These days, it seems getting kids to the bowling lanes is tougher than a seven-ten split.
Just a few years ago, every lane of Mad Trapper Alleys would be filled with people striving for that elusive 450 score, said Wayne Beauchemin, program director and a coach for the Whitehorse Youth Bowling League.
Not so today. Interest in the sport has fallen into the gutters.
“Right now we’ve got about 10 (kids), which is a lot less than I hoped for, to be quite honest,” said Beauchemin, of the youth league.
“(Numbers) have dropped over the years. 2004 probably was kind of the high end of it.”
Whitehorse’s youth bowling league takes place Saturday mornings at Mad Trapper’s and the season runs from September through to March.
The league is affiliated with Youth Bowling Canada, a national program partnered with bowling alleys across Canada.
Youth Bowling Canada is “the parent association that oversees the provinces’ programs,” said Beauchemin.
“Each bowling league runs its own program over the course of a season and, in January, the qualifying starts for what’s called the Four Steps to Stardom, which is essentially ending up at the national finals (in May).”
“The program is basically the brainchild of the group of owners of all the bowling lane centres across the country,” explained Kevin Murphy, another program coach. “They put together this program to encourage youth to learn the sport of bowling….
“Their reward is these kids become adult bowlers in bowling leagues and perpetuate the profitability of their business.”
In return, Youth Bowling Canada provides money for young bowlers to attend the national championships.
“There’s still a cost to the parents of the kids who want to go,” said Murphy. “But it’s still a program that works pretty well.”
In a province like Manitoba, which is split into four bowling “zones,” numerous alleys in each zone will compete for a spot at the provincials, en route to the national tournament. But because the Yukon only has one bowling establishment affiliated with Youth Bowling Canada, Mad Trapper Alleys is the hub of competitive bowling in the Yukon.
“Because we are the only (affiliated) bowling alley, we are the Yukon’s representative,” said Beauchemin. “We have our own competition, but it’s essentially an in-house competition only, meaning only our bowling alley sends a representative.”
Each year, the Whitehorse league has the opportunity to send six youths to the national championships, a boy and a girl from each of the three age divisions: bantam, junior and senior.
One local success story is Harrison Kwok, a senior boys bowler who finished second in the nationals in 2002.
“That’s our best result at a national championship,” said Beauchemin. “Actually he’s the son of the manager of the bowling alley.”
More than a chance to compete at the national level, the league offers instruction and awards for good performances.
“Each club has its in-house program, so of course you have awards for high average, high single game and high triple, and things like that,” said Beauchemin. “We have an awards program for scores, so the bantams will fill up at (a score of) 75 for a single game and there are badges that you get leading up from there.
“So there’s an incentive to move up your scores to get the appropriate badge to reflect that game.”
“There are badges that they can earn, it’s kind of like Scouts and the like,” said Murphy. “You can earn a badge that says, ‘I beat my coach’ … that sort of thing.”
Beauchemin knows, with Whitehorse being a hot spot for sports activity, that bowling has a lot of competition from other sports.
However, he notes another possible problem.
“But I think that people just don’t know that there’s a bowling alley here,” said Beauchemin.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org