USBC Annual Fees: A Raging Debate
by James Goulding III
Welcome again everyone to another blog installment on bowler-2-bowler. I have been thinking about this subject ever since reading (and blogging about) the USBC annual meeting back in May. At the meeting, there was a proposal that the annual USBC dues that every sanctioned bowler pays should go from the $10 yearly that it currently is, to a fee of $15. This is the national amount, not including whatever your local association charges on top of the USBC amount. This proposal was voted down, so the national USBC dues will continue to be $10 for the 2010 – 2011 bowling season. Many people have varied, and sometimes very passionate, feelings on the USBC and the amount they charge for yearly fees, some good and others not so good. For this reason, I have decided to weigh in with my very own feelings on the subject, and also try to propose my own solutions that could appease the many differing opinions on the debate about what USBC should charge bowlers on a yearly basis.
First off, I think I need to classify bowlers into (4) different categories, so that anybody reading this can see why it is so difficult for the USBC to please every bowler with the decisions they make. Here are the (4) categories I have come up describing bowlers as it pertains to USBC and their dues program:
1) These bowlers are the ones who bowl every season and rarely will ever challenge for an honor score in their lifetime. But, as it pertains to USBC dues, while they might complain they pay too much, these bowlers actually have somewhat of a valid point because the only service the USBC offers them is sanctioned lane conditions. It’s not like they are going to be soaking the USBC for the cost of a 300 ring every season, so going up on dues will not sit well with this crowd. I think the USBC knows this represents a major faction of bowlers out there, and they do not want to risk losing a ton of members by going up on dues, so to appease this crowd, they cut back on the available awards and keep the costs the same.
2) These bowlers are the ones who constantly complain that dues are too high, even though they have the ability to grab multiple honor scores every year. The cost of (1) plaque that the USBC gives the bowler in this group costs them more than double the dues for a season, but these type of bowlers still complain that they should get more awards and at a cheaper rate. Easy house shots have inflated their egos to the point that they lose all rational thought process when it comes to the amount of money it takes for the USBC to produce the awards for which they seek. This is a relatively small percentage of bowlers, but a significant enough amount that the USBC had to scale back the awards program because they were going to go bankrupt if they kept giving away awards basically for free. There is no way the USBC can ever truly please these bowlers, no matter what they charge or the awards that they offer on a yearly basis. You never want to be lumped into this category if you are a bowler, and if you are in this category, please feel free to change your ways and exit at any time.
3) These bowlers are happy with the current awards system, and will contend for USBC awards on a regular basis. These bowlers may think that the USBC dues are a little high, but they don’t put up a stink about it. These bowlers put their faith in the USBC that they make the best decisions for the sport of bowling, and even if the dues go up, they will pay to play. There are a small number in this category, so the USBC doesn’t cater to them or their needs (per se), and will make decisions not based on the wants or needs of this group specifically, but will cover this group most of the time when they make decisions about the sport of bowling.
4) This is the smallest group, but one that I fashion myself to be in. This group will bowl and pay the USBC dues no matter what the cost. This group feels that the recognition of an achievement is more significant than the ring or plaque that describes it. The USBC could charge $40 a year for dues, and this group would pay, because they love the sport of bowling, and will do whatever it takes to make sure they continue doing it. The USBC could eliminate the awards program altogether, but as long as they still recognize personal accomplishments on a national level (and database), then this group will not complain about it. Unfortunately, this group is small in number, so it is hard for them to get their voices heard over the roar of the other groups who are in the USBC’s earshot.
Those are the (4) groups I think cover most bowlers out there as they pertain to USBC dues. I personally have no problem with the USBC scaling back the awards program (like they have done now) and keep costs in line at $10 a year. They are a business, after all, and if they do not generate sufficient funds to stay afloat, then there will be NO MORE awards for bowlers, because the USBC won’t be around to give them anymore.
I get frustrated when I hear bowlers whine and complain that they are giving the USBC their money and getting nothing back in return. That is the biggest load off poo I have ever heard. For starters, IT’S ONLY $10 A YEAR!!!!! Many bowlers complain like they have to pay $1,000 a year to bowl in a sanctioned league. Of course these same bowlers will go out and spend over $500 for a couple of new bowling balls to try to achieve the awards that they complain are too expensive at a $10 fee once a year, so there is quite a bit of irony in there I think. I guess some people think that the USBC has a stash of plaques, patches, and rings, and they are all FREE to produce for the USBC. Well, let me tell you, it costs money for them to give out these awards, and paying a measly $10 is peanuts compared to what bowlers probably SHOULD pay to compete in USBC sanctioned leagues.
