In November I ventured out to Heritage Lanes to watch Columbian's first bowling match of the year. I was instructed to seek out what was happening on a certain pair of lanes. What I witnessed was both astounding and disappointing all at the same time.
Freshman Chris Wilson, bowling in his first ever high school contest, threw 10 strikes on his way to a 257 game. As I watched him throw the ball, I couldn't help thinking that someday he could be a state champion. When teammates Aaron Kidwell and Chris Rhodes shot 215 and 200 respectively, my thoughts turned to a team state champion. Then reality reared its ugly head.
Officially, Tiffin Columbian does not have a bowling team. It is not considered a varsity sport and even though the 20 plus kids have a regular season schedule, they will not be eligible to bowl in the tournament sponsored by the OHSAA. I had heard about potential reasons for this situation, but wanted to find out for sure. So in the last few weeks I have had discussions with various Tiffin City Schools administrators.
The answers I got to my questions were not what I was hoping to hear, but they were certainly understandable. As much as everyone would like to see bowling become a varsity sport, there are persuasive arguments as to why it hasn't been added, at least not yet.
As a person who has been in education for more than 40 years, I have some ideas about the institution. One of those thoughts is that extracurricular activities are essential to a child's overall education. Make no mistake, what happens in the classroom is significantly more important than what takes place on a stage, in a gymnasium or an athletic field. The overall benefits of doing something outside the classroom though, can easily be seen.
Sports in particular teach so many values, such as teamwork, self-sacrifice and hard work. The more kids are exposed to athletic programs that are run correctly, the greater their educational experience. Bowling, which is a relatively new sport for high schools, has the ability to reach kids that otherwise might not compete in organized athletics. It is not imperative that one can run fast, jump high, shoot, throw, or catch a ball. That's one of the reasons I find the sport attractive for both myself and high school athletic programs.
Any kid who plays sports at the high school level dreams of making it to state. Just getting there is something one could talk about for the rest of their lives. Winning a state championship has to be so very exciting as Calvert's Olivia Smith and the Seneca East boys cross country team can attest to just this past year. Unfortunately, Columbian bowlers will not have that opportunity.
There is no particular person(s) to blame for this awkward situation. If anything the culprit is the economy. Everyone who lives in the district knows that Tiffin City Schools have been facing money issues for the last decade. Times have become so tough that school employees have been let go, buildings have been closed and pay to participate athletics has become a reality.
How, in the light of those facts, can one expect Columbian to add any new activity? Bowling would be a relatively cheap sport to start as a playing field and equipment are already available. Though the costs would seem to be minimal, there will still be expenses. Justifying spending any funds at all on a new sport when classroom teachers, custodians and other school personnel are already overburdened becomes a difficult proposition.
I have heard some people berate the members of the board of education for their failure to support bowling as a varsity sport. That is so unfair. The board members are honest, caring individuals who would love to do anything to benefit students. They are like parents (though "their" kids number in the hundreds) who want to give their children whatever they want, but cannot because of a simple economic equation. Unlimited wants versus very limited resources.
So what's the next step for Columbian bowlers? Perhaps it would be to enjoy the bowling season, short as it is. Relish competing against the lanes as well as students from other schools. Thanking the volunteers who have helped to create, for lack of a better term, this "club sport" for you to participate in would be a good idea.
Ideally, it would be great to see these young people have the chance to participate in the postseason playoffs. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation now dictates otherwise. Maybe that will change. Maybe there is a way that no one has yet come up with. Perhaps one day money can be found and bowling will become a full-fledged varsity sport.
As a parent, teacher, writer and tax payer I would like to see that happen. I know twenty some kids who feel the same way.
Al Stephenson is The A-T's bowling columnist.
Read his blog at: