Junior bowling still popular

Coloma Lanes owner, Ray Steadmon, demonstrating the follow through for some of the 60 kids in his junior league.

Junior bowling still popular

By Tom O’Neill

            It’s Saturday morning at Coloma Lanes and over 60 kids are ready to have fun and improve their bowling skills. Owner Ray Steadmon is right there in the middle of the chaos as he has been for over 30 years. “The first thing I teach the kids is to have fun.”

            Steadmon and long-time bowler Brenda Webster coach the kids, ages 5-18, during the season. “We have lots of events throughout the year,” explained Steadmon. There’s a Halloween party, Christmas party, Junior-Senior Scotch Doubles Tournament and on the last day the kids bowl with the black lights on. “We want the kids to enjoy it. We don’t want to force it.”

            Asked if the younger ones use the bumper rails to learn he quickly replied, “absolutely not. We try to get them using one hand delivery and no between the legs.” He did admit some pitch the ball using two hands. “You have to figure out what excites the five and six year olds. Some are really into it.” The 5-7 year olds bowl two games and as they improve, many get excited about the prospects of moving up to three games.

            Coloma Lanes charges $7 a week for the Bantam bowlers. It includes two games, shoes, prizes and games. Juniors pay $9 but bowl three games.

            Some centers have seen their junior programs shrink or even dissolve, but Coloma continues to thrive. Is there a secret? Steadmon says people need to know two things about his program. “I really care about these kids and I try to make it fun where they’re excited to be here.” He also allows pre-bowling because “kids are involved in so many things.”

            Jerry Knowles’ son Jared (16) started bowling at three years old. He’s been at Coloma Lanes two years since the junior program at Lakeshore Lanes folded. “He enjoys the competition,” noted the elder Knowles. The father-son duo has won the doubles tournament at Coloma the past two years. There are two games of doubles, then two games of scotch doubles.

            Aarin Zelmer’s son, Zeke, also moved over from Lakeshore. Zeke, at seven years old, has already predicted when he’ll beat his dad. Seventeen is the magic number. Zeke’s average has gone from 22 to 61 this year in the bantam division.

            Brayden Humphreville enjoys being part of a team. The 9-year old has been with the same team for four years, moving into the junior division this season. His father, Brad, said when he first joined the program each youngster was given a plaque showing their finishing average, high game and high series. Each year they get to add to the plaque monitoring their progress.

            Coloma Lanes’ junior program also participates in the annual Pepsi tournament in January where kids can win scholarship money according to Knowles. There’s no cost to enter and kids qualify during league play by total pins over average.

            Do some of these kids end up in the adult leagues?  Never at a loss for words, Steadmon rattled off several graduates including Brad Flowers, Arica Angelo, Tom Kiefer, Tom LoPresti (217) and Carley Trainor Burrell, coach of the Coloma High School Girls’ team. He mentioned Mike Moss, Kyle Genovese and Andrew Sipla as some of the younger up and coming bowlers.  

Local tournament winners

            The Southwestern Michigan USBC Women’s Bowling Association held their Foxy 55 Tournament at Kelley’s Bowl, March 31. Sherri Teed shot a 742 series with handicap to win the event. Carol Bickers had 741, Sue Holland 740 and Pam Head 706.

            The Blossomland USBC Bowling Association held its 55 and over tournament at Lakeshore Lanes, March 18. Ron Liggett won the 55-67 year old division with a 794 handicap series. Tim Kling had 777 followed by Gary Reisig at 746. Marc Rankin won the 68 and over division with 795. Dan Loikits was second with 780.

            The Association’s Year End Doubles was held at Coloma Lanes April 15. Bobbi Genovese and Sharon Ball shot 1608 with handicap. It was Genovese’s second doubles title having won the City Tournament. James Schmalfeldt Sr. and Velica Schmalfeldt were second with 1521.