USBC returns to original focus as sport's National Governing Body By Mark Miller



    Republished courtesy of (July 21, 2013)

    20130723ITRC.jpg When we last featured the United States Bowling Congress, it had changed its focus from overseeing the sport as the United States Olympic Committee-designated National Governing Body (NGB) to creating programs and services that enhance the membership experience and create lifelong bowlers.

    Promoting membership and its perks and the potential revenue from increasing the number of people who joined USBC clearly were major reasons why.

    But just two years later, at the 2013 USBC Convention in Reno, Nev., the organization revealed "new" mission and vision statements similar to its original charge in 2005. Instead of focusing on membership, USBC has returned to its NGB roots.

    The reasons for the changes were spelled out by USBC Director Libbi Fletcher, chair of USBC's Strategic Planning Committee. "What we do better than anyone else is being the National Governing Body of bowling," Fletcher told the delegates.

    "This is where our primary focus must be. I suspect many of you believe our work as an NGB is what we currently do best from research and testing to running championship events, coaching and rules expertise.

    "USBC is doing good work in these areas and is in a position to do better to eventually be a great NGB. But to be a great NGB we need to execute at a high level and focus on our core competencies.

    "Membership support will continue to be critical for USBC. Moving forward we are looking for ways to broaden the support to include not only traditional league bowlers and tournament players but also casual bowlers and those who just want to join USBC."

    Fletcher then outlined how the new mission and vision differed from the old.

    "Our old vision focused on the individual, while the new vision focuses on serving the needs of bowling," she said. "Also we felt the new vision gives a clear goal of how we want USBC to be defined. The previous vision of creating lifelong bowlers – a desired outcome – can still be a result under our new vision.

    "Our new plan is the road map by which we'll guide ourselves to answer our big questions, identify problems, with the result being solutions. Our next step in the process the committee is examining key factors that USBC must address in order to achieve those results – to be the leading authority, servicing the needs of bowling as a great NGB.

    "As part of that process we are looking at how USBC can deliver services of value to the sport at the highest level. This includes looking at the needs of different membership segments, our industry partners and opportunities to generate new revenue."

    The new mission states: "USBC is the National Governing Body for bowling. Our mission is to provides services, resources and standards for the sport." The new vision is: "To be the leading authority to the sport, servicing the needs of bowling."

    USBC also added a strategic promise that states: "Celebrate the Past, Be Mindful of the Present, and Ensure Bowling's Future Through Thoughtful Research, Planning and Delivery." And it expounded on USBC's four core values – commitment, innovation, integrity and inclusiveness.

    In short, USBC will protect and nurture the sport with a mutual admiration and respect for all who enjoy bowling.

    "Please note that while we have amended our plan and are proud of the decisions we've made, no problems have been solved yet," Fletcher said. "What we have so far is an honest assessment of what works and doesn't work. Our new plan is a road map by which we'll use to guide ourselves to answer the questions, identify the problems and find solutions.

    "USBC will look at how it can provide services at the highest level including looking at the needs of different membership segments, partners and different ways to generate revenue. We'll also evaluate the organizational structure and delivery system for more efficiencies."

    While proprietors like Gary Forman of Fountain Bowl in Fountain Valley, Calif., agree with the need for USBC to be a good NGB, he worries that too many bowlers will be left behind.

    "You can't ignore the 80 percent of bowlers who are recreational bowlers," Forman said.

    Though some proprietors are upset at USBC moving its minor awards from the national to the local level, Forman isn't one of them. As the president of the Orange County USBC, he understands the reasons why.

    "Maybe doing a local awards program and giving it to the local associations with people who can best deliver such a program is for the best," he said.

    What irked Forman was the USBC delegates failing to pass legislation that would have given the local association boards of directors control over setting local dues to be able to manage local awards programs. Because the action would have amended the USBC bylaws, it needed a 2/3 majority vote and came up just 10 votes short of passing.

    USBC spent much time and effort trying to explain the reasons why non-honor score awards were being moved to the local associations. While USBC Executive Director Stu Upson told the delegates the move would save $800,000 annually, President Andrew Cain said that wasn't a major consideration.

    "We're aware this has been a difficult topic," Cain said. "Without the right context, decisions can be extremely confusing. Change isn't easy and nobody had an expectation that the decision would be easily embraced. As I mentioned earlier, change often destroys things that are familiar. There can be an empty feeling.

    "Nationally, we provide many services to the bowlers and bowling both tangible and intangible that often are overlooked or are not as powerful because we've devoted significant time and resources in the search for the perfect awards program. We didn't arrive at this decision for a cost-savings approach. We arrived at it with an approach that considered our future, bowling's future.

    "We identified that people go bowling and join USBC because their friends, their parents, their grandparents asked them to. Maybe it was safer than playing rugby. But they bowl simply because they love to bowl. We recognized that in some areas awards remain important.

    "But the truth is the grass roots, our volunteer leaders, you are the best resource we have for that effort. There's no such thing as a perfect awards program and having the ability to make flexible decisions for an association's business and membership should be with those who have the most direct access to the bowler. This is a period of transition and we are committed to helping in any way necessary"

    A printed report from Karl Kielich, chair of the Awards and Recognition, expanded on the concept.

    "The Awards and Recognition committee had the additional responsibility to review the membership awards product," the report said. "We acknowledged that our current special achievement awards program is not adding significant benefit for the majority of our bowlers.

    "Through our review process, the committee realized that USBC National cannot sufficiently meet the needs of our bowlers when it comes to awards. The committee recommended, and the USBC board approved, a proposal that beginning with the 2014-2015 bowling season, USBC National no longer will set criteria or provide special achievement awards (bag tags and lapel pins). A primary consideration for this decision is that local associations often know their bowlers better and will have the flexibility."

    One great piece of news was delivered by Frank Wilkinson, chair of the USBC Youth Committee and proprietor of Rab's Country Lanes in Staten Island, N.Y.

    "For the first time in a long time we will have more youth in 2012-13 than in 2011-12," Wilkinson said. "We will have more youth members than the previous year."

    Wilkinson said the youth programs being instituted by USBC and the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America are promising though the ultimate results may take quite awhile.

    "We're trying to create a new generation of bowlers," he said. "It may not begin to show the results for 20 to 25 years when our current kids have kids and create a new generation of bowlers."

    Upson said one of USBC's biggest challenges is to figure out ways to thrive rather than just survive as is currently happening. He and the other leaders hope that will happen by focusing USBC on its role as an NGB.

    Note: The Bowling Examiner originally wrote this story for International Bowling Industry Magazine.