Ways to Improve the USBC National Tournament

Last weekend I attended the 2017 USBC Open Championship. This was my second time participating (I attended in 2016 in Reno), and my first time as Captain. Overall, the event was one of the most disappointing bowling experiences of my life. And, no, it has nothing to do with how difficult the lane conditions were or how good or, more accurately, bad I bowled. That’s a debate for another time. With that said, here are 6 issues that the USBC needs to consider fixing for future US Opens.

1.) Lack of Clear Instruction:

As a first-time Captain, the USBC did little to nothing to provide me with the information necessary for a smooth time before and during the event. Register online (or fill out a form and mail it in), give them all the team information, and pay. Seems simple enough…yet, for some reason, a month prior to the event you are mailed a piece of paper demanding you confirm the accuracy of your team’s information, but the letter doesn’t supply an actual way to do so. Turns out you don’t have to do anything. Once you’ve given them your registration info, then you need to have the team fill out a ‘Green Sheet’, answering questions that have either a.) already been asked during registration or b.) could have been asked during registration. If that weren’t enough, once you arrive at the venue, there are only 2 to 3 signs telling you where to go, and one of them sends you to THE WRONG 60 lane bowling alley. When six people are wandering around toting 50 lbs. of bowling balls or more, a few indications of where the tournament is located would be helpful. (Or maybe a map, which could be posted on the USBC website.) I will say that for every time I had to reach out for clarification to USBC staff, they were informative, helpful, and kind – a rare highlight during this stressful event.

2.) Starting Times:

This is probably the epic failure of this year’s USBC tournament. When I signed up originally, my team and I were set to bowl at 8:30 PM, which is already late for a group of old timers like us, but it was the only available time, so that’s okay. Then, about 3 weeks prior to the event, one of my teammates (not me, the captain) gets an email from the USBC letting us know our start time is now 9:30 PM. Considering we had to turn around and bowl again at 9:00 AM, losing an hour was a little rough. And finally, at the event we had to wait ANOTHER 30 minutes for everything to be reset from the previous session. This one is a very easy fix: more lane machines. This year, the event used two lane machines to oil 60 lanes at a time. How much more would 2 or 3 more machines cost to add? It certainly could have saved a lot of bowlers a lot of time.

3.) Warmup Times:

Session length being an issue, I can somewhat understand this, but would it really kill the USBC to add 4 more minutes of warm-up time for Doubles/Singles?

4.) Gouging:

Team photos = $, videos of your bowling = $ (by the way, you can’t film yourself), weekend times = $, and even food and drink prices were more expensive than the rest of the casino where the event was held – even if you wanted to walk the half mile back there to get a drink or food, a guard would stop you from bringing it in. The team photo is the item here that bothers me the most. Each team spent nearly $1000 to bowl in this tournament, and yet we’re not even given a thirty-cent copy of a photo we’re required to take? The USBC should, as a thank you to the teams bowling, provide at least one quality print to each team.

5.) Awards:

I am all for celebrating the accomplishments of the bowlers who have made multiple journeys to these tournaments over the years, but spending 20 minutes or more every team session to recognize a bowler bowling his 22nd or 31st consecutive tournament is a waste of time. These awards could easily be given to the captains to hand to their teammates, and then milestones (5, 10 year intervals) could be announced prior to the team session.

6.) Dress Code:

While entering the squad room, I watched as a man was stopped by an USBC attendant and told that he was not wearing proper attire. He was wearing jeans (which is allowed), and a bowling jersey shirt with no collar (which is allowed). However, the combination of both is not allowed. USBC, it’s time to give up on these archaic regulations. People should be allowed to bowl in the attire that is most comfortable for them to bowl well in (including shorts and t-shirts). Instead of forcing regulations upon everybody you should incentivize additional Pride Awards that will encourage positive team uniform collaboration instead of negatively enforced necessity.

Simple changes, but necessary ones. Hopefully, the USBC will take these considerations to heart if they wish to continue this annual tradition for decades, even centuries to come.

