A Future For The Sport - 2018 recap, 2019 preview
By Chad Murphy
USBC Executive Director
From research studies supporting new ball specifications to growth at our championships and celebrating fully merged associations, 2018 proved to be a terrific year for the sport of bowling. At every level, we should be proud of the service and progress we made last year.
As we start 2019, let’s look back at the priorities.
The IBC Youth Development team continues to push youth bowling programs and once again delivered record numbers.
For the eighth consecutive year, the Junior Gold Championships set new marks – more than 3,800 youth competitors, more than 10,000 attended the trade show in Dallas and a whopping 7,000-plus took part in the opening ceremonies in American Airlines Center.
2018 Junior Gold Opening Ceremony
In 2018, Bowler’s Ed grants featuring mobile bowling equipment and curriculum to teach the sport were awarded to 46 schools and organizations throughout the country. The program provides educators the tools to engage children in a true bowling experience inside a classroom or gym and reaches children who might never have had the opportunity to experience the sport. Bowler’s Ed has provided approximately 225 in-school bowling equipment grants since 2009, which has positively impacted more than 1 million youth.
USBC Collegiate continued its steady growth, setting records with 221 schools and more than 3,850 collegiate members.
In 2018, the IBC Youth Development Team also worked to build its presence on social media with more than 950,000 engagements reported across the platforms.
It was a tremendous year for the IBC Youth team and it would not be possible without the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America. Their partnership and support have been, and continues to be, invaluable. A special thanks to the IBC Youth Committee and also to Gary Brown and Roger Noordhoek for their leadership of the youth team.
Competitive Bowling/Championship Tournaments
USBC’s flagship tournaments – the Open Championships and Women’s Championships – continue to show signs of growth. The Open Championships in Syracuse, New York, was the first time in three years the event was conducted outside the state of Nevada. Syracuse increased teams by 3% when measured against our most recent non-Nevada event (El Paso in 2015).
The Women’s Championships returned to Reno for the first time in four years and was up 15% when measuring against the last trip to Reno.
2018 USBC Women's Championships
On the research front, the satisfaction survey shows Open Championships bowlers overwhelmingly approve of the new division structure (76% said the changes are good for the tournament long-term or agree with the goals) and 67% believe the shot being applied is an appropriate challenge for the championships. While 44% prefer the patterns remain secret, 35% said they should be revealed and 21% said they didn’t care.
In total, the research showed the event is on track to serve the needs/wants of the majority of the bowlers. Entry totals back that up, as 2019 is tracking to have the largest Open Championships team count since 2012.
Some other accomplishments to report:
- Tournament entries for the PWBA were up 10%
- On-site attendance for PWBA finals were up 9%
- PWBA.com traffic was up 18%
- USBC Masters sold out for the sixth consecutive year
- Team USA topped the medals table at the Men’s World Championships, including gold in trios
- Junior Team USA girls took home team gold at the World Bowling Youth Championships
- Team USA’s Shannon O’Keefe won the QubicaAMF World Cup
- Super Senior Classic sold out
- Senior Queens had its largest field since 2010
Wow, what a year. Thanks to the tournament team for all their support but also to every member who bowled in a USBC-certified event this season!
In 2018, USBC continued to increase and enhance our video production and digital media. Some highlights:
- USBC produced 17 televised events in collaboration with partner CBS Sports Network and telecasts re-aired approximately 100 times
- The USBC Masters also was televised on ESPN as part of a partnership with PBA
- More than two million users of BOWL.com reviewed 15.6 million pages of content
- Produced more than 900 different video projects for distribution through our channels
- More than 6,000 posts on our social media platforms
- Subscriber growth rate for our YouTube channel was up 106% year-over-year
CBS Sports Network televised 17 events in 2018
In 2018, we saw the completion of upgrading all local associations to WinLABS 12 – the custom association and tournament management software USBC provides to our associations.
We also expanded USBC’s custom online tournament registration to include the USBC Youth Open Championships for the first time.
