The Lakeside Lutheran co-op bowling team was tentatively scheduled to first compete during the 2020-21 school year.
Lakeside activities director Todd Jahns encouraged head coaches Rich Parkhurst and Tom Horn to get things up and operating a year sooner, so they did.
“Our thought process was to start next school year,” Parkhurst said. “Todd Jahns said ‘Why not get this going now and make this happen?’ We were weeks away from the first meet and in scramble mode. We had two or three practices done when we got to our first meet.
“There is great competition in Watertown District 6. We were really proud of the kids for sticking with it. Got feedback from other coaches and teams that were impressed with how our kids were interacting and competing even though they weren’t at the top-notch level. The kids showed up to practice, continued to compete and their enthusiasm for the sport and eagerness to stick with it was apparent.”
The team competed in six baker-format meets (two matches per meet) in the 6th district (greater Watertown area) under the high school division of the Bowling Centers Association of Wisconsin (BCAW). They won three matches and placed 4th in the Division 2 standings.
The co-op, made up by Lakeside and Lake Mills High School, had seven bowlers, all but one of which is eligible to return next season.
“We are already aware of several kids coming out of area Lutheran schools who are interested and enrolled in bowling programs,” Parkhurst said. “The leg up we have for next year is that we are prepared and know what the process is. We are going to be able to advertise these programs as soon as they open. Our goal for next year is to have one boys and one girls team. This year we had one co-ed team. That would be a great success for us.”
For Parkhurst and Horn, starting the team now made sense given that each will soon have kids old enough to join.
“We were glad to get a team together. Bowling from a popularity perspective isn’t through the roof right now,” Parkhurst explained. “That’s where my focus is. We are doing our best to keep the youth engaged. We have our families involved and our kids have been involved with the Watertown youth level. We were in a position of ‘where do our kids bowl at the high school level?’ We decided to go ahead and take on the opportunity to start that team.
“We had a simple sign up at Lakeside. We ended up with just enough interest to get one team rolling. We are in a position between Tom and I where we are going to have kids at Lakeside for seven or eight years. This program is not going to be a one-and-done.”
Student-athletes competing in a winter sport would still be eligible to join as the team is not sponsored by the WIAA and meets occur on Sunday mornings.
“This, for Tom and I, was a good experience from a high school coaching perspective on how and when to run practices,” Parkhurst said. “We had one practice this year and may do more next year. We are always running that line to be cooperative with the kids’ schedules, run the middle ground of making sure they can still do the other things they are accustomed to doing.”
Parkhurst, who competes in state tournaments, noted how bowling is a lifelong sport and that getting youth involved early can pay dividends.
“I love the sport and think it’s important we give youth the opportunity to participate,” he said. “They can have fun with it for a long time.”