It is one of the oldest sports yet today is the fastest growing sport in America, including among high school students.
Some believe bowling has been around for more than 5,000 years, yet has evolved into a popular sport for children and adults.
This school year, Peabody-Burns High School has joined the ranks of other high schools, offering a bowling program.
This was the dream of Curtis and Christie McBride, owners of Peabody Lanes.
“We were familiar with the sport from a spectator’s and parent’s side,” Curtis McBride said. His son, Josh, bowled at Wichita Northwest High School and currently bowls on the Wichita State University team.
“My wife said, ‘We must get high school bowling here’,” he said.
In September 2007, the couple talked with USD 398 school board.
“When the school board saw the literature, realized it wouldn’t cost that much, and it’s a good way for kids to get involved who may not be involved in other activities, they supported it,” McBride said.
What does it cost the school district?
According to McBride, he receives a small fee for providing the building and a small stipend for coaching the team. The students pay other expenses, such as shoes and bowling balls.
Currently there are eight members on the PBHS team.
“Some of the kids are involved in other extra-curricular activities but some only bowl,” McBride said. “If they didn’t have bowling, they may not be involved in anything.”
This one sport is not based on size, strength, or gender. Anybody can bowl and with practice, bowl well.
Each weekday afternoon, the students practice at the local bowling alley. McBride and adult volunteer assistant coaches assist the students with techniques to make their bowling better.
“Practicing is key to being a good bowler. The more you practice, the better you bowl,” McBride said.
It all began in December when try-outs were held.
Six bowlers comprise a team in high school competition. The PBHS team has seven boys and one girl, so it competes as a mixed team.
“We can have a girl on a boys’ team but you can’t have a boy on a girls’ team,” McBride explained.
With eight bowlers, McBride has rotated players at the meets.
The leagues are set up with 1A-5A, 41 teams, competing together and 6A schools, 28 teams, competing.
“The kids were a little intimidated knowing they were competing with larger schools but I told them it didn’t matter who they competed against. Their real competition is the lane, not the other schools,” McBride said.
PBHS is one of two 2A schools in the league. The other one is Shawnee Maranatha Academy, a private school in Shawnee, near Kansas City.
“In one of our meets, we defeated Wichita Collegiate and came within 100 pins of defeating Sacred Heart of Salina,” McBride said. “So, you see, it’s not about the size of the school but how well our players bowl.”
Bowling is a different sport than other sports. There is a maximum score a bowler can attain. There isn’t any interference from other players such as blocks, tackles, or steals. It is up to the individual bowler to do well.
At a meet, six bowlers will bowl three games. The total of the scores or series are tallied. The top four series are combined for a total team score and winners are determined.
McBride does furnish house shoes and house bowling balls to those students who do not own any but he encourages students to purchase their own.
“To do well, students need their own equipment,” he said.
A relatively short season, the first meet was the first week of January with the season ending in February. Regionals then are held with state competition in March.
This first year of being in the high school bowling league, the PBHS team has had to travel to the majority of the games. Peabody Lanes will host a meet Feb. 12. Next year, McBride hopes there will be more home meets because the school will be on the schedule.
The benefits of high school bowling, besides health and social, have become significant. With bowling programs like at WSU and other collegiate schools, scholarships are available for those willing to work hard.
While on the high school team, players can be letter-winners and bowling is a sport they can continue to play their entire lives.
Focus on behavior
At practice, bowlers are taught how to throw strikes and pickup spares but McBride’s focus is on sportsmanship.
“I’ve told my players to encourage the opposing teams. When a bowler does well, tell him ‘Good job’,” McBride said. “I would rather work with courteous kids than inconsiderate ones.”
Now the school district and McBride nearly has the first year of bowling under their belts, school officials and the coach are hoping more athletes will go out for the sport next year.
The ultimate goal would be to have at least 24 students, 12 boys and 12 girls, participate in the sport, so PBHS would have two boys’ teams and two girls’ teams, A and B.
“I am very pleased with the cooperation of the school district. Officials said ‘yes’ the first time I asked,” McBride said. He continued that he hopes other school districts in the county with local bowling alleys will take PBHS’ lead.
“They need to open their eyes and see the benefit,” he said.