In the heyday of the 1960's and 1970's, automated machinery and equipment, along with modernized and cleaner surroundings in bowling centers, began to bring the sport of bowling into the forefront of family-style entertainment.
With the help of television programs such as "Championship Bowling," "Bowling For Dollars," and the "PBA Tour," the game was given a much needed thrust into the national spotlight.
Beginning in the early-1980's and continuing for over twenty years, however, the popularity of bowling experienced a steady decline in competitive participants.
There are many studies, reports, and statistics attempting to explain why this occurred, but, when you get right down to it, they don't really matter.
What matters is that bowling is gaining in popularity again and as a recent issue of the US Bowler magazine stated, "The latest National Sporting Goods Association Sports Participation Study" showed "there were 45.4 million regular bowlers in 2005, which is a 15.2 percent increase from 2003." The study continues that, "bowling is ranked number 5 in growth among the 47 sports studied."
Further to those statistics, the Winter 2006/2007 issue of the US Bowler cites a study by The Simmons Research Co. reporting that in the preceding year (2005) nearly 70 million people went bowling.
Membership in the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) is 2.7 million people (2.4 million adults and 0.3 million youth bowlers).
While I have yet to see any statistics reporting how many are female, my travels in and around Arizona have me believing that young girls and women are becoming a larger portion of those regular participants.
Although it's not based on any organized, scientific study, my observations while watching my granddaughter participate in junior leagues and tournaments conclude that an equal number of young girls are actively participating in the bowling competitions alongside their male counterparts.
Additionally, in my role as a promoter of amateur bowling tournaments, I am also seeing an increase in the number of women willing to enter and challenge the men for the prize monies and prestige.
While many lament the demise of the Ladies' Professional Bowler's Tour (LPBT), it may be seen in future years as a blessing in disguise.
The women are now "forced" to enter so-called "Men's Competitions" instead of only competing among themselves (like in all other sports). Bowling may be the one sports competition that truly embraces the "level playing field."
Indeed, there are now some top female bowling athletes bringing down the barriers at the professional level and it will not be very long before many of them make it to the television broadcasts on a regular basis.
This is a welcome phenomenon that can only serve to help the image of the sport of bowling and help to advance the popularity of the game.
Moreover, In the world of collegiate bowling, there are now over 80 colleges and universities fielding women's teams AND, under the "World Bowling" banner, there are 129 member bowling federations around the world.