keglers corner

I wrote a few years ago about how to pick a good coach for your bowling needs, and it was well received, but a few weeks ago, I had a question asked of me that I’d never heard before from a student.

Each week, I travel all over Northern California, conducting private lessons as a professional coach. Before a lesson starts, I conduct a bit of an interview to determine a player’s skill level, look at their equipment, inquire about any physical limitations or medical issues, ask what it is they wish to address and what their expectations are – near and far – to see if they’re realistic or too conservative.  

At the end, I give them a personal resume describing my professional education, certifications, years in coaching and references from the bowling industry, and then I ask if they have any questions. Usually they don’t, but I was thrown a curve in Chico by a young lady, who wanted to know my bowling average.

Without much thought, my reflex was to ask, “Why is that important?”

She said that she “wanted to make sure I was a good bowler.” As I am, I told her that I usually average in the 215 range, and that I had on occasion booked into the high 220s, and we moved on.

Coaching is sports education – in short, teaching. Great coaches are the ones that can observe, analyze, evaluate cause and effect and then apply adjustment and correction to achieve a desired result based on a mastery of the games mechanics. But most importantly, they have to be great communicators and proficient at delivering an instruction in a form and manner that’s understood, received and respected. They have to be motivators and active listeners and those skills alone can separate a fair coach from a successful one. 

The great Walter Ray Williams of our game with over 100 career titles has a personal coach that few would recognize – Chuck Gardner. Jason Belmonte, who recently won his 10th major PBA title along with the great Norm Duke have the same personal coach that I do – Mr. Ron Hoppe in Washington State. 

I checked Ron’s average with the U.S. Bowling Congress, and his latest was 174 in 2015. I’ve also been coached by PBA great Del Ballard. His latest average there is 216. In my youth, I was coached by Women’s Professional Hall of Famer Helen Duvall and by Ilene Koller in San Leandro. Ilene was a 140 bowler and probably my best coach in the day.

Look for credentials, high reviews by peers in the profession, industry certifications and a reputation for continued personal growth and knowledge.

Great coaches are always looking for avenues and venues to expand their knowledge and skills. It makes them better and as a result, makes the student better with higher degrees of success and value for your learning investment, which can be well north of $100 an hour.

I’ve had my share of honor scores and accomplishments on the lanes, but none of it is meaningful (or should be at least) to a student’s personal success.

Also, having multiple coaches is recommended and encouraged, as many coaches have areas of strength or specialty. 

As always, keep your questions coming.

Wilson is a U.S. Bowling Congress Silver Instructor and an International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association ball technician.