Normally known as a recreational sport, the Cal Poly bowling club takes its game to another level.
The bowling club competes on the West Coast against teams from California, Utah and Nevada. In collegiate club bowling, schools are broken up into four sections based on geographic region. Teams then compete starting at the beginning of fall quarter to try to advance to sectionals, which is comprised of 16 teams from each section. In order to advance to sectionals, the team must be ranked as one of the top 64 teams throughout the country. The top four teams from each section then compete at nationals.
Junior Kaylene Folks, president and team captain, said she enjoys the atmosphere in representing Cal Poly.
“Collegiate competition is amazing, since everyone is always cheering for one another and in some cases we bowl for nine hours straight,” Folks said. “It’s that focus which makes it different than recreation.”
Despite little exposure, the bowling club still enjoys competing against teams primarily from the West Coast. Vice president Dave Hodson said it was an eye-opening experience to see the improvement that he needs to make in order to be successful. He said his favorite part of the club is traveling to places such as Las Vegas and meeting people from all over the country.
“The tournaments are actually pretty intense,” Hodson said. “People get in the zone and it’s definitely not like anything that you will see at Mustang Lanes where everyone is laughing at how they’re throwing gutter balls. People really get into it.”
This past season was a tough one for the club. It had to replace three members who graduated. It added four new members but many of them were inexperienced at collegiate-style bowling.
“We were just trying to get them in the hang of competition,” Folks said. “Most of them have been bowling for a while at the youth level, but it’s much more competitive at the collegiate level.”
Hodson said this past season was used as a building year, since many of the players had never been coached before. He said the team tries to remain competitive while also enjoying the experience without getting too serious.
“There’s definitely a balance to keep the competitive side and want to do well and get better,” Hodson said. “At the same time, you still have to enjoy it because then you are working so hard for no reason.”
Also making things difficult for the club is the fact that they have to practice at Rancho Bowl in Santa Maria, since the lanes at Cal Poly are not the synthetic lanes that are used in competition.
Head coach Joe Barket, who has competed on the PBA tour for 15 years, said it’s hard for the club members to stay sharp since they must travel 45 minutes to practice and only get to do so on weekends. He said he wants his players to focus on repetition every time they bowl.
“The biggest thing in bowling is repeating what you do,” Barket said. “You have to be out there every day to get it down, otherwise you lose your fundamentals and develop bad habits.”
Barket said bowling is similar to golf, where players must develop their game through individual practice and be able to have a variety of different shots at their disposal. He also said bowling is similar to any other sport that you will see at the college level.
“At first, they don’t realize that at the collegiate level, bowling is as tough as any of the other sports,” Barket said. “It takes the same amount of practice, preparation and dedication. You can’t just pick up a ball and bowl.”
Even with all the difficulties in getting together for practices, Hodson said he enjoys practicing for bowling because it is less-tiring than other sports.
“It’s pretty nice since some sports have practices where you go and kill yourself for a few hours running around outside whereas for us we just get to bowl,” Hodson said.
Despite being inexperienced this year, Folks said the team will be better next year due to the experience they gained this year. She said the club needs more members but that she is confident the team can make sectionals next year.
Team should have all the capabilities of making sectionals if everyone dedicates themselves to the system and keeps trying to improve their game. He said his favorite part of coaching is watching the kids develop and is excited for the chances the team has next year.
“The kids are like sponges, and everybody wants to get better,” Barket said. “As long as they keep pushing themselves to get better, then we will be successful next year.”