Ahhh, the age-old questions …
Why are manhole covers round?
Why do clocks run clockwise?
Why do bowling balls smell like root beer?
I was introduced to the sport of bowling when I was a young child. I remember going to the bowling alley with my mother to watch her bowl on her Wednesday morning league. As soon as I was old enough, I began bowling on a youth league on Saturday mornings. I loved bowling. It was fun, challenging, and an exciting thing to do with my friends. I bowled until I was in high school. At that time, I was forced to choose between bowling and all of my other high school sports. I chose my other sports.
After I stopped bowling, I didn’t revisit the sport seriously until 37 years later. It’s not that I didn’t want to bowl. I didn’t really know people who bowled, So, when our local pride organization started a LGBTQ+ RainBOWLERS league, I jumped at the chance to join the league and reconnect with a sport I loved as a kid.
I really sucked in the beginning. It took me several weeks to regain the form I had in my youth. I was still using my original bowling ball … the one that was at least 40 years old (yes, I own an antique!). The owner of the bowling alley was impressed that I was using this old ball, but also said I could improve my score if I purchased a new ball. I was all in!
I started looking at ball options. I had no clue what I needed. I noticed there were scented balls … balls that smelled like cinnamon (they missed the perfect opportunity to call this “fireball”), orange, and even root beer. I know I’ve lived under a rock for over 30 years, but seriously? Smelly balls?
Yes, I had to research this phenomenon. Believe it or not, there are actually reasons for scented balls. Storm, a bowling ball manufacturer, started making these balls in the early 2000’s to differentiate themselves from the competition. There is also a belief that the scent is calming or helps the bowler to focus and perform better. And, who wants to smell a stinky bowling ball? To learn more, feel free to do your own research. I would suggest searching “why are bowling balls scented” instead of “smelly balls.”
As with any topic, I can always see parallels with, or relate back to, credit unions. I know you’re thinking “Bowling and credit unions? You’re crazy!!”
Both industries have faced these never-ending questions for years. Is this the end? How will they survive? Funny. We’re both still here.
The keys to longevity and sustainability for both are pretty basic: Innovation and Passion.
Bowling alleys have innovated over time:
- Manual to automatic pinsetters and scoring
- The inclusion of adult beverages and food
- Party atmosphere, disco balls, black lights, music, and even drag queens
- Stinky balls to scented balls?
Likewise, credit unions have done the same:
- Manual account tracking to online banking and mobile apps
- Manual loan and membership applications to automated online applications
- Branches that focus on education and wellness instead of transactions
- Channels that allow any type of banking without visiting a branch
- Scented debit and credit cards (just kidding, but fun idea)
Bowling and credit unions continue to survive, in part, because they evolve over time. But without a passion for the cause, even innovation won’t keep these industries afloat indefinitely. And I would argue that this is the most important piece. A passion for the game. A passion for the wellness of our people. A human connection that can never be replaced by technology or “the next best thing.”
We must continually introduce the love of the game and the love of the credit union movement to our children and families. There’s nothing more contagious and exciting than being with people who are fired up about something.
If you’re not fired up and telling people why you matter, why they matter, and why your industry is important to them, it might be time to add a little something different to the mix to reignite that passion and differentiate yourself from others. Take a lesson from bowling. You could become the next scented ball.