Since social media became mainstream, there has always been a fringe segment of United States Bowling Congress
members who have been overly critical of the organization.
Over the past few years, that fringe segment has grown exponentially and is no longer on the fringe, while concerns about USBC have also spilled into local bowling centers. The concerns of the future of USBC can no longer be ignored.
Pictured right is the author, Lucas Wiseman, who has covered bowling events around the world for more than two decades. You can follow him on Twitter at @Lucas_Wiseman.
Much of the dismay is directed toward the current leadership of USBC, specifically Executive Director Chad Murphy. Under Murphy’s watch, USBC has made many controversial decisions and has had other issues. (Full disclosure – I worked at USBC for 13 years, including nearly two years under Murphy.)
Among the most controversial issues: USBC has been placed on probation by the United States Olympic Committee (a still ongoing battle that is approaching one year), not releasing pattern information at national (and other) championships, recent rule changes to the 2019 USBC Open Championships and making decisions based on data but not releasing that data to the public for scrutiny.
To be clear, not everything going on at USBC is negative. Participation in the Junior Gold program is higher than ever, college and high school bowling is thriving, and the Professional Women’s Bowling Association has made a successful return.
So, with so many members upset with USBC, it’s important to identify what steps can be taken for those bowlers to have their voices heard during the annual USBC Convention, which is where many important decisions are made each year.
It is easy to sit behind your keyboard or phone and criticize from the comfort of your recliner, but if you want to make a real difference, action is necessary. Here are some of the ways you can make your voice heard:
Attend the USBC Convention as an actively engaged athlete delegate
Every four years, a segment of USBC bowlers become what is termed “actively engaged athletes” and are eligible to attend the USBC Convention as voting delegates.
The sad thing is, virtually none of these actively engaged athletes actually attend the convention to make their voices heard.
For the 2018 convention next month in Reno, Nevada, there are 3,421 actively engaged athletes eligible to be delegates. As of the time of writing this, there were only five confirmed to attend convention. In 2017, only nine attended as voting delegates.
Actively engaged athletes are defined as bowlers who meet the following criteria: The top 5 percent of all-events scores from the Open and Women’s Championships, the top 50 percent from Team USA Trials and Junior Gold Championships (excluding those under age 18) and Team USA athletes within the preceding 10 years who have represented Team USA in the Olympics, Pan American Games or World Championships.
That group of bowlers is determined on a four-year cycle and the current crop of athletes eligible comes from the 2016 events listed. The next chance to earn a spot as an actively engaged athlete will be at the 2020 Open and Women’s Championships, Team USA Trials and Junior Gold Championships.
Consider this, it would only take about 700 athlete delegates attending the convention to control elections, legislation and make decisions that guide the organization. That’s a powerful and underutilized voice the athletes of our sport have.
Become a delegate through your local or state association
An easier way to become a delegate at the USBC Convention is to become actively engaged in your local or state association. Each year, USBC associations from across the country send delegates to represent their bowlers at the convention.
Getting involved in your local association can be time consuming but if you are truly passionate about the direction of USBC, it is a great way to have a direct impact on who is on the USBC Board of Directors and what legislation is passed each year.
Lobby your local and state association delegates
If you aren’t willing to spend the time or money to become a delegate at the convention, you can lobby your local and state association delegates. Call your local association manager and ask who will be attending the convention on your behalf.
Much like citizens lobby members of the House of Representatives and Senators in Washington, D.C., you can lobby your delegates to have your voice heard.
Lobby the USBC Board of Directors
The USBC Board of Directors holds even more power than the delegates at the convention. Ultimately, they decide the strategic direction of the organization and determine who serves as executive director.
If you are not happy with rule changes, leadership and other matters, reach out to the members of the USBC Board of Directors and tell them your side of the story. If they only receive information from one side of the argument (USBC staff), who do you think they will side with every time? Make your voice heard.
Becoming a delegate and attending the convention is expensive. You have to pay for travel, take time off work and be dedicated to the sport.
There is legislation proposed at this year’s convention to allow for remote voting of delegates. It’s an interesting concept that deserves to be debated and understood without immediate dismissal, but there are valid concerns about USBC’s ability to implement such a plan from a technical standpoint.
One major issue is that USBC schedules the convention on weekdays. This is great for keeping hotel prices down and for those who do not work (a majority of USBC delegates are older). But for younger delegates, having the convention on a weekend would increase the likelihood of participation because it would require less vacation time to be used.
The reality, however, is that attending the convention in person simply isn’t feasible for most people. It’s a problem that demands a solution.
But as detailed above, there are plenty of steps you can take that will cost you very little time or money to affect the direction of USBC.
We are all passionate about the sport. Make your voice heard. USBC, after all, is YOUR organization.