Bowling Coaches deserve their own Hall of Fame By Dick Evans

    11/27/07

    Column

    But how do you pick the inductees since there is no won-lost record like in other sports?

    2005WRMDickEvans.jpg Sometimes the evolution of thought about a potential bowling story can lead me in a different direction several times during the formation of the story.

    For example, I did an interview with USBC President Jeff Bojé and he is so gung ho about bowling as a sport and the need for qualified coaches that I got to thinking about how do you determine the best coaches? And while pondering that question I came up with another question: Why is there no Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame?

    Bowling writers have their Hall of Fame and so do bowling proprietors.

    Certainly bowling coaches are more important to the sport than writers and maybe even more than some proprietors.

    But how do you determine America's best bowling coaches and what voting format would you use to determine what bowling coaches would be eligible for hall of fame recognition?

    The writers' induct the person who gets the most votes each year but the USBC inducts only those who garner 70 percent of the vote in any one year. The last two years no bowler has been able to come up with 70 percent of the vote. I am not sure about the BPAA voting procedure although somebody is inducted each year.

    Originally the writers called their highest award the BWAA Mort Luby Award but several years ago they decided to change it to the BWAA Mort Luby Hall of Fame Award but after the merger with the NWBW the name was changed again and this time to BWAA Hall of Fame Award.

    But back to the basic problem of picking the best of the best among America's bowling coaches.

    How do you rate the value of a coach who has worked primarily with elite bowlers to a coach who has coached anyone and everyone with one desire – to help them bowl better.

    For example how do you compare an Eleanore Libby to say a Billy Hall?

    I never had heard of Eleanore Libby until Linda Scott, a member of the USBC Board of Directors, told me about Eleanore during the U.S. Women's Open in Reno.

    "Eleanore has been teaching Learn to Bowl Better classes as a service of the Oregon State Women's Bowling Association since 1978, and now continues as a service of the Oregon State USBC. The state had invited Helen Duval to give some classes, and Libby developed her class based on that model," Linda said.

    "Eleanore qualified as a National Bowling Council Certified coach in 1978 and then began to teach. She has traveled all over the state for the last 30 years, leading the three hour classes and has received no compensation except for expenses. But for probably the first 15 years, she waived even expense reimbursement. She teaches very basic skills - how to line up, hit a target, throw a hook, pick up spares.

    "She ardently believes that people will continue to bowl longer if they can see improvement in their game, and she is determined to make that happen."

    There must be thousands upon thousands of unknown coaches spread across America with similar resumes who coach only for the love of the sport of bowling.

    So if anybody originates a Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame then they should add an amateur division for the unsung heroes.

    Now comes the tricky chore about selecting candidates and eventual inductees into a Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame – how do you compare coaching records in bowling?<
    In team sports and certain individual sports, you can judge the ability of a coach by his won-lost record over the years but there is no such statistic that I know about when it comes to bowling coaches.

    Certainly Vince Lombardi and Don Shula didn't become Hall of Fame NFL coaches because they passed some gold football tests or attended some football clinics. They were honored because of their won-lost records just like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden in college football.

    In individual sports like tennis, a coach can make a super reputation because his protégée excels over the years in matches won and titles earned.

    In other words, there is something in black and white in the form of wins (white) and losses (black) that you can judge a tennis coach's ability.

    But that won-lost record is hard to find in bowling because coaching success is not judged by W and D (wins and defeats) in most cases. I would venture to guess you could not find a won-lost record of any bowling coach in the world. Maybe titles won by his/her players, but not won-lost records for everyone he or she coached.

    So I got to thinking and wondering who I would consider as possible Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame inductees among those I have known and can attest for their glowing records. My list would be a personal list based nothing on but beliefs and memories. It would not be scientific and certainly not complete.

    In my opinion, there is no way you can figure out the top 10, 100 or 1,000 bowling coaches in the country or world only because bowling coaches work with so many people over the course of years.

    Elite golfers or tennis players have individual coaches who travel with them, practice with them and are paid big bucks based on the player's winnings each year. No bowler in my memory has made so much money in a given year that he or she could afford a personal coach 24/7.

