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The Right Approach...Views on the world of bowling.

Volume 2, Issue 48, The 100th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez

      I am beginning to realize what a school teacher must go through at the end of each school year. This week, I graduated several of the bumper bowlers that I coach each Saturday.

      It's not necessarily a testament to my coaching skills, since I'm not sending them off to the PBA or believing they are future Masters or Queens champions, although if that's where their bowling takes them, I'd be happy for them.

      Often, midseason, I get children as old as 10 who have never bowled before in their lives. In a few weeks, they are using the proper weight bowling ball, taking four-step approaches, and delivering a ball down the center of the lane pretty consistently. Some of the younger children stay in the program a few sessions longer, but there is never a timeline. Some of the smallest kids will stay on the bumpers for several seasons only because there's just no rush to turn them into wunderkinds.

      As a bumper coach, my job is to teach them the most basic fundamentals--after they have learned safety and learned how to have a good time.

      For last week of league, the house turned out the lights, turned up the music, and let the kids bowl no tap. They put a couple of colored pins into the rack and gave the kids free games for strikes with the colored pins in certain positions. We threw in "Beat the Coach" as well. The problem for the bumper kids is that even if they get 8-pin no tap, it's nearly impossible for the little kids to use it to enough of an advantage. So I use their series score to beat either of my games.

      There's so much going on, there's little time to wax nostalgic and get melancholy (until later) that it's my last week with some of them.

      It was pretty amusing to see the parents' and the kids' faces when I start stringing strikes (albeit notap). We hooted and hollered for each strike for each bowler, and when I'd turn around on the approach, they were doing the same for me. All these weeks I've been coaching kids, it seems I really did know what I was talking about. One of the children pulled out games of173 and 148, and I quickly told him he definitely beat me, because I could only get to 300. Even one of the littlest bowlers shot two games of 140 for a 280, and he easily beat me as well.

      After the lights came on, and the trophies and patches were passed out, the house provided the kids with a pizza lunch. I found myself posing for pictures with some of the kids, and encouraging parents to fill out league forms for the new season, recommending some to move on, and others to stay on the bumpers for one more short season.

      Sometimes I wish I could keep them on the bumpers forever, but common sense intercedes--I've taught them all I can. It's time for them to move on. After Labor Day, there will be new children to coach from square one, and some of the children will remain. But during the first few weeks, I'll definitely be wandering over to the next league to see how my graduates are making the transition.

      I'll miss their enthusiasm, but I wish them well as they move onto the challenges of being on a team and actually competing against others. Progress is a wonderful thing, but it brings a twinge of sadness, too.

Gotta Split,


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