post has been removed, I suppose by someone who thought it was an advertisement, I can see how they might think that, but it was not the intent. As the last post said, “Just looking for ideas” to help Fight the Fight.
Posted by: Dennis Michael

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/23/09 02:56 PM

Shotcat, it is still in your recent posts, but not visible here.

Maybe the admins thought against other websites being posted that may be competitive to this one.
Posted by: leftykev

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/23/09 03:20 PM

This continues to be a topic of speculation, with no specific reasons for the decline. This is similar to the Movie drive-in theater decline. I realize this is a different topic, but they are related, in that bowling and drive-in theaters where family institutions 2 or more decades ago. There are still drive-in theaters, but the industry is almost non-existent.

Back to bowling...

Whenever my coworkers say, 'lets go bowling,' everyone is up for the idea, because it's a one time deal, and a one time expense. If I ask the same coworkers, if they want to join a league (winter or summer), they say no because they do not want the commitment that requires them to bowl 1 day a week, and pay 1 day a week, even if they don't bowl one week.

As you're pointed out, one time bowling events, like open play, parties, cosmic bowl are popular for just that reason. They are one time events, that don't require the commitment that drives the recreational bowler away from league play.

When I go to the bar, to enjoy some adult beverages and play darts, even though there are local dart leagues, doesn't mean I want to join a dart leagues, simply because I am there to enjoy a once in a while moment for recreation.

Even AMF is changing how bowling is preceived by converting their alleys (where appropriate) to their 300 bowling centers, which focus on the one time recreational bowler. It's an interesting marketing idea, which understands that times have changed and bowling centers can thrive by focusing on the recreational bowling. Is league bowling a thing of the past, like drive-in theaters? Yes and no. There will always be league bowlers.
Posted by: VFF57

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/23/09 03:43 PM

Originally Posted By: shotcat
I have been a bowling proprietor for over 25 years and have watched league bowling and USBC membership decline year after year. I have also seen big growth in open play, cosmic rock and bowl, birthday parities, companies, food sales, etc. But league bowling is still the backbone of the sport, and this industry, and nationally it is still in decline. There are a lot of reasons for decline, most of them are social, and the Internet is one of the reasons. We have been working on combining league bowling with the internet as way to put a little more relevancy and excitement in league bowling, something to help fight the decline. To make this concept work the format (handicap, verification, bowlers on a team, etc.) of the leagues should be developed from the input of bowlers from around the country. I put up a post about online leagues earlier today looking for thoughts and bowler input. I just looked back and the post has been removed, I suppose by someone who thought it was an advertisement, I can see how they might think that, but it was not the intent. As the last post said, “Just looking for ideas” to help Fight the Fight.



Based on my personal experiences, people who are not true bowlers view bowling as a recreation where people get together to drink beer, eat and watch pins fall over. They don't think of bowling as a sport requiring skill and the right equipment which does annoy me at times. I think golf gets more respect than bowling. Hey, why not a golf or football birthday party where kids run around with footballs or golf clubs eating cake and all that :-).

I don't know what will turn that perception around. The decline in league participation by true bowlers may be due to people afraid of a long term commitment and the associated expense. Currently, I'm in two 35 week long leagues and I look forward to going every week. I will also join some summer leagues because I'm now at a point in my life where bowling is important to me again and the commitment doesn't matter. Most people don't think this way because they're not hooked on the sport of bowling. Yes, I called bowling a sport.
Posted by: Scott Gannon

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/23/09 05:00 PM

While I like the 34 week league set-up it is just too long for some people. I think leagues that divide the Winter league up in 2 may have more success because many people just cannot make the committment to a 34 week league.

Also I think a lot of the problem is the people in the league. In my experience and it may not be like this in other houses but there always seem to be a few loaded teams who are out just to smash any competetion. Throw on top of it the fact they are always trying to bend the rules to get an advantage and it can make for a very bad experience. I am there just to try to do my best and like the league format but to many everyday bowlers this can make them sour on the league experience.

I think leagues where there is not too much difference in the prze money from 1st to last are needed so they do not become too competetive.
Posted by: TheDemolitionMan

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 12:53 PM

I think it is a whole mess of things that lead to the decline in league membership and whatnot.

First and foremost, people nowadays at least around my area are committment phobes. Case and point increase in dioverses and couples that stay together but aren't technically married.