I would also be fine with the USBC telling bowlers they have to go up on dues from say $10 to $15. But, and let me stress this, the USBC should do some research before a rate hike, and sell it to the bowlers. I think they should do a cost analysis and see what they would need to charge to bring back some of the awards they eliminated, and still keep the quality of awards they have now, and give that final total to bowlers and let them know exactly what is going on and why. Remember, the biggest group of bowlers are the ones who win the least amount of awards, so a rate hike would need to fly with this crowd for the USBC to stay viable. So, by explaining to everyone that the cost increase for dues is to solely expand the awards program for ALL bowlers, the USBC might get away with a rate hike and not lose too many bowlers in the process (I still think it would be crazy to quit bowling just because you don’t want to pay a one time $10 or $15 fee once a year, but hey, that’s just my opinion).
I just feel like many bowlers don’t realize that their $10 they give the USBC each year isn’t just for awards. They offer bowlers the opportunity to bowl on sanctioned lane conditions, ensuring that any and all scores you throw are legitimate. Also, they require each bowling center to pass an annual inspection covering all aspects of the game, from lanes to pins, and approaches to pin decks. This way, bowlers can compete against one another on a level playing field night in and night out. The USBC also provides coaching classes, so that bowlers have certified coaches available in their area to help improve their bowling game(s). Also, the USBC has a state of the art research and development facility to stay on the cutting edge of bowling technology, and to ensure that the playing rules accurately reflect the changing landscape of the sport of bowling. The USBC rulebook gives leagues and tournaments guidelines to follow so that all competition is conducted in as fair of a manner as possible. If you felt your $10 was too much at the beginning of this blog post, do you still feel that way after reading all the different services that the USBC provides?
I am not saying the USBC is perfect, but I think that for what they charge, they get the most out of our money on an annual basis. I would be fine with paying double or triple the amount we currently pay, but I also realize that the USBC would lose many members if they did that, so I just try to let people know that their $10 can only go so far as it pertains to the awards program the USBC provides. I do have a few possible solutions that the USBC could implement, or at least bring up for discussion at the next annual meeting, as it pertains to the amount they should charge bowlers to sanction. Here are a few of my ideas:
1) Set a base price for all new bowlers who have never received a USBC award before. Say that price is $10 for example. Well, if you achieve say (2) awards during the season, the following year you would pay an additional fee depending on the amount of awards you won. Maybe that fee could go up by $3 for each award you get. So, if you won (2) awards the year before, your sanction dues for the following season would be $16, instead of $10. This type of sliding scale doesn’t penalize those who do not achieve honor scores, and passes the extra cost onto those who want the awards from USBC, and the bowlers who also achieve those awards from USBC.
2) Give bowlers three different cost options when they sanction with the USBC. The first, and cheapest, option is to pay for basic USBC services minus the awards program. You would only pay something in the range of $10 like it is now, you would get recognition of your achievement in the USBC’s database, but not receive any actual award from the USBC for what you accomplish. The second option would be an upgraded $15 annual fee, and that entitles you to the current awards system that is in place. You get (1) of each type of award per season, all the benefits of USBC sanctioning, a subscription to US Bowler magazine, and basically keep things the way they are in the current system. The last option would be an upgraded $20 sanctioning, and that gets you (2) of any award, a subscription to US Bowler magazine, first choice of bowling dates and times for the USBC National Tournament over the $10 or $15 crowd, and all the other benefits that USBC sanctioning has to offer. I am just guessing at the costs of all of these options, but I think that some sort of tiered system would be a viable way for the USBC to make all types of bowlers happy, from the ones who could care less about awards, all the way to the ones who live to collect plaques and patches.
In closing, I would like to say that the debate over what the USBC charges for sanctioning is far from over. I have just tried to shed some light on the subject, and make bowlers think about where that $10 goes that they give to the USBC every season. $10 is a small amount to pay for the peace of mind that there is a governing body trying to make the playing field as level and competitive as possible, while still giving awards back to the bowlers who achieve great things on the lanes that they sanction. I would give my $10 a year to the USBC just for that, even if they eliminated the awards program altogether. As long as they keep a national database so that I can look up what I have achieved over the years, then the rest is just gravy. Actually achieving a 300 or 800 (for example), and having that out there for the world to see, means more than some ring or plaque that will sit in my house will ever mean. Knowing that what I achieve is legitimate and on a fair playing surface is reason enough for me to sanction with USBC every season, in every league and tournament, no matter what the cost may be. As always, the opinion expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect those of the Maine State USBC, or any of its members. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to comment on anything you read, and I will try and respond ASAP. Good luck, and good bowling everyone!