What We Learn From Bowl.com
It's like Disney World - it is impossible to get through it all in one day.
Bowl.com, the official website of the United States Bowling Congress, contains an incredible amount of news and information about bowling; chances are you can find almost anything you need to know about USBC, and about bowling in general on this extremely comprehensive website.
We remember just a few years ago, not long after the opening of the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas - USBC had re-launched the website, and there was wide criticism. That is no longer the case. Quietly and methodically, USBC has responded to the critics, fixed the problems, and taken action to improve one of bowling's most valuable communications tools in every way conceivable.
We don't go browsing websites for fun, but if we did, a trip to Bowl.com would be one of the most enjoyable. As journalists, we find almost anything we need. The one thing we would like to see more of is history; but maybe that should be on the Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame site. After finding that having a central webmaster was not the best way to build and maintain the site, USBC opted for the team approach, and it is working very well. "It's truly a team effort," said USBC
Deputy Executive Director Jason Overstreet. "Every department plays a role and has a voice in managing the content for their areas. Also, USBC local associations and league officers play a huge role. The "Find a Member" average verification tool is only possible thanks to the dedication of USBC association managers and all the league level cooperation."
To test Jason's instruction, I found my friend John Sommer in this section easily. It told me that John averaged 200 for 68 games in 2005-06 in the Miller High Life Sunrise Classic League in Rockford, Illinois. So John was not just "braggin" when he said he was once a 200 average bowler! (only kidding - he never brags)
The best way to know if a website is working well is to measure the traffic, or
'hits' - and USBC gets a gold star for traffic. According to Overstreet, they measure it using Google Analytics, and Bowl.com averages about 300,000 users per month and more than two million page views - very impressive.
Perhaps even more important, USBC staffers and users everywhere turn to the website as a central place that brings everyone involved in a particular program or project together.
Youth Bowling is an excellent example.
"The IBC Youth Resource Center has been a project worth celebrating," said Overstreet. "This type of resource center really embodies the future for the sport we want to achieve. As you can see it is a collaboration involving the whole campus to provide everything needed at the local level to build and support great youth programs."
When we hit the "YOUTH" button on the Bowl.com Homepage, we find not only the resource center, but information about tournaments like Junior Gold, High School and Collegiate info, the Bowling Combine, and details of the Y.E.S. Fund. By going to the financial statements of bowling SMART Scholarship Fund in this section, we learned that the account now has assets of over $50 million; a huge number by any measure for any sport.
The first button at the top of the Bowl.com Homepage simply says "BOWLERS." It contains News, information about the USBC Bowling Academy (mentioned in this month's interview with Chad Murphy), Bowl TV where we can actually watch the last three shots of the latest 900 series; or find tips; a discussion board and league standing sheets.
This section also contains bowler Rewards, where members can find discounts on airline flights, insurance, cable TV and even lasik eye surgery.
The "Welcome to Bowling" area contains all of the basics of bowling from fundamentals to rules to etiquette; and how to find a coach.
Hit the 'Sport Bowling' button in the 'Bowlers" section and we find info on Team USA, a Bowling Store where merchandise can be purchased, a list of awards, and archives of past USBC magazines.
Back to the home page, we clicked on TOURNAMENTS; and up popped complete details of the USBC Open Championships, Women's, Masters, Queens, U.S. Opens, Team USA Trials, and Senior, Collegiate and Youth events.
Moving across the top of the homepage, we stopped on "ASSOCIATIONS" - a place where association managers, league officials, or anyone else can find forms, performance standards, and info on the annual convention, among other things.
The "USBC" button gives us equipment specs, coaching info, a overview of the International Training and Research Center, records, stats, and the Hall of Fame.
Finally, the button all websites should have - it's call the "FIND A." button. Once inside, we can find a particular association, a bowling center, a coach, a member, or a tournament.
If only it could locate my car keys.
We salute all of the good USBC people in Arlington who truly do work together to build and maintain this amazing website. BPAA has a similar team that tackles the business side of the industry; and according to Overstreet, it is not unusual for the groups to share content.
We are sure that all sports have their websites and sources of information; but we cannot imagine that any are more comprehensive and complete than Bowl.com.Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine.