Every kid deserves an honest chance. Just ask Oregon bowling coach Al Nordman.
Better yet, ask Dan Grimm.
Or, if you’re of the “What have you done for me lately” ilk, ask the new Hawks on the block – freshmen A.J. Nordman, Brandon Taylor and Joe Miranda.
First things first – at least chronologically. During the 2009-10 season, Grimm, a freshman with just a handful of varsity events under his belt, crushed the pocket with every ball he threw during warm-ups for the LaSalle-Peru Sectional on Jan. 23, 2010. It not only bought him a spot in the lineup. He totaled 1,344 pins and one of the two individual state-qualifiers, as well as Oregon’s lone representative.
Grimm’s a senior now, and one of a few dozen people to whom Coach Nordman sent a clear message during the team’s preseason meeting.
“I told the whole team and their parents, ‘You all have an opportunity,’ “ Nordman said. “Dan Grimm was the greatest example we’ve ever had.”
True to his word, Nordman urges his bowlers to aim to make the “tournament team,” which is determined by each bowler’s season average and how they’ve fared over their last dozen games. Once on the team for a Saturday event, it comes down to warm-ups.
“Whoever’s hitting the pocket, that’s who’s going to go,” Nordman said.
There is a caveat for underclassmen.
“The underclassmen have to be definitively better to be an option over an upperclassman,” Nordman said.
And that’s happened quite often. Nordman has plugged a trio of freshmen – his youngest son, A.J. Nordman, Taylor and Miranda – into several tourney lineups already this season.
And, for the most part, they’ve delivered. While Grimm leads the team with a 199.4 average over 43 games and Tyler Lathrop in second at 193.9, Taylor (192.6), A.J. Nordman (190.4) and Miranda (184.8) file in the third through fifth spots.
It comes as little surprise that A.J. Nordman – a two-time ISBPA state champion – has been bowling since he could pick up a ball. Same goes for Taylor, who also comes from a bowling family. But Miranda first picked up the game in sixth grade, when his brother and A.J. Nordman convinced him to drop by a practice.
He took to the game quickly. But, whereas Nordman’s form is rather polished, and Taylor generates tons of power and astonishing rotation – “That kid’s scary with his hook,” A.J. Nordman said – it took Miranda lots of repetition and film study to refine his down-and-in strike shot.
“The first times I saw Joe bowl, it wasn’t so pretty,” Taylor said.
The development started with some simple advice, A.J. Nordman telling him to simply keep the ball between the gutters.
“The biggest thing is just keeping it on the lane and improving from there,” Miranda said. “And in three practices last year, Coach Nordman had me do the same thing all practice, all 2 hours each time.
“That put everything together.”
Taylor might have the biggest upside, considering not only the monster hook he uncoils, but also his growing appreciation for the spotlight.
“I like the pressure,” Taylor said. “When you get up there and you always have to be thinking about what to do. You can’t afford to throw a bad shot.”
But Taylor, like so many talented young bowlers, had to get through his head that “cranking” would get him nowhere. Even A.J. Nordman catches himself coming over the top of his ball frequently, leading to his ball spinning in a straight line, rather than rotating naturally and diving into the pocket.
“I’m still learning that,” Nordman admits. “I do that way too much, and I never know when. I think I put a lot of rotation on it, and then it just goes straight.”
The camera and his coach, however, catch every misstep – including inconsistency in the number of steps taken on the approach.
“Sometimes A.J. would take seven, other times he’d take just four,” Miranda said.
The learning process is ongoing. But the upstart freshmen answer the question, “What role do you fill on the team?” in an almost reflexive manner.
“The seniors are pretty much the backbone of the team,” Miranda said. “If they’re not with it, the whole team’s gonna fall apart.”
“Some days, when the seniors aren’t doing their best, it makes me feel like I need to do better to get our score back up,” Taylor said.
That next-man-in mentality has Coach Nordman optimistic that his 10-man rotation is capable of great things, despite still figuring things out after graduating five seniors from last year’s squad.
“All three of the freshmen have been high at one point, and the seniors have also had their days,” he said. “The only issue we’ve had this year is we can’t seem to get them all together at the same time. If we ever do, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
Bowler Year Avg.
Dan Grimm Sr. 199.4
Tyler Lathrop Sr. 193.9
Brandon Taylor Fr. 192.6
A.J. Nordman Fr. 190.4
Joe Miranda Fr. 184.8
Mark Schmidt Sr. 182.0
Justin Provo Jr. 175.0
Colton Russell Jr. 172.7
Ian Starkey Jr. 160.9
Donta Yocum Jr. 160