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Bowling Is Back, And The More The Merrier

Sept. 14, 2008 — After taking a short hiatus, the Youth Bowling Academy is back up and running, providing two hours of fun every Saturday morning for students on St. Thomas.
The program is funded through a grant provided by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, which covers the cost for students who might not normally be able to afford going to the bowling alley every week, said coach Chris Doute.
"The program has been extremely successful, and the kids have been very enthusiastic," he said. "It's an opportunity for them to participate in a sport that lots of people consider elitist, and it's not. That's why we're so glad to have the Community Foundation supporting us to make this program affordable for young people, because bowling is a rather expensive sport at times, but with our grant, we're able to reach many in the community that may not otherwise get to come out here very often."
Currently, the academy has 20 students enrolled but its coaches hope to double the rosters within the coming months. The goal of the program is to promote good sportsmanship and socialization skills, along with teach the kids the fundamentals of bowling, he said.
"Bowling is a lifelong sport, a sport that can take you from your youth to middle-age, and even senior citizens bowl successfully," Doute said. "Once you've mastered the skills, it's something that stays with you your whole life."
Many first-time bowlers are just interested in knocking down as many pins as possible, said coach Ana Sille. Though that is generally the goal of bowling, the program mostly teaches students how to focus on technique, she said.
"Bowling is in the way you hold the ball, and you must use that pendulum swing," she said. "The kids also learn that you can take three, four or five steps forward, depending on how tall or short they are, and we also tell them that it's all about hand, eye and leg coordination when they get to the foul line and begin to release the ball. At that point, it's also important to keep your legs bent."
Some of the program's students, such as 15-year-old Sal Griffith Jr., have already mastered the skills. Griffith said he has been bowling since the age of six and continues to practice every Saturday with other kids in the academy.
"The key to bowling is consistency, getting the ball right down the middle each time," Griffith said. "It's also about keeping your balance, like if you bowl with your right hand, you may want to keep your left hand out to stay steady."
A few of the students, such as nine year old Imani O'Neal, are first timers.
"It’s fun, but it's sometimes hard trying to get the ball to hit all the pins," O'Neal said. "But I'm going to keep trying."
Teaching the students the fundamentals isn't difficult as long as they come out with a positive attitude, said coach Jose Georges.
"I love bowling, and would like to see it advance into a very competitive and fulfilling sports activity for kids," Georges said. "It would be nice to see bowling in all our schools in the territory. It's a very big sport nationally — one of the largest sports in the nation. And the kids need to have an outlet that provides that sense of camaraderie, as well as a sense that they're developing specific skills — there are even some kids in the nation that get bowling scholarships. So, the goal now is to generate enough interest so we can develop some sort of league where the kids can continue to play amongst themselves."
Students and parents interested in joining the academy can come out to the V.I. Christian Ministries Bowling Alley on Saturday mornings between 9 and 11 a.m. to register.
"The more we have, the merrier," Georges said.

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