SafeSport training was integrated into the Registered Volunteer Program (RVP). This effort to support the mandated changes from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) was not part of our original 2018 Business Plan. We are proud the IT team was able to successfully integrate the new SafeSport training portal with USBC’s membership database so we can track the completion of the requirement. USBC IT also made modifications to the Find A Volunteer and Find A Coach searches on BOWL.com to ensure you know who is meeting the current RVP requirements.
USBC Community Login was developed and rolled out in several applications in 2018. This establishes the foundation for Single Sign-On for all USBC applications in the future. Soon, you will use this one common login for all USBC online properties.
Behind the scenes, USBC IT modernized and stabilized our technology stack. The last year was critical for establishing common tools and architecture for all future development.
The SMART online payment portal was enhanced to allow Providers to use credit cards to fund scholarships. Since this feature was introduced, more than $1.7 million has been submitted for students utilizing this new feature.
The final 267 local and state mergers were completed in 2018, making every association that serves bowlers a single entity for the first time. We would like to thank local leaders throughout the country who have made this longtime dream a reality. USBC now is one organization poised to move forward more efficiently into the future.
Thanks also to the delegates who had the courage to make it all happen.
There are some positive trends in the membership categories, as well. With almost 90% of the membership in place as of this reporting, for the 2018-2019 season USBC is going to report its smallest decline in membership in its history in the annual report that will be out in the spring. Both youth and adult numbers are an improving trend. To be very clear, we still are declining, but the rate is slowing with this season trending toward the smallest decline in USBC’s history.
USBC’s 2018 membership satisfaction survey indicates satisfied and extremely satisfied members are up over 8% since 2016.
Education and Training
In 2018, USBC conducted seven additional USBC Association Leadership Academy training sessions. In just two years, 540 associations leaders attended the training, representing 272 state or local associations.
More than 500 association leaders have attended a USBC Association Leadership Academy
We also conducted 30 new lane inspection workshops with 966 attendees, representing 325 associations.
I am certainly proud of the team here at the campus in offering these training sessions, but also the response from our volunteers who chose to attend. Education sessions are a wonderful exchange. Our headquarters team learns a tremendous amount from attendees, and we are able to share that in future training sessions, so thanks to all involved.
The Equipment Specifications and Certifications department published two major research reports, with supporting videos, on BOWL.com in 2018.
- Bowling Technology Study evaluated bowling ball covers and cores
- Balance Hole Study Update
Based on data from the studies, new specifications for bowling balls were announced at our convention in April. More information can be found at BOWL.com.
Protecting the future of the sport in these areas is the main concern of the effort. The amount of oil being applied to the lane has continued to increase at large rates and is counter to the good of the sport moving forward. So, adjustments were made to the bowling ball.
The other major research report was possible because of recent changes to the lane certification process.
- 2017-18 Lane Inspection Research Report
This groundbreaking report details learnings based on measurements from every bowling lane in the field finally landing in one database. We no longer are guessing about lane data, we now have actual reports available to analyze.
Thanks again to all involved in these two very important projects. Over three years of research went into the decisions that have been made.
There is much to be proud of from our great association. I’d like to close by discussing a topic that came to the forefront in 2018 and that’s the new U.S. Center for SafeSport requirements and our obligations as part of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
As the National Governing Body for bowling in the United States, we have a great responsibility to meet the USOC standard for youth athlete safety. USBC always has been a leader in this area through our RVP program and collaboration with SafeSport. In 2018, new standards and mandates came from the federal government and USOC. We realize these mandates require time and expense for our volunteers.
I am very proud to see the vast majority of the USBC community react positively to the mandate for increased background checks and SafeSport training. We certainly thank our leaders in the field who have embraced the new RVP program and all SafeSport stands for.
In closing, 2018 was another year of growth for USBC in a great many ways. The technology and delivery models are advancing and communication channels improving, which lead to better activation for all of bowling. Thanks to everyone for all the help and support.
