Should high school bowling be considered a sport?
A typical high school bowler could spend nearly 17 hours a week competing to represent their school and earn scholarship money, which is on par with the time many other high school athletes spend on their respective sports; however, high school bowling in Indiana is not classified as a sport.
It is a commonly debated topic: Should high school bowling be a school sanctioned sport? A handful of people would like to see Indiana make the change, but plenty believe that it is best to keep it unsanctioned.
Bowling is not commonly a sport whose athletes receive much recognition. Unless in other sports, high school bowlers are not even given the title of “athlete.” While individual bowlers are intermittently recognized following an impressive performance, it is quite rare that a high school bowling team is given attention as a whole.
Being registered as a sanctioned sport controls more than just the classification of it. If made an IHSAA sport, bowlers would have numerous opportunities taken away from them.
“If made an IHSAA sport, bowlers would lose the ability to participate in scholarship tournaments and youth leagues/other high school events. The state has built a great program for 20 years, and some things are just better left alone,” Keith Gakle, LaPorte coach, said.
The Northwest Indiana Junior Tournament Player’s Association (NWIJTPA) is one association established to provide the youth an opportunity to become more advanced bowlers. The tour travels throughout Northwest Indiana and the surrounding areas. While the tour challenges bowlers, it also provides the opportunity to earn scholarship money.
Money earned during NWIJTPA tournaments, as well as during other scholarship tournaments, is placed in a S.M.A.R.T. account, designed to keep track of the money that youth bowlers earn until they are ready to pay for college. A large amount of bowlers have paid for thousands of dollars of their college tuition with money racked up through scholarship bowling tournaments. If made a sport, Indiana bowlers would have these opportunities taken away.
College bowling coaches also spend a great amount of time recruiting at these tournaments too, seeing as serious bowlers typically want to take their careers further than the high school program.
There is a strong argument on making bowling an IHSAA sanctioned sport, which has created a debate between coaches, bowlers, and parents for several years.
While bowling is often overlooked by those not involved in it, there is a great deal of work that is put into perfecting a bowler’s game. A great amount of effort is given from youth bowlers who are hoping to take their bowling careers to the next level. Strength, both physical and mental, plays a huge role in becoming a successful bowler. If not mentally prepared, a bowler’s mental attitude can negatively affect their performance. Just as a basketball player or football player, it can take up to years for a bowler to learn to control their attitude.
“The sport of bowling consists of learning how to count boards, learning how to focus, learning how to release. I seriously could go on and on. Just like any other sport out there, it is a physical and mental game. There is a lot of time and practice that goes into this sport,” Robin Heckman, Michigan City coach, said.
IHSAA sports are funded by the high school. High school bowling coaches are currently volunteers who are generally not associated with the school outside of bowling. Seeing as coaches are not paid, some bowlers may be missing out on being taught by more professional and/or experienced coaches.
While a school does not fund its bowling team(s) nor does it recognize bowling as a sport, its team is still required to follow all rules of a sport as well as appropriately represent the high school’s name.
“The school and the students are not going to give us any recognition due to the fact that they do not see bowling as us bowlers do. Not getting recognition makes me angry and frustrated, but it also pushes me to perform well and bring success to my school so that they will provide us the recognition,” Megan Grams, Michigan City bowler, said.
Generally found to be an unfair situation by bowlers and their parents, some coaches believe that the negatives of becoming an IHSAA sport outweigh the positives.
“When I was on the team, I wanted the endorsement more than anything. As a coach, I see both sides of the concept better and have reservations,” Gakle said.
The debating beliefs between coaches, bowlers, and parents will continue to spark disagreements no matter the situation, but there should be one thing most can agree on: These athletes are deserving of praise as much as anyone else.