Anyways back to bowling. The whole one time, one expense thing rings true from my viewpoint. And this purely based on the fact that in the two years that I've been competatively bowling, I've had three people on my teams quit on me. One was for monetary reasons, and he and I (I was the captain at the time) talked about it, found a replacement and he was on his marry way. The other two nothing, not a reason at all. They just up and quit.

A lot of people view bowling as recreation, like it was mentioned and lets face it. The equipment and training to play our sport isn't exactly cheap so I think that repels a lot of people as well. Plus it takes a bit longer to be an accomplished bowler (I would say 190+). It's not like playing defensive line (no offense to D-linemen, they have gotten me plenty of sacks in my time as a football player so I have great deal of respect for them), however Defensive linemen are stereotyped as being stupid (and occasionally it's true) so they're told to go here and hit this guy. The same can't be said about bowling, to be decent, you usually can't stand in one spot and throw the ball at one spot and get high scores. Sometimes that does happen but eventually you'll have to make adjustments. And most people don't want to take the time to learn all the different things you can do to be better. So going out, chucking a house ball for a few hours with friends and having a good time seems much more appealing than spending 200-300 dollars for equipment, lessons, and time to practice.
Posted by: Calvin Pistorio

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 01:32 PM

One of the biggest factors of the decline is money, especially with the current economic downturn. Many have to decide between necessities much less being able to afford to bowl especially when league fees will eventually go up, and some even cite the cost to sanction (I personally have no qualms with my current sanction fee and it's probably one of the highest including state and local).

That's not it though. There are other factors too. There are other activities to do that are also one time deals, or commitment free. Then there are the bowlers with kids that have their own activities that the parents need to take them to.

Some of the decline is also from not getting enough new bowlers into the mix including kids. With all the other activities for them to be in including other sports and playing video games as much as possible they don't see bowling as a serious activity.

In reference to the original post, I see it more as a way to get word out of this new site and not really talking about the issue in the topic title. A online league has no relevance with fighting the decline in real league bowling.
Posted by: shotcat

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 06:21 PM

Re your last paragraph, that online league bowling is not relevant to league bowling. While that is technically true the same logic would say, side pots, brackets, King of the hill, strike tickets, cards (getting cards for a strike or a spare), and a host of others have no relevance league bowling. Technically that is again true.
But across the country on any league night there are hundreds of thousands of league bowlers playing these little games. (that use league scores just like the online thing we’re talking about) If all those side games were taken away all those bowlers would have a little less excitement, competition, or fun, and it would take away from the overall experience of real league bowling.
Over the last 20 years USBC ABC WBC membership has declined over 40% as has league bowling. As far as the topic title I can see how you might think that, as there is no way you would know where I was coming from. I’ve been a proprietor for a long time and this is a fight a lot of us have been fighting.
Posted by: leftykev

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 06:40 PM

Originally Posted By: shotcat
across the country on any league night there are hundreds of thousands of league bowlers playing these little games. (that use league scores just like the online thing we’re talking about) If all those side games were taken away all those bowlers would have a little less excitement, competition, or fun, and it would take away from the overall experience of real league bowling.


What you are talking about is already online at Virtualtournments.com and VirtualLeagues.com These website attract league bowlers from all over the united states. I missed entering the current virtual league, but I regularly enter the virtual tournaments, and cash regularly.

Unless I'm misunderstand your idea, it might help if you outline your online idea.
Posted by: shotcat

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 07:23 PM

I’m not sure how much information I can post here without being having the post taken down. We are looking for ideas and suggestions for online league formats.
The online leagues we are talking about would be short session (4weeks), cheap ($3.00 per week), and have various formats. My original post was asking for thoughts and ideas for the formats, handicap, bowlers on a team, length of session, etc. was taken down I suppose because someone thought it was a advertisement. Again if anyone has any thoughts for this type of league, get back to me.We are aware of virtualleage. com.
Posted by: shotcat

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 07:36 PM

My favorite re league bowling and commitment.
This is a quote from another proprietor. He was talking with a group of 5 or 6 guys in their twenties who were open bowling. They were bowling quite well and obviously competitive. The proprietor started talking to them about league bowling and explained how leagues worked. One of the bowlers said, “we have to be here every Wednesday at 6:30 for 34 weeks” the bowler hesitated and said’ “I wouldn’t commit to show up every Wednesday for 34 weeks to have [censored] at 6:30.” Also my original post is now in the classified section.
Posted by: CoachJim

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 07:49 PM

Forget about on line legues, that is just a contest about who bowls at the easiest house. It is a huge advantage for people who bowl in an easy house to win an on line league against someone who bowls in a house where they oil the lanes once a week.

