If you needed an indication that kids want to return to school and get back on the lanes, look no further than the Iowa Bowling Federation, which recently conducted bowling programs spanning six to eight weeks for fifth- through eighth-grade students.

After the federation canceled competition in 2020 because of the pandemic, its return in 2021 saw participation numbers that essentially doubled those of 2019. Contributing to the success was an instructional element that included 37 new coaches being trained online, and high school students volunteering to help teach their younger counterparts.

The program was set up with a registration fee of $80 per bowler, which included weekly practice and meets, plus a center or school t-shirt. A proprietor/coach in each area worked with other center operators to set up a convenient schedule, and a state tournament was offered as an option with direct entry.

Based on information provided by participating proprietors, approximately 295 bowlers took part, and centers that ran the program now have a “farm team” from which to draw for their high school bowling programs. One center had a special-needs team as part of its roster.

“We have had a State Middle School Championship for eight years, but until we added the statewide middle school program in 2019, there was not the level of interest by the proprietors to encourage their youth bowlers to enter,” said Iowa Bowling Proprietors Association Executive Director Bev Van Blair. “Now, the middle school kids have their own program like the high school bowlers, and they want to join. In areas where high school bowling is not a sport, these middle schoolers are even putting pressure on their schools to add high school bowling.”

From a purely business perspective, the program generated $23,600 in revenue for proprietors during the months of March and April.

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