Volume 1, Issue 30
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
I heard some pretty disappointing news this week. Without a last-minute change of events, the Web site at youthbowling.com will be no more after this week. There hasn't been a week that goes by that I haven't referred a young bowler or a parent to that site to find colleges with bowling teams or post youth tournament information. When the site closes, the big losers will be the YABA bowlers.
Youthbowling.com also includes a glossary of bowling terms that included both standard and regional slang (my favorite is still grey board for gutter), a bowling honor board for junior bowling accomplishments of any average, a section called Recruit Me where youth bowlers complete a brief resume in an attempt to gain attention of colleges with bowling programs, and just about anything bowling-related--from bowling magazines to finding a coach to a place to asking a pro shop professional about the ball d'jour.
Apparently, I wasn't the only person referring people to the site. According to site owner, Paul Horvick, the site receives 1,200+ hits (visits) a day. In the two years it has been running, half a million visitors have checked out the site. Paul's name might sound familiar since he writes for Bowling This Month, awarding the Future Champions scholarships to junior and senior high school students each month. Youthbowling.com has been a labor of love/work in progress throughout its existence, evolving from the YABA NEWS and Youth/Collegiate Awards Project to the present site with its own domain name. During that time, Paul has invested over $15,000 of his own money to help support junior bowling.
During that time, Paul has received help in the form of regular product donations from Storm, Track, Brunswick and DiscountBowlingSupply.com; AMF and Faball each made a one-time ball contribution; and amazingly Columbia and Ebonite never participated in the site at all. During that time, the amount of financial support the industry sent to keep the site running was zero.
The ball donations, often in the form of a gift certificate, require postage to send to the winner. When the balls were shipped directly to Paul, the postage to ship the balls at $6-8 a ball adds up quickly. Right now, Paul has the commitment from Storm and Track and the Internet retailer for another 50 balls if he continues, but not any corporate sponsorship to keep the site going. Right now it's a labor of love, but Paul has to draw the line somewhere. He estimates his expenses at $600 a month to run the site for phone calls, postage, and upkeep on the site itself.
I find it ironic that the cigarette companies figured out how to create brand loyalty with Joe Camel before children reach school age, and yet the bowling industry can't open its purse strings to create goodwill among the future consumers of bowling goods. But then when I hear that Paul has even approached YABA for some support in this venture, and been told they view the site as competition, I realize this is an uphill battle. Lost in this shortsightedness is the fact the ball prizes are often raffled off by youth organizations, earning up to $600 for their expenses. The ball gets advertised, the group can fund tournaments, and youth can keep bowling. Everyone wins--there is no competition.
It is the holiday season and I refuse to give up hope. According to Paul, there is still a chance that the site will survive. At the proverbial last minute, Paul heard from a major industry firm, wanting information on the site. At this point, it could be a serious inquiry or just mere curiosity. If Youthbowling.com goes dark, it will truly be a loss to the bowling community. On the other hand, if Santa is a bowler, maybe he can find an underwriter to support the site, and bring a happy new year to junior bowlers and their parents everywhere.