The 10th Annual Pro Image Bowling Camp By Joan Taylor

    08/06/10

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    ColumnistJoanTaylor.jpgAugust 1st was the last day of the tenth annual Pro Image Bowling Camp, or as I call it "Bowling Boot Camp" here at Rockaway Lanes in New Jersey. This year there were 48 students, spanning ages 12 to 72, who came from Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even Texas.

    The picture above shows the entire Boot Camp coaching staff with Walter Ray Williams Jr. On the left is author Joan Taylor.

    There were five females and 43 males, three lefthanders and 45 right-handers. Of the 48, 28 or more than half were there for their first time. Eleven were there for their second, six for their third, one for a fourth, one for a fifth, and me for my tenth.

    I couldn't help but look back over all the camps and see how changes were made each time. For some of the early camps, a sports psychologist was brought in to discuss the mental game and interact with the campers or students in some fun activities.

    Former head and assistant Team USA coaches, Fred Borden and Ken Yokobosky , who have directed the program from the start, brought in a professional bowler guest speaker and coach for the third day, a few years into the camp program.

    2010BootCampWalterRayWilliamsKenYokobosky.jpgThis year's guest was seven-time PBA Player of the Year, Walter Ray Williams Jr. (pictured right with Ken Yokobosky, l-r). In the past there was Rhino Page, Pete Weber, Ryan Shafer, Parker Bohn III, Chris Barnes, and Jason Couch.

    In addition to the pro answering questions and relating some tour stories, Williams would coach on the lanes, and wrap up with a one-on-one tournament in a simulated televised finals setting. The amateur who qualified for this would be given a free campership for the next year, currently valued at $615.25.

    This year brought a new twist, as each coach gave instructions in one area only, such as the physical game, ball release, angles and zones, right or left side spares and surface adjustments.

    And the cast and credentials of the coaching staff could have easily warranted a red carpet in front of Rockaway Lanes! It is a given that they are all certified at various levels, gold, silver or bronze, all of which take hours of preparation and education.

    Coaches Chip Vincent and Andy Zavaglia both attended the camps for five years, and then became certified coaches, thereby "giving back to bowling." Two other coaches are retired teachers, John Neral who came in from his new hometown of Washington, DC to coach, and Greg Rottengen, who is coaching for his ninth time.

    Al Jones, who has had two double lung transplants and who won the singles division in the county tournament this year, has also returned to coach. Joe Costanza, a lefthander, is coaching the left side spares. Anthony Williams, a student and bowler for William Paterson is a coach-in-training, another first for the camp.

    2010BootCampAlFredJeriWalterRayKen.jpgJeri Edwards, who bowled for Penn State and was head coach for Team USA, is one of only 35 gold level coaches in the entire world. She is currently the head coach for the Puerto Rican bowling teams who have been doing well since hiring her. Who wouldn't mind commuting for that job?

    L-R Al Jones, Fred Borden, Jeri Edwards, Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Ken Yokobosky.

    Noel Vega, an area regional bowler is coaching the right side spares. Borden and Yokobosky are also gold level coaches. In fact, it was Borden, 69, who wrote the coaching certification programs.

    Friday's opening session in the classroom began with an overview from Borden and Yokobosky. Fred said, "Have you ever heard of someone being bitten by an elephant? No. But little mosquito bites can get to you. We are going to help you get rid of those mosquitoes."

    What is still amazing is that every time Borden gives a presentation in the classroom or instructs one-on-one on the lanes, it is always new and fresh. The author of 19 books and bowling programs, he is dedicated and passionate, and was as much so when I met him 35 years ago.

     Our returning septuagenarian, John McBride, Rockaway, attended his third camp, and as he did last year, brought in his granddaughter, Kayla, from Texas for her second experience. McBride has had a heart transplant and came in three years ago to get back into bowling and do it well.

    The 10th anniversary cake. Click on the image to enlarge it.

    The youngest camper, Jack Cook, Denville, has already won a Junior Bowlers Tour title at age 12 but wants to learn "how to move." Eric Gentilella, 18, Vernon, is one of two Charles A. Edwards scholarship winners and is leaving soon for Wichita State University, which runs the top collegiate bowling program in the country.

    Eric wants to hone is skills and get a shot at making the select or the developmental team at school. Even if he doesn't get elite status during his freshman year, there is still plenty of free practice for him at the university's eight-lane center.

    But maybe the best coach on staff is the Pro Trainer, a comprehensive video device that enables Yokobosky to make videos from the back and side of each student, and add commentary and even draw lines on the video to illustrate a point. He often composes videos with a pro bowler on one side comparing with the student on the other side.

    Despite two days on and off the lanes, and some sore muscles, the enthusiasm was still there on Day Three of Bowling Boot Camp. The highlight of the day was the arrival of the reigning world's best bowler, Walter Ray Williams Jr..

    He spoke to the students about some humorous and not-so-funny experiences on the Professional Bowlers' Tour over the past 27 years. He has nearly as many second place finishes as his 47 titles. But he reflected on that, saying "I've discovered that it's okay to lose."

    After lunch, Walter Ray stepped up on each lane and spoke with the campers, threw mostly strikes, gave autographs, and coached.

    2010BootCampTyAquilianoWalterRayWilliams.jpg2010BootCampWalterRayWilliams.jpgAfter an elimination process of each camper picking off a corner pin from a full rack of pins, the last man standing was Ty Aquiliano (pictured left with Walter Ray Williams Jr.), Hopatcong, a 17-year-old who has only been bowling for a year and a half.

    Ken Yokobosky set up a mock televised match with lighting, and fans surrounding the tournament lanes. He provided commentary throughout and interviewed both bowlers during the competition.

    Ty picked Al Jones to be his in-tournament coach and it was game on. When it was over, Williams posted 269 to Ty's 189. He was awarded a free campership for next year. "I would have paid and gone anyway," a delighted Aquiliano said.

    The Sparta High School senior already averages 192 and said "I owe it all to Al Jones. He built me from the ground up." The camp improved Ty's approach, hand placement, and he learned much more about the surface of bowling balls.

    While the entire three days can't be put into a short column, there were highlights. Fred Borden, the head coach of Bowling Boot Camp, said that bowlers should have a plan, and then revisit it every three weeks. Go back to a coach for private sessions every six weeks. The four integral parts of bowling are the delivery, the lane, ball (especially the cover stock) and the brain.

    This being the tenth camp at Rockaway Lanes, I asked Rich Mark, owner-proprietor, why he would give his center up for those three days year after year. "I want to create an awareness about the sport of bowling," he said," and this is one of many ways to do it.

    Teaching the sport is something that will grow it. I've always done things even if they cost money purely to expose bowling. For the students, the camp reinforces bowling as a lifetime sport."

    I thought about the $615 fee, and by breaking it down per bowler per hour per coach, the camp was truly a bargain. For about $25 per hour the 48 students received classroom instruction, on-lane instruction from a host of world-class certified coaches, and resources to reinforce all they learned.

    They got to meet the Big Pro one-on-one, and formed new friendships with each other and with their coaches. You can't really put a price on that.

    New friends were made, old friends were reunited, and despite some "battle fatigue" and achy muscles, 48 people were leaving Rockaway Lanes with new keys, or perhaps mosquito repellant. It's like the title of Borden's first book: "Bowling, Knowledge is the Key."