Bowling in the Olympics, Bowling’s Awesome Numbers, and Other Fun Facts From Bryan O’Keefe, USBC Gold Coach

Once again this year I had the privilege of joining the Cambridge Credit teams at nationals in Reno. While there, I tagged along with Bryan O’Keefe to watch wife Shannon at the USBC Women’s Championships.  She bowled the very first squad of the event so I got to see the opening ceremonies. Brian is a Team USA and newly minted Gold level coach at the ITRC in Arlington, TX and is chock full of interesting and fun bowling facts, beginning with:

The Women’s U.S. Open is the largest female sporting event in the world with over 20,000 participants. All the more impressive that good friends Brittney Hillman, Kimberly Power, Terri Stynes, and Jackie Wycoff are defending champions. The opening ceremonies were quite impressive!

BO2

Newly minted GOLD coach Bryan O’Keefe

We then chatted about the state of bowling, and of course how horrible everything is. Guess what? It isn’t. Consider this fact:
All other organized sports would KILL to have bowling’s participation numbers. There are over 2 million USBC members. Over 70 million people bowl in the U.S. annually. There is no other sport that even touches these numbers. Yes, bowling participation is declining and everyone is trying to understand why and what to do about it. But this is true of other sports as well. Golf has lost over 5 million participants and is panicking over what to do about it – to the extent of considering increasing the size of the hole.
We should brag about bowling’s amazing numbers and do everything we can to keep and grow the sport.

Then we got onto the topic of the PBA tour. Needs sponsors, needs money, needs HELP. My assertion is it is all about TV show ratings – the numbers are not good enough to attract big-money sponsors. Bryan told me about one thing that is coming that could change that:

Bowling is being seriously considered for the 2024 Olympics. If this were to happen, bowling would enjoy an unprecedented ratings bump for the year or two following the Olympics as all other sports have. Kevin Dornberger, head of WTBA (formally FIQ) is lobbying the IOC heavily as we speak. This is a very political process, but bowling has a leg up in that it has the aforementioned participation and 207 local organizations around the world. The first step here is to get on the “short list” which happens in the next year or two and then the IOC considers it for a couple years, with the decision coming after that. If and when we find ourselves on the short list there will be a worldwide social media campaign needed to sway the committee in the right direction. Watch out for this movement!

As part of the Olympics discussion, we got onto Team USA, which brought out another interesting fact:

The IOC insists that a country’s best players be on that country’s national team. If you remember basketball’s Dream Team, this is when this rule went into effect. This is why Chris Barnes, Sean Rash, Shannon O’Keefe, Kelly Kulick, and many other top players are represented on Team USA.

We then chatted about the ITRC where Bryan coaches. I learned a lot, for instance:

You can schedule individual or group clinics at the ITRC. For a ½ day, full day or even across two days, you can arrange for a group to come to the ITRC. They have everything – coaching, lectures, CATS, video, equipment analysis, and more – you are guaranteed to come away a better player. I’m going to lobby to get a group of us to go from Auburn and Shrewsbury, Mass. where I coach juniors. Check it out here.

During the team event, Bryan looked a little uncomfortable, and revealed that:

He suffers from vertigo.
When his spine tightens up it causes him to have balance issues. Shannon was massaging his neck, trying to loosen up the muscles. Despite this he shoots 716 in team event.

All in all another great nationals experience! Can’t wait for our trip to the ITRC and nationals next year in El Paso!

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