Certainly, no athletic program or team can expect to achieve a consistent level of success without having worked incredibly hard and paid a price to reach the top. The Wichita State Bowling Program has made a few mistakes along the way, but we continue to strive for improvement by trying new things. Some ideas prove to be worthwhile; others simply don't work out. We like to think that we have learned from our mistakes along the way and have come out "better" in the long run. This continuous evolution of major and minor program changes has produced some common threads which seem to be woven throughout the program's very fabric. These strengths are discussed below.
Each year, our program attracts a large number of quality individuals/bowlers. It is safe to say one of the most important things each of our bowlers’ experience is being with and learning from some of these people. Good bowlers bowl better, learn quicker and challenge themselves more when they are surrounded by other good bowlers. Secondly, each bowler's physical skills and information bases are further developed through the following additional support services: tryouts and availability of the periodic educational bowling classes, associate coach assignments, team workouts and on-lane evaluations (for most of the members of our selected teams). More importantly, for the bowler who has been selected to a team and has a desire to learn, our program has inspired the inquisitive student-athlete to learn more about themselves. They have seen that they can do or become anything they want and have an unlimited potential. Wichita State University funds coaching salaries for both a head coach and an assistant coach devoted to full-time development of our intercollegiate bowlers. Few collegiate bowling programs in the nation have made a stronger commitment to quality coaching of its student-athletes.
This strength really includes several areas - honesty, integrity and fairness. An example of the program's commitment to fairness may be found in its try-out process. We do not have to extend the tryouts over a 2-3 week period as we have chosen to do. It would be much easier to conduct a very short block of tryout games and select the teams from the results of those games, as most other intercollegiate programs across the country do. However, we do not feel it is very fair to immediately subject a bowler (especially a first-semester freshman) to all of the natural transitions (being away from home, academic changes, residence hall living, level of bowling competition, etc.), in addition to a dangerously short, and simply unfair, test of their true ability. To level the playing field, we extend tryouts, we change lane conditions and we allow bowlers who have been strictly strong individual bowlers in their earlier years to start to develop stronger group traits through the tryout process. Additional goals would be an increased comfort level, along with understanding the work ethic and desire to learn, which is necessary at this level of our sport.
In essence, through the extended tryout period, we sacrifice some early season team selection camaraderie and unity in order to have an environment that is fair for everyone and one that produces more team success in the long run. This is just one example of the program's fairness. There are specific areas such as lane maintenance, conditioning efforts and scheduling which also need to be mentioned. The bottom line is that we try to run this program with fairness and in a manner that reflects high degrees of honesty and integrity. We are always open to constructive suggestions about how we can improve the program.
Nowhere in the sport of bowling is team play more evident than in intercollegiate competition. The ability to put together, refine and build quality competitive teams in a single season is a true strength of the WSU program. In reality, our program's true feelings about team bowling run deeper than college bowling itself. Although what we all watch on television throughout the year is bowling, professional bowling that is, it does not show the roots of our sport. Pro bowling, even as highly-visible and as much of a modern-day showcase of our sport as it is, was born and continues to evolve out of team play. The star players of the 1940’s and `50s – the original professionals – learned how to bowl, compete and excel by being members of the classic teams of their era. It is our feeling that the backbone of our sport and industry still lies within the concept of team play. The PBA agrees, as they have started the PBA league. Although this is still not true team bowling, the PBA is taking steps in the right direction to bring back some form of team bowling.
At Wichita State, we try to duplicate the qualities that the great teams of our sport have demonstrated over the years. Unity, closeness, friendship, selflessness, communication, attitude and image are but a few of the traits we strive to instill in our players. Learning how to become a cohesive, close-knit team is not easy. It takes sacrifice, commitment and a sense of no-strings-attached friendship. In every sport, there is example after example of teams that overcome the odds, beat more talented teams and battle through adversity to win national and international events. In nearly every instance, these performers struggle to pin down the exact reasons for their success. But, almost always, these competitors swell up with pride, and with a tear in their eye say, "We're a team, we're just a team.” Being on a true team is a great feeling; in fact, it's the best feeling in the whole world. When a bowler wins a singles championship, it is a wonderful feeling, a feeling of success and fulfillment. But who does one share that victory with? Who, at that moment of accomplishment, knows the same exhilaration felt by that bowler? On true teams, accomplishments are shared by everyone and the feeling of being victorious is amplified in proportion to the number of players on the team! That is why it's such a "high" and that's the environment and feeling the WSU Bowling Program tries to create each season.
Although the mental side of the sport of bowling may seem to be a nebulous, mysterious entity of some sort, the WSU bowling program strives to take somewhat of a common sense approach to the subject. We use time-tested, proven concepts that create behavioral changes in the team and its members that, in turn, allow us to perform better on the lanes. Some of the ideas and concepts that are discussed during team meetings, involving all members of the men's and women’s teams, are: positive thought, self-image, self-esteem, mental programming, relaxation, repetition, goal planning and affirmations. Perhaps more exciting are the constantly-changing areas of mental development that are explored. We do not profess to know everything about the mind and how it functions. Far from it! It seems we may never know everything about our most complex organ, the brain. The things we have learned have most definitely caused positive changes in our teams. Our continuing efforts in understanding how our minds work is one of the most important things we bring to our program.
Another strength of our program is our thrust towards fielding as many teams and individuals in intercollegiate competition as possible. Overall, our program puts as many bowlers into competition annually as any other intercollegiate program in the United States. We want as many bowlers as possible to experience the sheer excitement and thrill of collegiate bowling. We pinch pennies, cut costs and try to make our fundraisers very successful in order to have the money available to field competitive teams in tournament play. Successful fund raising and budget administration permitting, it is not uncommon to see all the members of our men's and women's teams traveling and competing each season.