2019 and beyond
In 2019, we will continue to look to the future of our sport and work toward it. The current priorities won’t change. However, we will begin to measure at a greater depth what’s been put in place in the last several years.
We are excited about the growth at the Open Championships in Las Vegas while looking forward to the 100th edition of the Women’s Championship in Wichita, Kansas. We have seen growth in our short-duration events, especially our senior events, and anticipate that trend will continue. We will expand the Association Leadership Academies this year, as well.
State and local association tournaments are getting ready to kick off, USBC Convention in the spring is right around the corner, followed by the fifth PWBA season and a full summer of youth events, all over the country. It’s a great time to be a part of what’s happening at USBC as we serve bowling in as many ways possible.
Youth Development, Membership Value, Technology, Competitive Bowling/Championship Tournaments and Marketing will continue to be where we focus our time and efforts.
In addition to our five core areas of focus, we want to share some additional details about what we are working on in 2019.
Digital, Media, Live event coverage
One of the very clear Strategic Priorities stated in the USBC Strategic Plan is to diversify the revenue streams. As many of you know, about 95% of USBC’s revenue comes from its membership dues and from conducting championship tournaments. The Open and Women’s Championships, specifically, have long been fundraisers for the organization. Short-duration events benefit from the revenue raised at the Open and Women’s Championships with the subsidies that pay prize funds. USBC for years has absorbed the costs of the livestreaming services from events, as well.
In an attempt to lighten that load moving forward, and to create a different revenue stream, USBC is launching its own paid video service, BowlTV. In this model, those who are interested in livestreamed events, instructional videos and extra bowling content can choose to subscribe and help with the cost. This as opposed to our current model, where the USBC Tournament bowlers subsidize free video for the entire public.
The new BowlTV will have much more than just livestreamed events. The platform will be interactive with conversations, contests, prizes, trivia, instruction, advanced storytelling about the athletes and historical archives.
USBC again will reach out to a very small group of leagues that have been identified as having the incorrect lane condition type marked for their league in our system. Sport leagues and Challenge leagues need to be marked correctly and averages converted accordingly. We are thrilled to report USBC has identified less than 100 leagues this year. Conversations will be taking place with the local associations of these leagues first, then the league and bowling centers, as part of the process. The improvement from last year’s number is noticeable and an indication the reclassification process is working.
We will continue to expand USBC’s tournament registration systems. USBC short-duration events will be added to the system in 2019. Additionally, a local association pilot project is taking place as we speak. The long-term goal is to offer USBC’s registration technology to any certified tournaments that want to use the system. That may take several years, but we are working toward the vision. In just three years, we have our national Open, Women’s and Youth events fully functional and are ready for the next step.
Our online single sign-on, our USBC Community Login, will continue to expand. BOWL.com and Find a Member will be added this spring with the SMART portal and association supply orders coming as the next step executed in 2019. The long-term goal is for our members to have the same login for all of our activations. This has been a long-time vision and we are seeing it start to take shape.
Your (our) National Governing Body is hard at work. Know that and know this is creating the true value of your membership.
USBC is one organization that includes local associations, state associations, and bowling centers, as well as our members dedicated to building A Future for the Sport, servicing bowling for everyone. There always is much to celebrate in our sport and 2018 was no different.
What will 2019 bring? More service to bowling. Some in similar ways, others in new ways, no doubt.
I want to thank new President Karl Kielich, the USBC Board of Directors, our staff here at the bowling campus, and the more than 25,000 volunteers who deliver bowling every day.
With pride and purpose, I’ll close with a friendly reminder as to the mission and promise of USBC. It’s certainly an honor and privilege to serve as your Executive Director, and I am very much looking forward to 2019 and beyond.
USBC is the National Governing Body for the sport.
Our mission is to provide benefits and services, resources and standards for the sport.
Our promise is to celebrate the past, be mindful of the present and ensure bowling’s future through thoughtful research, planning and delivery. We will protect and nurture the sport with a mutual admiration and respect for all who enjoy bowling.
Have a great 2019!
USBC Executive Director