For those looking to take up a hobby in the new year, bowling is one activity that some feel is making a comeback in the new decade, and it’s both sporty and social.
“I think bowling was kind of on the decline all across the country, and I don’t know why,” said Mary Ann Holasek, a shift leader at AMF Auburn Lanes. “I came from Milwaukee, [Wisconsin], which was like the ‘bowling capital of the world,’ and it was falling down there for a while, too.”
Holasek has taught physical education classes focused on bowling for the past nine years while contracted by the School of Kinesiology. She said it’s been a fulfilling position seeing those with no experience in the sport develop a lifelong passion for it after taking the course.
“Year after year, they come in with their kids and say, ‘I took your bowling class,’ and that’s great because that’s what I want,” Holasek said. “I want people to be able to enjoy the sport.”
For this reason, Holasek says her classes don’t stress getting higher scores for better grades, but instead teach beginning concepts and strategies for those wanting to get more invested in bowling than just casual play. She also hopes students who enroll find themselves less intimidated by the inability at first to earn as many strikes and spares as they’d like.
“A lot of people shy away from bowling because they don’t think they can do it,” she said. “My goal is to get them comfortable so that they learn the basics and enjoy it in the future without being afraid.”
The course scoring system is structured not by the final total of a game, but by taking the average of a student’s accuracy, which Holasek says is the number of pins knocked down divided by the number of games bowled throughout the semester.
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The first few weeks see students play to learn rather than score, but as scores begin being added in the gradebook, Holasek says they notice their improvement over many weeks.
“It shows their average from the very beginning to the very end, and that’s how I grade, [by asking], ‘How much did you improve?’ ‘Did you really try?’” she said. “I’ve gotten to some people who tried so hard, and they start out with a 50 average and end with an 80, which is phenomenal to me. That’s a 30-pin increase, and you’ve never bowled before in your life.”
Seeing that growth is something that motivates Holasek each semester.
She began bowling at 12 years old as a child in a bowling family with her mom, who was a coach.
“I’ve been at the alley all my life with my mom, who was a real avid bowler,” Holasek said. “I’d go to the playroom when I was little, and my kids would go to the playroom when they were little. Then my daughters really took up bowling in Birmingham.”
Later in life, she suffered a knee injury that kept her from playing. As she was already an assistant to the University class, when the main instructor left between two semesters, she jumped on the opportunity to take the position.
“Teaching the class is my way of still being involved in the sport without actually doing it,” Holasek said. “That’s kind of my passion.”
The bowling class fulfills two credit hours and is located off campus at AMF Auburn Lanes. Students pay a $125 fee, which covers their bowling shoes and reserved time at the alley for the duration of the semester.
Classes are offered over the fall and spring semesters, and students can either schedule them for Tuesday and Thursday, where they bowl four games per week, or Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where they bowl five to six.
Along with building their skills at bowling, Holasek says she’s also seen people build lasting friendships through the course via organized teams.
“We pick teams at the beginning of the year and those are the people that you bowl with the whole semester, and then you bowl against different teams,” Holasek said. “I’ve got people that didn’t know each other who are still friends today because of bowling class.”
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