Bowling growing in popularity

Posted: Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Some kids play basketball. Others favor football. Even baseball sometimes gets overlooked.

Bowling is one of those sports outside the mainstream, though it is growing in popularity around the country. Kathy Waterbury is hoping to help the sport grow here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Waterbury is responsible for the formation of the Kenai Peninsula Scholastic Bowling League, a group consisting of high school students who recently concluded their first four-month club season in April.

“There’s people that football’s there sport. If you’re a bowler, you’re bowler,” she explained. “We have several kids and that’s their sport of choice and we just wanted to find a way for them to take it one step further.”

The seed was technically planted by her daughter, Tasha, a freshman at Soldotna who’s bowled since she was 6 or 7 years old.

Around September 2005, Waterbury spoke with current head coach Ken Liedes about the possibility of forming a varsity bowling league.

Then she moved to Washington for a year.

“Washington has a lot of high school bowling,” said Waterbury, who said she’s basically the secretary of the league. “When we decided to move back I wanted to make sure the high schoolers here had that same kind of opportunity.”

Thanks to her, now they do.

But not at the varsity level — at least yet.

Having a total of 11 regulars hailing from SoHi, Kenai, Skyview, Cook Inlet Academy and Kenai Alternative bowling at Alaska Lanes every week was a solid start.

Now, she’s hoping for more.

“Our hope is that it will grow and we hope to have full teams from every school which would be about four to six from every school, which would allow us to then become a varsity level sport through the Kenai Peninsula School District and then be able to compete against Anchorage.”

Based on the success of this past season, count Waterbury as a believer.

“I think it can happen. I think that there’s enough interest. Our Saturday league, which is kids from all ages, there’s an average of 40 to 50 kids that bowl in that every Saturday,” she said, adding Ken Kjeldson is also a coach. “Many of them are high school students. Then we hope to just generate interest through their friends.”

According to Waterbury, who cited the United States Bowling Congress (USBC), bowling is the fastest growing sport in the United States, if not the world.

“There’s a lot more to bowling than meets the eye,” she said. “There’s a lot of scholarships and a lot of colleges that have bowling teams.

“We’re hoping that by having the high school league here then the kids can go from here off to a college that offers bowling and possibly be able to get scholarships and funding that way also.”

She said the group will probably remain a club team next year, but the season will run from October until January, the scheduled time frame for the varsity sport, which they hope to be in two years.

In the meantime, they awarded $1,100 in scholarships to bowlers in the final tournament, the money donated by the Men’s and Women’s Associations at Alaska Lanes.

“There’s a lot of scholarships and a love of bowling here in the area,” Waterbury said. “We wanted to allow the kids to have a sport that they enjoyed.”

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