Volume 2, Issue 19, The 71st Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
After just a couple weeks of competition, my son's league folded last week. It seems that organized league bowling is no match for promotional leagues, when a center chooses to entice kids that way. The center nearest my son's school offered regular leagues on Thursdays after school. By definition, "regular league" means three games of YABA-sanctioned play to me, not two games with a toy enticement. I never intended to sign up for the bowling equivalent of a Happy Meal.
Bowling after school must be the road less traveled when compared to the standard Saturday morning leagues. But for some of us with busy weekends, 90 minutes on a Thursday afternoon is a blessing. We didn't mind the small league, since we were in and out. I've called around, and his options are few or none now. We even tried for a Parent/Child league at a different center on another evening, but that didn't floor.
I really try hard not to bash the concept of open bowling and nonsanctioned leagues, because very often that's how new bowlers discover the more competitive areas of our sport--on the coattails of open bowling or one of the many forms of glow bowling or have-a-ball leagues. In fact, the kids who bowled with Michael last year all bowled Cosmic during the summer before, and that's how they learned there was something called "league bowling."
I've always been a strong believer that the transition went from open bowling, to something more regular, like a particular time slot for Cosmic, or an unsanctioned have-a-ball league, and finally to sanctioned leagues. But once sanctioned, the goal is to keep a child there for the scholarships, tournament experiences, and free coaching available to the younger bowlers. By pointing new bowlers to the alternative leagues, it feels like we're moving backwards. By encouraging children already in a sanctioned league to switch to the bowling "light" versions, bowling centers are abandoning the sport.
Centers are pushing have-a-ball leagues for kids, with a simple plastic ball for only a couple dollars more per week. For kids bowling league for a while, they probably already own a better ball than the center is offering, so that would be little enticement to those kids who are already bitten by the bowling "bug." There's a web site dedicated to kids who bowl a particular type of league at this center, yet their regular junior bowlers can't get into the site. And in a "Be careful what you wish for, Angel" moment, Pokemon trading card leagues sprouted up this fall. I should have known the outcome when the junior director came up to me a week before the league began, with the Pokemon flyer in her hand, and mentioned that Michael's league was going to be small.
She asked if he liked Pokemon, and I said sure. She then began explaining the concept of a two-game league where the kids get the Pokecards every week, and how so many of the kids who used to bowl the regular league joined that. Great, but unsanctioned, two-game leagues don't fit my definition of bowling. Even if the league was sanctioned, it will be tough for most of them to get the games in necessary to bowl city or state tournament. Never mind the fact that while Michael doesn't collect the cards. Knowing the frenzy the cards cause (including being banned in schools), I can only imagine how many of the kids pay attention to the bowling after they pay their league fees and receive their cards.
For the kids who might try bowling for the first time because of the league "stuff," great. In a few years when they're ready for a real league, Michael will hopefully still be bowling. But this is one junior coach/proud mom who was really disappointed to see the sanctioned league fold. These kids won't be able to experience the excitement of their first city tournament this year, and they'll be missing out on the awards, scholarships, and other goodies that come with being a sanctioned league bowler.