Proper Bowling Etiquette (Part 2)

Odds, Oddities, and Ends

Preparing to Bowl (1 lane): If the person bowling to your immediate right or left reaches the lane before you do, you MUST allow them to bowl before you bowl. If you attempt to bowl while they are bowling, you will likely get sneers, hear jeers, and be called a lowly amateur.
When you Gotta go…: During league play, whether it be to use the restroom, order cheese sticks from the restaurant, or pick up a beer from the bar, make sure that you do so right at the end of your turn. There is nothing worse than coming back twenty minutes late to have your teammates glaring at you.

Preparing to Bowl (2 lanes): If the person bowling two lanes to your left or right (leaving one open lane in between) is about to go, breathe easy, you can bowl without fear of recompense. Most every bowling league in the world uses this as a standard rule.
Sick Bump: On the rare occasion that you are sick while bowling, it’s best not to congratulate your opponents with fingers or fists that have seen strong amounts of germ action recently. Instead, offer them the ‘Sick bump’. Use your elbow to accept their high fives and/or fist bumps. This will ensure their health and allow them to appreciate your thoughtfulness.
One Ball on the Rack: For the league bowlers, make sure you only have one ball on the ball return at a time. For those of us who use a spare ball, this can be quite tricky. If you are forced to use your spare ball on your second shot (damn 10 pins…), pull your strike ball off the rack and set it aside until your next shot. Don’t be that guy who stands in front of the lane he just bowled, blocking the next bowler, while waiting for his spare ball to come back.

Preparing to Bowl (empty lanes): On the rare occasion that no one is bowling between you and the end of the alley (either to the right or left of you), upon releasing your ball, you are required to turn to your right (or left) and run down the approaches of the other lanes until you reach the side of the building. Reaching the side of the building before your ball hits the pins will result in a guaranteed strike (results may vary)

USBC National Tournament

 

The premiere bowling tournament of any year is the United States Bowling Congress National Tournament. It is held in a different location every year (2017’s tournament is in Las Vegas; 2018 will be in Syracuse, NY) and lasts from February until the 4th of July. And every USBC sanctioned league bowler in America is invited to attend! With that in mind, here are a few tips and notes for when you’re ready to attend the tournament.

When should I sign up?
As soon as you can. Squad dates and times fill up quickly (especially on the weekend sessions). Many bowlers will sign up a year in advance so that they can assure themselves the dates and times they want to bowl. The latest you want to sign up is 4 months out from the event.

What does it cost?
The tournament can be a bit of an investment. Prices vary depending on the events, the dates, and the times you sign up for (there is sometimes an extra charge for weekend bowling). Someone participating in all the major categories will probably spend between $175 and $200. Additionally, unless you live in one of the host cities, you’ll need to factor in travel expenses such as airfare, hotel, and food while you’re there.

What are the major categories?
Singles, Doubles, and 5-man team are the standard categories. The team portion is bowled on day 1. You and your team bowl 3 games, alternating lanes with another team. You stay on the same pair for all 3 games. The Singles/Doubles portion is bowled on day 2. You will bowl 3 games with your doubles partner, followed immediately by 3 games as a singles bowler. All 6 games are bowled on one pair, and generally 6 total bowlers bowl on each pair.

What are the lane conditions like?
The USBC changes the oil pattern for each tournament and generally has different patterns for the team portion and the singles/doubles portion. For a standard house shot bowler, it’s important to know that you will struggle to shoot high scores. More than likely, you will be between 20-40 pins lower than your league average. Even if you bowl a sport shot league, you will still likely struggle a little.

What else can you tell me?
The event is awesome and a whole lot of fun. When you arrive at the alley, you’ll go behind the scenes to have your bowling balls measured and weighed to make sure you are using legal equipment. If it turns out you’re not, you will have a short amount of time to get the ball corrected at the pro-shop so that you can use it at the tournament. After the weighing, you, your team, and all the other teams, will be marched out into the alley to exciting music and cheers from the crowd! Before you know it, you’ll be bowling in one of the finest bowling alleys in the United States!

Is it worth it?
YES! The trip is great for friends and family alike, and is a great experience whether you only go once, or go every year! Additionally, if you do bowl well, you can win great money prizes!