The USD 413 Board of Education voted to approve the addition of bowling to Chanute High School’s offering of school-sponsored activities at their monthly meeting last week.
The push to add to the co-ed competition team was led mainly by a pair of Blue Comet underclassmen, Jett Cosby and Vann Trester, as well as Cosby’s mom and CHS Spanish teacher, Maria Hernandez.
Because he has been bowling most of his life, Cosby originally approached Chanute Activities Director Chris Shields about traveling to play with an area team.
“And so I reached out, but there’s just not a lot of schools in our area that bowl,” Shields said. “I reached out to a couple of schools, including Ottawa, and they don’t have room.”
This pushed Cosby and Trester to form an initiative to start their own team here in Chanute.
“I had Vann in my third hour, and after a college and career fair he came up to me and asked, ‘So, how do we get a bowling team?’ because so many of the schools present had bowling teams,” Hernandez said. “So we did some of the progression and Mr. Shields was very open.”
Not only will Chanute sponsor a winter ‘scholastic’ team, they will also sponsor a fall ‘unified’ team. According to KSHSAA, Special Olympics Unified Sports is an ‘inclusive activities program that combines an equal number of Special Olympics students with intellectual disabilities and students without intellectual disabilities on teams for competition and inclusive activities fostering an environment of social inclusion.’
“That was one of the main reasons we looked at adding the unified as well as the interscholastic team, to offer those opportunities to some of our kids that aren’t necessarily doing basketball wrestling, things of that nature,” Shields said.
Hernandez also noted that a large portion of the interested students were not heavily involved with other athletics currently. Shields said he saw a majority of the interest from the school’s other activities, like chess, band and choir.
The total cost of the addition of the team comes mainly in the salaries for a pair of coaches. This, along with a $50 per-student fee to be paid to the bowling alley, travel expenses and possible uniforms tallied to a rough estimate of $7,000. Without the need for officials, intricate uniforms and large amounts of equipment, Hernandez called it ‘a no-brainer.’
Before the board’s approval, Hernandez already had multiple members of the community reach out about coaching or to be a potential sponsor.
“There is already plenty of excitement,” Hernandez said.
Like all new activities, the movement must be student-driven with at least 150% interest from the current student body. Cosby and Trester easily found that interest, submitting a poll in March with 18 names, double the nine needed.
“At that point, once I have all the information gathered and the students have met their requirements, and we’ve had a meeting to establish that there is some genuine interest within the school, then I present that information to the school board,” Shields said. “And from there it’s really in their hands.”
That meeting, held just a week after the poll was submitted, turned up 35 students who were interested in playing.
“It really benefits you as a player because you have a more broad range of skill,” Cosby said of the ability to bowl in a high school setting. “I feel like it gives me a chance to go further with bowling like I want to. Playing it as a sport through the high school will definitely help to fuel my journey.”
One of the main factors in the addition of a new team is facilities. Thanks to Randy Schoenhofer, owner of C&H Lanes in Chanute, that problem was instantly solved. Not only will the use of the local 8-lane house benefit area bowlers, Schoenhofer also sees the benefit for his business.
“It should help my youth league, and my youth league should help the team,” Schoenhofer said. “They can start preparing to practice before the season, getting three games a week in a competition setting, which should definitely help them.”
Cosby and Hernandez usually spend their summers traveling to tournaments around the midwest. With the opportunity for local competition, they hope to find some financial savings in the addition of the high school team, as well as a path to collegiate competition.
Among the information presented to the school board was the mention of bowling’s post-secondary opportunities. Along with over 250 colleges and universities that offer scholarships for men’s and women’s bowling, most bowling tournament hosts hand out thousands in scholarships obtained through competition.
The USD 413 BOE’s approval comes during the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX legislature. While it has not been a specific conversation, Shields and USD 413 are committed to providing equal opportunities for all students. The addition of bowling comes shortly after the addition of girls wrestling and more recently, girls soccer.
“Yes, they were able to compete on the boy’s wrestling team, the boy’s soccer team,” Shields said. “But giving them the opportunity to compete against other females, have their own practice time and uniforms that are cut for a girl to wear, I think that means a lot to our girls and shows how our district and community support our girls in that aspect “
Shields will now look to hiring a head and assistant coach to take the helm of both the girls and boys teams. Because of her experience with karting Cosby to tournaments, Hernandez has considered applying.
Hernandez and Schoenhofer also see a long-term value in bowling as a life-long sport. Because of the low-impact nature of bowling, players can continue playing much later in life than other activities.
“It should also help the adult leagues, because when kids get involved with bowling at a young age, they’re more liable to stay with it,” Schoenhofer said.
The KSHSAA bowling season kicks-off January 1, with the state tournament in Wichita held during the first week of March.