How Bowling Can Grow: Make it Inclusive & Make it Fun

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

I recently went to my first ever Underground Bowling Association (UBA) event.  I had seen some of their videos in the past and it seemed like everyone was having fun.  This is not the norm since tournament competition can be serious. Rose Wooden, President Marilyn Pin KrushersFirst, I met Rose, the President of the Maryland Pin Krushers.  She is just an incredible force for growing the sport and she invited me to join her team. The UBA also allowed us to introduce Creating The Difference to the membership with a table and display. Even the name of the tournament is entertaining - The Unholy Alliance.  The tournament started at 9 am with check-in starting at 8 am.  I bowl or participate in about 40 tournaments a year.  From the moment I walked into this tournament, I knew things were different.  I was greeted by another vendor who offered to help us get set up. The staff at Laurel Lanes was quick to help us find the best place for our tables. Throughout the weekend, they offered lunch to us and to the UBA staff.  They have some of the best wings, by the way.  The manager even gave me their secret - they half cook them, give them an ice bath and then finish cooking them.  This keeps them plump and moist. Yep, I’ll be trying that next week.  Throughout the weekend, I had several conversations with the UBA CEO Phil Chance. He’s a sharp guy and you can just tell he gets it. By “it,” I mean how to help grow the sport of bowling. Make it inclusive, make it fun, and they will come. The event was in a 64 lane center with 4 squads and it sold out in 2 weeks.   

How They Make It Fun

The people make the event fun. The atmosphere the UBA provides is very conducive to that.  Take, for example, the jerseys.  Everyone is a member of a team and hence everyone has to wear a jersey.  This shows a sense of team and pride for whatever you are repping.  What makes the jerseys fun is that everyone puts their nickname on them.  Like:


I met so many people just because I wanted to know how they got their nicknames.  Since they are nicknames it’s a great way to meet and everyone is cool with explaining their name;  although some don’t need explanation:Check my Instagram for some of the more humorous ones. The thing is, the names spark a conversation which leads to making friends and that is fun.


The tournament was called the Unholy Alliance, which I didn’t understand until I got there - and it's genius.  Each team in this event had to have 3 members who were from different UBA franchises (making it unholy) with at least 1 man and 1 woman on the team. This means you have to meet people from other franchises (teams) and compete with them. This type of inclusion helps you make new friends which leads to having fun.  I bowled with 2 great people and we had a blast just talking about ball motion and That Purple Stuff (go figure).

The Belts

The UBA has a process but in the end you can win an actual title belt like in WWE.  The people who have earned these belts wear them, take pictures with them and talk trash to other people with them on.  Which once again makes it fun and entertaining to watch.  I saw the belt and was like I need to get one of these!

The Bowling

The event was on time, even with re-oils. Although there were a few bumps along the way, overall it was ran well.  The format was 5 games on the same pair and basically everyone gets handicap.  It’s based off of 80% of 250 and it’s on a house shot, so I felt like that seemed fair. When someone was on a big string of strikes, the building would light up with cell phones.  You could see people were fully vested in the bowler shooting 300 and genuinely disappointed if they didn’t.  If you left a 5 pin or threw the the ball in the gutter on the first shot the entire building would say a loud chant proclaiming your misfortune. There are consequences to not converting a 5 pin… We will leave it at that.  The whole point of this was that it became entertainment or excitement for everyone even the non bowlers.

In short, bowling has to be fun and inclusive if it is going to grow. The UBA does that. I haven't laughed so hard and just enjoyed being around a group of people who seemed like the right balance of friends and competitors.  BTW the funniest jersey I saw was:  

If you think bowling is dying or boring, you really need to go to a UBA event. If you are interested in more information you can check the UBA out here.


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