Havin’ a ball, after school

Liz George —
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Enterprise photos by Nate Howard

Tegan Frederick, 9, is all smiles after picking up a spare Nov. 20 at Treasure Lanes. Below; Chloe Frederick, 9, appoaches a lane while bowling with her twin sister, Tegan.

Weston Bailey, 10, polishes his ball while bowling at Nov. 20 at Treasure Lanes.

Students gather to chat and have snacks while taking a break from bowling at Treasure Lanes Nov. 20. From left are, Kenna Benzel, 11, McKenzy Norquist, 12, Alec Dalby, 12, and Cali Simmons, 12.

The smell of wood, lane oil, and pizza filled the air as a blue, green and purple speckled bowling ball collided with the awaiting pins. Children sat around tables, sipped on rootbeer, chattered about their days in school and waited patiently for their next turn to take on the pins. A young boy watched eagerly as his ball traveled down the lane. Crash! Three pins fell and the beaming youngster glided condfidently back to his seat. An elated little lady ran by smiling and jumped toward her dad. “I got 19!” she exclaimed.

Those youngsters aren’t the first to enjoy the comradery and excitement of being on a team at the bowling alley. Youth League Bowling has been putting smiles on kids’ faces for 37 years, since Treasure Lanes opened in 1981. Over the years, more than 3,000 kids have participated.

This year, the leagues have about 80 excited young bowlers every week. Youth leagues are at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday are for 5 to 13 year-olds. Thursday is the teenage league for 13 year-olds and up.

Youth League Bowling typicalley starts the second week of October and runs through April.

Rod Lee, owner of Treasure Lanes, said he has been coaching the youth leagues for 34 years.

“I’m coaching kids of kids that I used to coach when they were younger. One of these days I’m going to coach the grandkid of someone I coached,” Lee said.

Lee coaches every single youth participant himself. He said there have been so many high points over the years.

“We’ve had a lot of kids become state champions. We’ve even had a couple of national champions,” said Lee.

Fourth grader Anthony Hattok, who has participated in youth bowling since first grade, has his eyes on the state tournament already.

“(My favorite part) is at the end of the year when we can do bowling however we want and state bowling,” said Hattok.

Last year, the state bowling tournament was held in Billings. This year, the tournament is in Helena.

Before heading to the tournament, youth bowlers have to practice hard to get ready. For Hattok, the hardest part about bowling is getting strikes, but the difficulty is worth it.

“It’s exciting (when you get a strike),” said Hattok.

For bowlers younger and less experienced than Hattok, Coach Lee says sometimes there is a learning curve. There are no bumpers used in the league and participants are expected to bowl one-handed. For Lee, the biggest obstacle is keeping the kids focused.

“Attention span (is an obstacle). Sometimes, the kids have trouble focusing. We’re always trying to teach them the skills that help them succeed. But most of them are willing to throw a few gutterballs to get the score. When they do knock down pins, it’s pretty exciting for them,” said Lee.

Participants can be added midseason and do not need to provide their own equipment. There are currenly five openings in Youth League.

For many, involvement in Youth League leads to a lifelong love of knocking down pins and craving a turkey.

Livingston resident and Men’s League Bowler Logan Hicks started in the Youth Bowling League when he was just 4 years old.

He says his time in the youth league had a major impact on his lifelong love of bowling.

“It’s not just the bowling but the social aspect, as well. I have a lot of memories at the bowling alley with people I still talk to and hang out with today. I still talk to people that I met from all over the state doing those events,” said Hicks.

Hicks said he loved his time as a youth bowler. He remembered ejoying the time with his friends and having a lot of fun.

For current youth bowlers, Hicks offered some advice, “If you want to remain good at something you always have to keep practicing because even if you are a great bowler you still have those days that you feel like you know nothing. That’s life in a nut shell.”

Hicks said he learned a lot from older bowlers and always got support from his parents, but especialley from Coach Lee.

Community members are welcomed and encouraged to watch and cheer on the youth bowlers.

Lee smiled and added, “We’re all one big, happy bowling family.”

“It’s not just the bowling but the social aspect, as well. I have a lot of memories at the bowling alley...”
— Men’s League Bowler Logan Hicks