Hello USBC Members,
I hope everyone is doing well. I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to touch base on some of the events of the last several weeks. Along with this letter, we are publishing an FAQ for those who want more details. Here is a link to that document.
The last few weeks and months have been a rough ride for bowling in the area of ball specifications. When these situations happen, it’s unexpected and disruptive. The timing is never good. The speculation and rumors are challenging. Understandably, everyone feels impatience with the process and wants more information immediately. Bowlers, competition officials and all stakeholders are justifiably concerned.
As you know, enforcing rules and policies for a national sport isn’t simple. Effective governance is not a popularity contest. USBC is a membership organization, and we celebrate our members right to be critical. We would ask those being so vocal with concerns to always remember that governance is very necessary. USBC members demand governance of the sport. Without quality governance for the sport, chaos would ensue.
I want to start by thanking all the people that have been involved in shaping the USBC Equipment Specifications and Certifications Manual. For more than 30 years, USBC volunteers, staff and bowling’s manufacturers have worked together to create a governance structure for the equipment in our sport. All these leaders gave us the baseline for what we have today.
USBC governance of bowling balls is built on trust. We depend on our partners to make products within the agreed upon specifications, and then verify with a series of checks to confirm. That trust comes with asking for only two sample balls for USBC approval. Only two seems small. You may ask why? A big reason is that it keeps the cost down and makes the process efficient for the manufacturer, and also USBC. This lower cost keeps the research and development costs lower and fosters innovation. This also keeps cost down for the bowler.
There are about 300 new ball releases a year. USBC’s Equipment Specifications department has five people. If we did as some have suggested and had a deeper approval process, we would need two or three times as many staff members. Similarly, the manufacturers would need additional staffing at more costs.
These calls for more testing and more regulation would lead to more expense, which is eventually paid by you, the bowler. Instead, we trust our manufacturing partners to do their best, and they trust USBC. We trust them for ball approval, and they trust we will verify in the field. When an issue occurs, it’s easy to see that imperfection and attack it. We all agree the process is not perfect.
Some argue it would be OK if balls that were built below USBC specifications to continue to be used in our highest competitions. Some say that because a tournament started with an out-of-specification product in use, it needs to be completed that way.
As a direct answer: Approved bowling balls may be used for competition until the data demonstrates otherwise. Once identified as outside specification, they are removed. The timing will never be good. However, allowing balls the national governing body knows to be outside of specification to continue to be used at our national events would simply be wrong.
Furthermore, I want to add, USBC has no information that balls were intentionally shipped to market outside of specification. USBC has no information anyone knowingly used an illegal ball. Those pointing fingers at this type of an intentional act are misinformed. The conspiracies are unfounded.
While a difficult process, USBC members can be proud. Some folks say, “I don’t get anything for my USBC membership.” Well, here USBC is delivering the purest of value to our members by enforcing equipment specifications as stated in our manuals. USBC is acting with a balance of protecting the integrity of USBC national tournaments, while giving members a choice to do what is best for them locally.
Some are attacking saying we should do something different. It’s a complicated governance impacting a nation of bowlers and our manufacturing partners. We can only offer that we will continue to do our best to act consistently within USBC rules and in the best interest of our members and bowling.
USBC’s mission is not to be popular. Our mission is to provide services, resources and standards for the sport. In short, we do what is best for bowling – all of bowling.
We come out of these events with a lot to reflect upon. I ask this of everyone: It’s time to be brave, time to have the courage to heal. We need to put these events behind us and respect each other as one bowling community. Let’s get back to competing with all the joy our sport brings. Please support all manufacturers as they focus on serving bowling.
At USBC, we will head to convention in a few weeks with our heads held high. We will crown new champions all over the country throughout our 1,400 associations. It will be a spring and summer full of smiles.
While all that is happening, USBC will look for ways to improve and learn from recent events.
I hope to see many of you soon at a future event. Thanks for your continued support, your membership and continued participation in this great sport.
Have a great summer,
USBC Executive Director