I think it might be a good idea to have open tournaments instead of league, you could then have people show up and bowl when they feel like it without having to commit to a league every week. You could have mega brackets with who ever shows up to bowl and charge $20 for lineage and $10 for prize fund and have a payoff every night. You could make money from brackets at $5 for an 8 player bracket paying $25 for 1st and $10 for second and house keeping $5

You could have pba pattern tournaments, team tournaments bowled baker format. You will not have the guaranteed money, but you may make a good steady chunk of change each week if it picks up and word spreads.
Posted by: shotcat

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 08:01 PM

This has to be a handicap league. That means bowling against a guy at an easier house is the same as bowling against a bowler with a higher average in your own house. The handicap makes things even, just like it does in every league in the country every night.

Your other suggestions are good, we have done some similar things in the past.
Thanks for the post.
Posted by: CoachJim

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 09:15 PM

It is hard enough to get handicap right in a league where all the bowlers bowl in the same house. I have bowled in houses where I average 30 pins higher than the place I bowled at. This means that I would have to compete against someone who fist off averages more than me and bowls in an easier house, I doubt there would be enough handicap to make it fair. I can't bowl anymore anyhow so don't mind me.
Posted by: Calvin Pistorio

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/24/09 09:50 PM

Originally Posted By: shotcat
Re your last paragraph, that online league bowling is not relevant to league bowling. While that is technically true the same logic would say, side pots, brackets, King of the hill, strike tickets, cards (getting cards for a strike or a spare), and a host of others have no relevance league bowling. Technically that is again true.
But across the country on any league night there are hundreds of thousands of league bowlers playing these little games. (that use league scores just like the online thing we’re talking about) If all those side games were taken away all those bowlers would have a little less excitement, competition, or fun, and it would take away from the overall experience of real league bowling.
Over the last 20 years USBC ABC WBC membership has declined over 40% as has league bowling. As far as the topic title I can see how you might think that, as there is no way you would know where I was coming from. I’ve been a proprietor for a long time and this is a fight a lot of us have been fighting.


The motivating factor for most people in sidepots any more is money. This has contributed to the "professional" sub since they can get into brackets but not have to pay for league bowling. It has nothing to with excitement and it actually takes away from team league bowling and actually makes it a me first team second thing. Some people do have fun with them and enjoy the added competition, I get in a bracket and card game in my Saturday night league, but it wouldn't be a big deal to me if there were none. That's not why I'm there, I'm there to bowl the league. That's true for more people than not and to me those things take away more from the experience of real league bowling again because it becomes me first.
Posted by: BIGHMW

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 11:15 AM

I met my (common-law) wife Alice Yantz at (now-defunct) Key City Lanes here in Port Townsend back in 1989.

At the tme she was bowling in a mixed league on Tuesday Nights, and I was just getting into this great sport just by watching the Professional Bowlers Tour series when it was on ABC Sports back then (I had been watching it here and there since the mid-70s), and she got me into it on a more serious note, and sure enough, a month later, I had my first ever ball drilled. An Ebonite Thunderbolt, and since then, Alice and I are still together, and we always have looked forward to league night.

20 years later, well after Key City Lanes closed down back in 1999, it's now the Thursday Night PSNS (Puget Sound Naval Shipyard) Red & White League (with teammates Jeff and Anna Nordbarg and captain Larry "Mr T." Tibbets) over at beautiful All-Star Lanes in Silverdale, WA, just a 40-mile drive from our home here in Port Townsend, and not even the price of league fee, gas, and dinner out on League night can ever deter us from enjoying this great sport that both of us still continue to enjoy, as well as make like we are on the Tour during Championship Sunday on ESPN (and back in the day on ABC Television on Saturday Afternoons) every week. I even throw in a little PBA-style trash talk and PDW-style "chop" every once in a while, that's how much this great sport and the guys both in league and on Tour have influenced me (now if only I can keep from dropping my shoulder which causes me to throw an errant shot under pressure) LOL.

