When I was growing up, I was described as lots of things: shy, smart, introspective, studious, book-loving, homebody. I was never described as athletic. Ever. Sports were something my brother did. Even when I went to summer camp, the activities I chose were things like Arts & Crafts and Drama. The closest I came to being active was Dance and Archery. And in Archery, you stand very still.
After coming out at age 28, I joined a lesbian bowling league to meet people – not necessarily to find a girlfriend, although that was a happy side-effect, and not really for exercise, although I have been known to work up a sweat when I’m bowling. I found that I really enjoyed getting out of my house once a week, and hanging out with my new friends. It was more of a social activity than a sport.
Then Jeanne and I moved to Tennessee – far away from any friends and family. The first thing we did was seek out a bowling league as a way to meet people. I was not (still am not) a very good bowler, but that is why most leagues are handicap leagues – to level the playing field a bit, so that amateurs like me don’t get completely discouraged! The great thing is that Jeanne and I did meet people. We made new friends. Friends that we still have today, 16 years later. And over the years, my bowling has improved considerably, although I am still far from great.
For the last 10 years, I have been helping to coach a team of high school girls. The other coach is a much better bowler than I am, but I have learned a lot from him and feel more qualified to coach than I ever dreamed I could be. What amazes me is that I am part of the Athletic Department. Me – athletic! And the team we coach? They have become better bowlers than I am – I guess I am a better coach than I am a bowler!
In fact, this week, we are attending our 6th consecutive State Championship Tournament. Every year, we (my fellow coach and I) have done a better job at preparing the girls than before, so we are anticipating a strong performance in this year’s tournament.
It helps that we have talent to work with, though. The 12 girls on the team are incredible – they have worked hard and done well. Not only are we ranked 3rd in our region, but 4 of our bowlers qualified for the singles tournament – made up of the top 24 (female) bowlers in the state.
What I am most proud of is that they have grown to truly love the sport – especially the seniors who have been with the team for years.
I know that wherever life takes them when they graduate and leave us, they have found a life-long sport that they can pick up whenever they are in a new place, looking to make new friends.