One year ago today, BCAW cancelled what would be the first of a year-long hiatus of our bowling events in reaction to the NBA’s temporary suspension of their season due to the coronavirus pandemic and the world’s concern around the globe.  On March 14, 2020 we were supposed to be wrapping up our high school season with the popular All Star Team Challenge at Appleton’s Super Bowl.  That cancellation was the start of what would become a year of disappointment for many youth bowlers around the state.  As the pandemic continued to impact communities around the world, we were going month-to-month responding to the medical professionals and situation here in Wisconsin.

Some of the toughest decisions I have had to make in my 25 years as an association executive were being faced, knowing there were young people being denied the opportunity to see completion of their bowling season.  This was especially gut-wrenching for the seniors who I first met during my early years on staff with BCAW.  Today we can rejoice, however, knowing we have been resilient and capable of putting on a great bowling season and two end-of-year events responsibly and in spite of the continued concerns of COVID-19.

This season was only possible through the dedication and efforts of a lot of people.  First and foremost . . . the BCAW Board of Directors and WI High School Bowling Club (HSBC) Committee!  Without their unwavering support and insight, HSBC Program Manager Roger Dalkin and I could not have provided the structure nor guidance to our 14 districts around the state to have a HSBC season.  We knew last summer we wanted to get back to some resemblance of normal, but had no idea in August what would or would not be allowed under federal and state mandates.  Even the health officials and scientists seemingly could not agree but we never wavered knowing we wanted to resume our youth bowling programs like high school and middle school in the 2020-21 bowling season.

To our proprietors who locally organize and host matches, we thank you!  We know how challenging running your day-to-day business has been over the past year.  Adding this program to your plate demonstrates your commitment to the future . . . to youth bowling!  It would have been easy for proprietors to take a pause in 2020-21, but they didn’t.  In every area where high school bowling was permitted locally, there were teams formed and competing.  We know there were high school administrators and athletic directors who did not allow bowling teams to form under their school’s athletic department, as well as others who delayed the start from November to January, but bowling happened!  Teams were formed, district matches held and teams participated in our WI High School State Bowling Championships at the Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in Green Bay March 5 -7, 2021 and our HS All Star Team Challenge at AMF West in Milwaukee just yesterday. And best news yet . . . at the state level we awarded over $7,000 in scholarships to kids who bowl!

I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the significance of our sponsors and advertisers, who financially help to make this program viable.  Storm Bowling, Classic Products and WI State USBC Association have been long-time supporters of the WI High School State Bowling Championships.  And in spite of the pandemic’s toll on them, they remained partners with us for this season.  I sure hope folks enjoyed meeting PWBA star Diana Zavjalova at this year’s event!

There are hundreds of coaches and volunteers who are the backbone of this program.  We appreciate and thank every single one of you.  It was you who provided the structure to allow kids to come back to something they love; a way to have fun and be social with their friends.  With schools still virtual in many areas, going bowling and getting some exercise was a healthy diversion you made possible.

Families throughout Wisconsin were ready to have their kids back on the lanes.  We heard it almost as quickly as we were facing cancellations last April and May.  I heard from many of you personally via email and phone calls, as well as from the barrage on Facebook.  And while we understood your concerns and frustrations, as we look back at the decisions we made and what we know today a year later, the BCAW Board of Directors and I believe we made the correct decisions every step of the way over the past year.  And that includes when we decided last summer to resume our youth bowling programs for the 2020-21 bowling season.

It hasn’t been without a lot of conversation, debates and at times redirection.  But here we are BACK . . . BOWLING IS BACK!  We hope the general public will continue to become more comfortable as vaccines are administered and return to enjoying social and recreational activities like bowling.  For our industry to once again thrive, we need for families to GO BOWLING!  I believe here in Wisconsin it will happen. I cannot be so optimistic about other parts of the country, where states placed onerous restrictions that still exist on their citizens and business owners.

Publicly, I want to thank everyone for their support and willingness to have the conversations with me. It is out of open, honest, direct and transparent discussion, that better understanding and decisions are achieved.  While there will be times when we must agree to disagree, I believe BCAW has been able to be responsive and prepared when we faced tough decisions.  I thank everyone who took time to engage with BCAW through these challenging times.  And as we look to the 2021-22 season, we have also learned of new ways of doing things.  I anticipate several of our adjustments made to the HSBC program and state championships due to the pandemic will be here to stay because they made our program and events better.

Again . . . thank you one and all for the opportunity to serve you through bowling!

Yours in bowling,
Yvonne Bennett, CAE
BCAW Executive Director