Yes, this great sport of bowling, and especially league play, have kept myself and Alice together for almost 20 years together (our 20th Anniversary together is this April), and it still will, no matter what stands in our way. That is how much it has kept us together.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 11:24 AM

Dropping your shoulder is not considered correct, just figured i'd add that in not to be rude.

edit: thought it was ignorant for me to say that. if your bowling style is different and you drop your shoulder and throw a bad ball obviously wouldn't matter if it's correct or incorrect.

excuse my babble
Posted by: Calvin Pistorio

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 12:30 PM

Originally Posted By: Adam Keene
Dropping your shoulder is not considered correct, just figured i'd add that in not to be rude.

edit: thought it was ignorant for me to say that. if your bowling style is different and you drop your shoulder and throw a bad ball obviously wouldn't matter if it's correct or incorrect.

excuse my babble


I don't want to go too far off topic but saw this and wanted to comment. There is no such thing as "dropping the shoulder." A lower ball shoulder is due to body lean, and the correct body lean is good. Look at most of the pros and even the top house bowlers in your area, they have good body lean and a lowered ball shoulder which allows for a nice smooth landing, which promotes good ball reaction.
Posted by: cgeorg

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 12:31 PM

If you don't drop your shoulder, you can't release the ball near the lane, and you can't release the ball under your head/eyes, so you won't get a smooth landing, and you won't be able to see your target line.
Posted by: BIGHMW

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 02:22 PM

Thanks guys for the tips, but I throw the ball pretty straight (almost like Walter Ray or Ernie Schlegel does), and have a very low rev rate, and when playing outside 8 board like I prefer, it somehow causes me to throw the ball right (I am a righty) of target, and sometimes when that happens, it hits the ol' "grey board" instead.
Posted by: cgeorg

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 02:45 PM

That probably means your swing isn't straight. Watch Walter Ray bowl - his shoulders are not level when he releases the ball.

4:17
Posted by: BIGHMW

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 03:07 PM

Thanks for the footage. I also notice that WRW has that downswing tucked in next to his left ankle, which allows a more accurate shot despite the low rev rate we both have. My swing though, happens to bounce out away from my body as opposed to Walter's.

Time for me to break out the ol' camcorder and tapes (Bo Burton once advocated this as one of his Tips Of The Week on ABC years ago) so I can record my practice sessions and analyze my game and my mechanics.
Posted by: cgeorg

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/25/09 08:19 PM

Yep - what we feel is one thing, but video doesn't lie. I try to get some at least once a month.

The reason your swing is out away from your ankle at the bottom could be because you are keeping your shoulders level. That's pure speculation though - the video should tell the true tale.
Posted by: CoachJim

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 05:46 AM

Shotcat, how much would you charge for 2hours of open bowling, taking into consideration it would be as many as 6 bowlers to a pair?

As a coach I would charge $10 a person limit 12 for a two hour clinic style lesson. If you also charge $10 a bowler that would be two hours of bowling with instruction for $20 and would attract business by teaching bowlers how to bowl and the importance of practice, the coach would get people interested in lessons, and the pro shop would pick up business because of clinic goers wanting new equipment and fixing grip issues.

I don't know what your lane availability is, but you could fill at least 4 lanes any night you could get a coach in there, and plant seeds to add interest back in the game and increase your league base that way.
Posted by: Lefty

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 07:11 AM

Originally Posted By: shotcat
This has to be a handicap league. That means bowling against a guy at an easier house is the same as bowling against a bowler with a higher average in your own house. The handicap makes things even, just like it does in every league in the country every night.

Your other suggestions are good, we have done some similar things in the past.
Thanks for the post.


So you're going to make this a 100% of 300 average league? Why not just start a coin flipping league instead? It would save a lot of time and have the same outcome.
Posted by: Dennis Michael

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 07:18 AM

It's pretty evident why teams are leaving our Wed league. We have a solid contingent of 14 teams, and the House keeps adding new teams to our league from other leagues that have folded. The teams added are all newbies, 2-finger types, who have no etiquette, drink and swear, and are never ready to bowl. This year, we added 4 teams from another night that folded, restarted, and folded again. These 4 teams make it really uncomfortable for all of the others.
When you take a solid group of 40-60 year olds who are pretty set in their ways, and add a couple of teams of 20 year olds who are discourteous, it isn't long before some one quits.
There really is a generation gap, and it can't be smoothened.

At my other House, there isn't room for another team. Every league has 20 teams in a 20 lane House. And, they return every year. A singleton waiting list is available, but there is no room for a complete team.

I was also on a waiting list for 2 years at another House. When I finally got a call, I had already committed elsewhere, so I had to decline.

