Bowling shows big prep growth

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Not every teenager has what it takes to absorb the beating that comes with a 10-game prep football season.

Likewise, not all high school students have the height and skill for basketball, the speed for track, nor the reflexes for baseball.

But darn near every child can bowl.

As a result, a whole new pool of kids have an open door to represent their schools in athletic competition.

In its second year as an approved Terrebonne Parish high school sport, it surely appears that bowling continues to grow in popularity among students.

With the season inching toward its most important frames with the state playoffs looming near, local coaches tout that the upward trend for the blossoming sport will continue and even brighter days lie ahead.

“There’s like 80 or 85 high schools right now in Louisiana doing bowling,” Terrebonne bowling coach Kenneth Fountain said. “And there’s more and more coming up. I think here locally, we’ll continue to take off. I think it’s something that’ll continue to get bigger and bigger.”

“It’s definitely a growing sport here,” South Terrebonne coach Blaise Pellegrin agreed. “Last year, I don’t know if there was enough publicity around it. In November, the school board just decided to add us in, so there wasn’t a lot of time to get organized. This year, they knew there was a bowling team, so they were waiting for it as soon as we made the announcement to try out.”

In total, 10 Tri-parish schools have adopted bowling (South Lafourche, E.D. White, South Terrebonne, Ellender, Terrebonne, H.L. Bourgeois, Vandebilt, Berwick, Morgan City and Central Catholic).

For most schools, the sport is in its second season, coinciding with the Terrebonne Parish School Board officially approving bowling as a varsity sport for public schools.

But programs like Vandebilt, Central Catholic, Morgan City and Berwick all had programs beyond this past year.

The local schools have bonded together to create their own district for season play.

With it, travel time has been able to be trimmed and games are easily able to be booked without hassle.

“We’re all working to help out each other,” Fountain said.

Walk into Bowl South or Creole Lanes on the day of a bowling game and one will surely notice three things.

First is the atmosphere – it’s very laid back.

Casual banter occurs among teammates and even bowlers of opposing teams – conversations that even drag into the heat of battle. Smiles are often the main course of the day and everyone appears to be enjoying their craft, while also competing hard for a victory.

“There’s definitely that feel about it here – that laid back feel,” Fountain said. “Here, we’re inside a building and there’s just much more communication. Everyone’s able to talk more and communicate more freely. That’s why there’s that laid back feel to it.”

“I have two sons who graduated from South Terrebonne and they both told me, ‘Mom, I wish they had bowling when we were in school,’” Ellender coach Ann Labat said. “And even men and women in the leagues are coming and talking about how they wish this was in place years ago. It’s something that everyone is really enjoying right now.”

The second thing is easy to point out – the enthusiasm of the participants.

Many Tri-parish bowlers take part in other sports or dance teams. But a lot of the area’s participants don’t compete in any other sports.

That means without bowling, they wouldn’t have the chance to represent their school in anything.

Having so many teens able to “be a part of something,” and “show some school pride,” are all reasons why coaches believe spirits are so high at games.

Everyone asked agreed that creating competitive opportunities for everyone within a school was a major why the sport was adopted by the school board.

It’s also the same reason why through two years, it’s a success.

“A lot of kids who have never been in sports before can come into bowling and succeed,” Fountain said. “You don’t have to be super athletic to do this. You just have to be dedicated to the sport.”

“This brings in the kid who maybe didn’t do sports, but did things like dancing or band or things like that,” Pellegrin said. “It brings them into the athletic realm. It gives everyone a chance to compete for their school and try and accomplish something in the name of teamwork and also school pride.”

And lastly, it’s easy to notice the teamwork and support system in place to make this new sport go off without a hitch.

Almost all of the Tri-parish’s bowling programs compete at either Bowl South or Creole Lanes.

The coaches tout the “unbelievable” job the two businesses have done to make everyone welcome throughout the process of adopting the sport.

Labat said Bowl South donated bowling shirts to South Terrebonne and Ellender to jump start their program.

Fountain said Creole Lanes has been just as generous and has “been a tremendous help with anything we’ve needed.”

All coaches agree the sport wouldn’t survive without the local alley’s dedication to making prep bowling work.

“They’ve been very awesome,” Pellegrin said. “Anytime we’ve wanted to schedule our practices, we just tell them and they work with us. Our home alley is Bowl South, but it’s the same thing at Creole Lanes. They’ve both been instrumental in this.

“Without them, this wouldn’t be here today.”

But the allies have indeed stepped to the plate and bowling appears to be here to stay.

Fountain said he expects the sport’s growing trend to continue.

He added that because bowling takes place in the middle of baseball, softball and track season, a lot of athletes sign up for bowling, but can’t compete because of other obligations.

“They sign up, but back out because a lot of coaches don’t want their kids doing another sport during that season,” Fountain said.

But with a few more years of experience under its belt, the coach said he believes athletes will be drawn to the alley for 10 frames of fun.

“We’re kind of the leftover sport right now,” Fountain said. “But once it catches on a little more and kids see how fun it is and we start winning a little more, the kids will line up to be in here.”

South Terrebonne bowler Joshua Falgout lines up a show during a recent practice.