By Cpl. Im Jin-min (USAG-Yongsan)March 25, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Sports provides more than just the simple thrill of victory. Sporting events can enhance mutual understanding of different cultures.
The Korea Inter-service Bowling Association enjoys both. If you're the kind who just likes to "have a throw" with friends, consider a league.
First founded in 1996, KIBA has more than 1,200 members and manages 13 leagues throughout the country, five at Yongsan.
"What many do not know is that the Yongsan bowling lane is actively open for all kinds of leagues and tournaments, serviced by the KIBA," said Jerald Thorn, KIBA president. "We're the conduit between the league secretaries and the United States Bowling Congress."
The USBC is the national governing body for bowling, serving amateur and youth bowlers. It is also recognized by the United States Olympic Committee. USBC awards a special ring for members who score 300, 29 or 298 or bowl 11 strikes in a row. Rings are also awarded for bowling a 900, 800 or 700 series.
This recognition, though, is secondary to the real reason for KIBA. "We have leagues with different team sizes, lanes, rules and nationalities," Thorn said. "We have professional, novices and those who just go out for a throw or meet others."
Thorn said that the association has sanctioned tournaments four times a year and non-sanctioned tournaments in which Americans play with Koreans and players from other countries.
For several years, KIBA has arranged Korean-American Friendship Tournaments with a Seoul bowling club, the Bowling Federation of Sports For All.
"We recently had a tournament where 18 U.S bowlers went downtown and were teamed with Koreans," Thorn said. "Most of the teams at least had one American on it, and everybody had a good time."
Tournaments are held at Yongsan Lanes and at Korean bowl houses, such as the KBS 88 Sports Center in Seoul, where the most recent friendship tournament took place.
"Just getting together to play, eat and share cheers I think makes it a special activity," said Park Chan-bo, director of the Seoul Bowling Federation.
"The United States may be the 'mecca' for bowlers, but we have some good, professional Korean bowlers too, so there is a lot of learning and teaching going on on both sides."
Thorn added that an Asian-American Tournament consisting of Japanese, Korean and American players is planned for July.
"We have bowling clubs for women, a spouses' league for married couples on Monday mornings at Yongsan, and many others," Thorn said. "Yongsan is also the only place that has an ongoing youth league with 55 members. From now on, we will give scholarship funds for eligible high school seniors who are USBC members."
In order to be a USBC member, you must have a USBC card or be part of a sanctioned league, Thorn said.
"All you have to do is sign a card with all your information and give it to the league secretary," Thorn said. "Once you get an official member's card, you have to renew your membership every year. Anybody can register."
Fred Moore, a long-time KIBA player, pointed out, "Many community members have lived on post for several years but still don't know very many people around them. Bowling increases a good deal of camaraderie with various peoples."