For any organization or movement to form, there has to be a need for that particular group. In order to see the need there has to be a person or a group of people with vision. In the case of the AWBA, that person was Richard F. Carlson. In the spring of 1962, Richard of Huntsville, Alabama came to Louisville, Kentucky to bowl in the annual Southern Bowling Congress Tournament. That was unusual in that he bowled from a wheelchair which was a rarity in most sectional tournaments. It was important as well since it provided him an opportunity to expound on the concept of creating a national organization dedicated to growing the sport of bowling from a wheelchair, an elusive dream he and a few cohorts had toyed with for some time. His vision was grand, to conduct the first Annual National Wheelchair Bowling Tournament. He took his ideas to the Greater Louisville Bowling Association, explaining that while the task was challenging, his commitment and dedication to the sport was up for such a challenge. With the support of local businesses, Richard set out in an attempt to draw as many as 10 or 12 to the first National Wheelchair Bowling Tournament with Louisville as its first site. It was a pleasant surprise to receive 30 entries from thirteen states to compete in the inaugural outing in June 1962. Thus, the AMERICAN WHEELCHAIR BOWLING ASSOCIATION was born.
Since that time the organization has grown to over 500 members throughout the continental United States. The AWBA now has an average of 10 tournaments a year spread throughout the country with the National Championship now held in June of each year. The attendance at the National has grown from that initial 30 to an average of over 100 participants, representing every skill level within wheelchair bowling.
The AWBA has formed a number of alliances with organization such as the Veterans Administration, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and youth organizations to promote and grow the sport of wheelchair bowling. The AWBA is a 501C non-profit organization dedicated to our motto in life; “Ability not Disability Guides Our Life”.
AWBA National Tournament Sites
The following cities and individuals have served our National Tournament and we acknowledge them for the hard work on behalf of the membership throughout the years.
The American Wheelchair Bowling Association, in association with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, sanctions wheelchair bowling tournaments in 10 to 12 locations throughout the country. Whether it’s the cliffs of the beautiful state of California, the white beaches of Florida, or the spacious Midwest, there are venue’s held to bring the organization’s members from all area’s of the country together for competitive, challenging, and camaraderie for ALL. “All” is an inclusive word meaning there is truly a place for the bowling ability of each participant. The AWBA has established four (4) divisions to insure that fair competition is achieved at each level. Those levels are as follows:
“Scratch” Division: A division where the “Tiger Woods or Pete Weber’s” of the wheelchair bowlers compete against one another. These individuals have achieved a high skill level in wheelchair bowling and most have won numerous titles throughout there bowling career. Most of these Scratch bowlers maintain an average of 170 or better.
“A” Division: This division is for those wheelchair bowlers that are aspiring to secure a place with the scratch bowlers or have reached a level that best defines their particular bowling abilities. There are many in this division that have won numerous titles as well. In the A division, individual handicap is use when bowling in tournament play. The handicap range can vary from one venue to another; however, the average range is between 130 and 170 for “A” division bowlers.
“B” Division: This division is for those bowlers that have been bowling in a wheelchair for a short period of time but have develop skills and knowledge of the game to know that he/she wishes to continue to work on their development in an attempt to move into higher divisions. Or, they have reached a level that best defines their bowling ability and allows them to be competitive in each tournament. The handicap range in this division is between 85 and 129.
“Novice” Division: This division is set up for the brand new bowler. A wonderful division to get the true feeling of competition while learning more about the game of wheelchair bowling. The participants in this division can learn a great deal from the more experienced bowler in other divisions, and those individuals are more than happy to share their knowledge of the game.
The AWBA maintains and updates after each tournament entered, the Tournament average of each bowler in all Divisions as a part of the members annual dues. So, as a bowler improves his or her average, division placement can change from one event to the next. Should a person not have a tournament average, the AWBA and the tournament director of the respective tournament will either (1) use the participant’s book average that has been established or (2) Assign an average and adjust. The important fact is the AWBA WILL find a place for its members with fairness as its most important objective with participants.
Prize money is awarded in each division of an equal amount. The number of participants in each tournament determines the number of places paid in each division with the average of the top 5 place being award prize money. There are maximum’s placed on what can be paid out for the winner of each division. Each tournament however, is managed on a break even budget and the AWBA in no way generates its revenue base from our tournaments. They are held for our members to promote wheelchair bowling in the areas in which they are held.
Once you have attended your first AWBA tournament, you will quickly realize that you are amongst individuals that are there for many reasons, but the one that comes through upon your arrival is the camaraderie present. Bowling brings the participates to a central location with bowling on their mind, but sharing stories, developing new friendships, and renewing relationships are first and foremost.