The Nebraska School Activities Associationhas advice for youth event owners: Don’t keep the kids waiting to play their sports. If you can put on an event safely, do it. This was the guiding philosophy for the organization in hosting the Nebraska High School Bowling Championships.
The event, with approximately 200 student athletes, went off safely – and successfully – in mid-February. And according to Dan Masters, an assistant director with the Nebraska School Activities Association, it continued the state’s winning streak.
“We’ve had winter sports going on all along,” Masters notes. “We had fall sports going on too, leading right up to the championships. Not that we didn’t have hurdles along the way, but we spent a lot of time planning things.”
NSAA developed a plan for the safe hosting of sports and presented it to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. After that, it was time to meet and discuss the best way to conduct the bowling championship.
“We had a meeting with all the head coaches via Zoom, and I reminded everyone of the COVID guidelines,” said Masters.
The guidelines included safe social distancing for athletes and mandated masks for everyone: athletes, spectators and officials. (Athletes were allowed to remove their masks while actively bowling and anyone using the restaurant at the venue, Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, could remove their masks to eat).
Throughout the regular season, Masters notes, not one school had to cancel or forfeit a match because of COVID, thanks in part to the protocols followed.
At the championships, a sold-out crowd of between 150 and 200 spectators (about 50 percent of normal capacity) cheered enthusiastically and followed the guidance. The NSAA also had cleaning procedures in place when teams moved between lanes throughout the competition days.
The first day of the championships, individual competition, saw a total of 100 bowlers competing. On Tuesday and Wednesday, boys’ and girls’ teams bowled separately, with 56 students competing each day.
To accommodate spectator demand, many matches, including all those on Monday and the championship finals on Tuesday and Wednesday, were live streamed.
Masters said the only change he will be pushing for next year will be to live stream all matches on all three days.
But aside from that, he was satisfied with the event overall. Even more impressive was the fact that this was the first year NSAA offered a high school bowling championship.
“In all honesty, we put this together in a seven- to eight-month. I didn’t know we were going to have a championship until December.”
Students statewide embraced the program, in part because of the strong youth bowling culture (and strong presence of the sport overall) in Nebraska. Masters said the state’s club bowling contingent has long lobbied for a sanctioned high school championship and was glad to see one offered.
In the past two years, the state has added not just traditional bowling but Unified ® sports programs in both bowling and track & field.
Masters says that putting on the championships in bowling in particular was gratifying because it provided the student athletes with a reward for a successful season.
“What’s cool about bowling in Nebraska, according to the lane proprietors we have heard from, is that kids who bowl usually don’t do other sports. Bowling is their sport and that’s what makes being able to have this championship such a big deal.”