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)

Proper Bowling Etiquette

Part 1 – Strikes, Spares, and Opens
An important, but often undiscussed aspect of competitive bowling is how to follow proper bowling etiquette. It’s good to become familiar with the do’s in reacting to your teammate’s and opponent’s various successes as well as their disappointments. A fist bump to a struggling colleague can be a powerful motivator, just as a high-five when your rival gets a strike can be seen as a respectful gesture and win you possible bowling mates in the future. As such, here are some tips and tricks for following proper bowling etiquette while on the lanes.

Teammate Strike: A high five is preferred, perhaps with a hearty ‘heck, yeah!’ or ‘you da man, (insert teammate name here).’ A fist bump is acceptable depending on if the teammate is a high average bowler and just ended a long string of non-strikes.

Teammate Spare: Fist bumps only! Unless your teammate is a child, in which case high-fives are recommended.

Teammate Open Frame: An open after a big split deserves a fist bump, especially if the pick-up attempt was close. Adding a, ‘Ooo, nice try!’ can be quite effective as well. For any other open, your teammate deserves the dreaded ‘low five’. It will let them know that they should be worried about you replacing them on the team.

Opponent Pocket Strike: A fist bump is entirely appropriate in this situation. Throwing an occasional high five into the mix is good too, but don’t overdo it. You are not friends.

Opponent Brooklyn Strike: This also receives the dreaded low-five. Proper verbal responses include: ‘didn’t know you were a lefty (righty, if the opponent is left-handed)’; ‘better to be lucky than good’; and the ever popular, ‘Hey! Get off my line!’ However, do not make eye contact with your opponent. You won’t acknowledge such blasphemy on your bowling lane.

Opponent Spare: Fist bump and move along. This is business as usual.
Opponent Open Frame: No matter the open (split or not), try to gauge how upset your opponent is prior to offering condolences. If they smile and have an ‘oh well’ look, give them a fist bump; if they seem down in the dumps, offer a low five and a ‘you’ll get ‘em next time’; if they put their fist through the monitor, maybe just quietly let them walk by.