    Having said that, I have to add that I know that great women players like Marion Ladewig and Sylvia Wene had their own coaches during the height of their careers. And who can forget that Don Carter helped coach his wives (LaVerne and Paula) to Hall of Fame careers. There is no question that I would have to list Fred Borden and Jeri Edwards near the top of my personal coaching list off the sterling performances of the players they coached on TEAM USA. I have no idea their personal won-lost records but the United States has been a dominant bowling force the past 15 years.

    In the collegiate ranks there are many successful coaches. But like in collegiate football, part of their success is based on superb recruiting. I don't know them all but there are many and won-lost records are available along with national titles.

    John Jowdy would be my No. 1 candidate in the pro division of the proposed Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame just because I have spent so much time watching him coach male and female pro bowlers across the country. They come seeking his help because they know John has helped straighten out the game of slumping bowlers over the past 40 years. And he never charged the pro bowlers a penny.

    I also have heard the words of pro players personally thanking him after winning tournaments. One time at the Firestone Tournament of Champions in Akron, four of the five TV finalists thanked Jowdy for helping them get to the ABC telecast.

    Like every other sport, the great bowlers don't always make great coaches. I believe the late Don Johnson, Dick Ritger, Brian Voss and Del Ballard may be the class of the class. Naturally there are others who would make legitimate contenders for Hall of Fame induction.

    Rich Weber could not be described as a great pro coach except for the fact that he could straighten out the game of his father (Dick) and brother (Pete) when they were having scoring problems. The won-lost records of Dick and Pete would be enough for Rich to earn special recognition in my coaching list.

    I never saw them coach much, but I know that men like Tom Kouros, Bill Taylor, John Fantini, Del Warren, Billy Hall, Lenny Nicholson and Bill Spigner and ladies like Virginia Norton and Susie Minshew and Helen Duval have guaranteed their spots on a Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame ballot.

    And that brings me to another thought pattern: Is it possible these days of revolutionary technology changes to pick a coach who can fine tune your game, tell you what type of ball and weight block you should use, how to read the lanes and have a degree in sports psychology.

    Bowling is getting so challenging that you may need a team of coaches like a good football team – a head coach to direct the following assistant coaches.

    • A quarterback coach who will teach correct passing techniques.
    • A backfield coach to help the quarterback study film and dissect defenses.
    • An offensive coach to call the right plays at the right time.
    • A sports psychologist or preacher to help the quarterback deal with interceptions.

    Seriously, I have a problem trying to figure out what I know and don't know these days. But I do know that I can't overlook talented coaches like Richard Shockley, Rick Benoit, Chris Schlemer, Bill Straub, Pat Costello and Gordon Vadakin to name only a few.

    I have been around sports all my life and I have run across good coaches, mediocre coaches and bad coaches in every sport.

    I have compiled a list of characteristic that I would want in a coach of any sport:

    1. A person with a well adjusted personality.

    2. A person who understands human beings, likes people and has patience if working with juniors.

    3. A person who can communicate through the spoken and written word.

    4. A person who listens and learns.

    5. A person who lives to win but doesn't die when he/she loses.

    6. A person who motivates a pupil, especially a junior.

    7. A person who tweaks a player's game but doesn't change it for the sake of change.

    8. A person who teaches good sportsmanship and has a sense of humor.

    9. A person who knows how to teach teamwork.

    10. A person who donates time because he/she loves the sport of bowling.

    The list above and the names above are only personal favorites. It does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that it is a scientific listing of the best of the best bowling coaches.

    But I do think somebody should step up and form a Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame.

    I realize that coaches/players like Helen Duval and Virginia Norton and John Jowdy and Fred Borden already have earned WIBC or ABC Hall of Fame recognition but they contributed to the sport of bowling in many ways during their storied careers.

    I guarantee that all of the names in this column plus thousands of others helped bowling become a more respected sport and deserve more recognition.

    Contact Dick Evans at Evans121@aol.com