The challenge of bowling

March 18, 2002|BY JoEllen Barnhart

Trevor grins. It's his turn. His friends and parents cheer "GO TREVOR!" He is here, at the Long Meadow bowling alley, every Saturday morning. Dedicated and determined to do his best. With two hands Trevor carefully selects the best of the brown speckled bowling balls from the return rack.

The highly polished bowling alley makes the ten small duckpins look as if they are miles away. But, to this 17-year-old bowling athlete the thought of watching the white bottled shaped pins fall and crash from his toss keeps him focused and smiling.

I find myself caught up in the excitement too. "You can do it Trevor," I yell from the refreshment area. My encouraging words are lost in the crowd of spectators and score keepers. But, I really want this kid to bowl well.

Since November Trevor has been coaching my 11-year-old son, Michael, teaching him the rules, the etiquette, the protocol and the fun of the sport of bowling. Michael really looks up to him.


There are 33 bowling athletes at the alleys today. They range in age from 6 to 21. Each one loves the sport as much as Trevor.

Like most sports, these athletes are grouped according age and divided into eight teams. The teams have community sponsors that provide underwriting for the expenses. They also provide colorful T-shirts which serve as a kind of uniform.

But there is something unique about this group of athletes. Something you don't get to see in ordinary sports leagues. To qualify for this league athletes must be disabled.

There is also something else different about this league. Scores don't seem to matter. What does matter is fun. Consequently what you hear are parents cheering for ALL children regardless of which team they are assigned. You see athletes assisting other athletes on and off the bowling platform. You see smiles on everyone in attendance, including the employees. You feel competition yield to camaraderie.

Trevor is tall and lanky. His walk and speech are crippled by cerebral palsy. His two-hand grip on the small brown speckled duck pin bowling ball looks worrisome at first.

I remember watching all of the athletes for the first time when two of my sons joined the Washington/Franklin County Challenge Division of Bowling last fall. A rush of amazement saturated my emotions when I studied the precision and ballet-like movements these young athletes use to accomplish their sport.

Overcoming the confines of wheelchairs, of muscle disorders, of mental impairments, even blindness to bowl. And they bowl well! I mean I would not want to compare my bowling scores to Raven's bowling scores. Although Raven is blind, she consistently makes my bowling game look like I've been playing hockey. She relies on her mother's directions of pin placement to guide her ball toss.

Even more amazing is the genuine spirit of sportsmanship. Athletes and their families never need to be reminded of it. It just happens.

Trevor takes aim. With confidence and a two-hand grip, he moves his body toward the disqualifying line. The brown speckled ball drops hard from his toss and wobbles down the center of the alley.

Before the ball makes contact with any pins I imagine a large red X in Trevor's score box marking a strike. A strike is the ultimate for a bowler - knocking down all ten pins on the first ball.

Instead of a strike I see one lonely pin remaining. Trevor missed one pin! "Ohhhhhhhhh! You were sooooo close Trevor." The busy noise of the other bowlers blocks out my disappointing words.

What happened next changed me forever. Trevor turns to his teammates, throws his arms up in victory and says, "I did it. I took down nine."

"Yes, you did Trevor. Look at what you accomplished," I said to myself. "You took down nine."

Trevor taught me a valuable lesson that Saturday morning. Look at what I can do - not at what I cannot.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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