We are kinda filled here.
Posted by: Dennis Michael

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 07:22 AM

BTW, a new chain House opened a little over a year ago. But, it is one of those party type environments with all kinds of games for kids. The House decided no NOT have sanctioned league, but wanted the House sanctioned. Our local USBC Office declined their request to sanction the House without sanctioned leagues.

They have NO leagues there.
Posted by: VFF57

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 09:00 AM

Originally Posted By: CoachJim
Shotcat, how much would you charge for 2hours of open bowling, taking into consideration it would be as many as 6 bowlers to a pair?

As a coach I would charge $10 a person limit 12 for a two hour clinic style lesson. If you also charge $10 a bowler that would be two hours of bowling with instruction for $20 and would attract business by teaching bowlers how to bowl and the importance of practice, the coach would get people interested in lessons, and the pro shop would pick up business because of clinic goers wanting new equipment and fixing grip issues.

I don't know what your lane availability is, but you could fill at least 4 lanes any night you could get a coach in there, and plant seeds to add interest back in the game and increase your league base that way.



That's a good idea. Maybe also have a pro shop guy there to talk about the types of balls, etc. without any sales pressure. Maybe start a beginners leaque so people starting out won't feel uncomfortable around seasoned bowlers.
Posted by: Atochabsh

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 10:25 AM

As a USBC director and Association office staff, I can say that our number of bowlers have not dropped in the last year or so. But they have declined over the last 6 to 10 years. This is probably typical for all the reasons already given. But our winter season is really really busy. It probably has a lot to do with being in CA where the weather and road conditions are always good. So seniors, especially, can get to the centers. Over 50% of our sanctioned bowlers are over 55. I saw this problem when I visited my Dad in Indiana. In winter a lot of seniors don't want to commit due to weather and road issues (in other words transportation) and in summer a lot of them leave for warmer locations. Short of going to their homes and bringing them to the bowl in bad weather , I don't know how to fight that.


But a couple things have helped some of our proprietors. 9 pin no tap leagues. Yes you can sanction them and yes they can get awards, just not average based awards. But a lot of seniors don't see the need to sanction, so we also have a lot of non sanctioned senior leagues, regular and no tap. That hurts the local association numbers, but not the proprietor so it might be an idea for you. We also have "learn to bowl" leagues that are fairly short in duration, and the prize fund goes into a new reactive ball at the end. Coaches are on hand and there's a clinic atmosphere for the first three weeks or so. The league I believe runs 12 weeks. Again, this is not a sanctioned league in this case. We've seen an increase in 1/2 season leagues. So the 34 week commitment is down to like 14 or 16 weeks. You are probably already doing this, but free coffee for morning and day leagues. I don't know why, but free coffee can make the difference between seniors bowling at one center vs the other. Our center feeds them a light lunch every other week too; I think they are charged like a dollar or something in a can on the honor system. Its just simple sandwiches and chips but its all gone by the end of the bowling. And of course the day lineage fees are much less then night. One center charges only $3 lineage, the whole league dues are only $6 per person per week. That league has over 125 senior men (only) in it.

Night leagues again seem to all boil down to lineage costs. Houses that charge less are typically full. The local AMF houses, that always seem to charge more then the privately owned centers, are not full at night. Monday night became an issue in our center. No TVs on the concourse and leagues were going to leave because they could not watch Monday football. Solution.....TVs were installed. Not fancy flat screens, but TVs none the less.

Erin
Posted by: Dennis Michael

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 10:49 AM

One thing that is hurting the House where leagues are failing is the fact that they play music while leagues are in progress. Most bowlers don't want this, and have expressed their discontent. But, it doesn't matter.

Bowlers say they are there to bowl, not Karaoke. Deaf ears again.

Some teams will leave because of this.

Seems to be Brunswick's way or no way.
Posted by: shotcat

Re: Fight the Decline in league bowling - 01/26/09 11:52 AM

Hello CoachJim, In my post I guess didn’t point out that after 25 years + I sold my center this last year. I now spend all my time at another business in which I’ve been a principal for a long time. That business is Biggest Dream Tournaments, which runs golf tournaments and other business events. We are now experimenting with online leagues mainly due to my long connection with and affection for bowling and leagues. You suggestion for clinics is an excellent and proven tactic. We have run similar clinics for years and they are a very effective way to get and keep bowlers fired up. We have always tried to track people dropping out of league play; the majority of dropouts are usually the lowest average bowler on a team, or consistently near the bottom place teams.