Katlyn Bay’s marvelous showing in Joliet was just the latest fruits of a lot of Al Nordman’s labor.
The longtime wrestling coach was running the IESA state championships 8 years ago and talking shop with Executive Director Steve Endsley about the prospects of a middle-school state bowling meet.
“He thought I was nuts,” Nordman said. “But anything like that takes time.”
Folks thought he was a little less nuts every year, especially when a school survey reflected a lot of interest.
Three years ago, a lot of campaigning and planning came to fruition with the first IESA state bowling tournament. Last weekend was the first time it featured a team component, in addition to individual competition.
Eight years ago, Nordman’s son, Will, was in sixth grade at Mount Morris. Last winter, he and the Oregon Hawks made it to the state meet for the first time, thanks to honing their skills during their middle-school years.
“Middle-school bowling is really the only reason Oregon has a high school bowling team today,” Al Nordman said.
When Will was in seventh grade, Mount Morris formed a co-op team with Reagan Middle School for the first time. The next year, the Dixon school fielded its own team.
That’s why, last February, the Hawks’ and Dukes’ celebration was so epic when they both qualified for state at the sectional at Plum Hollow Lanes. Those bonds are a grand example of what bowling can do for kids and their social interaction.
“They get to compete with really good kids,” Nordman said. “Then they get to see what kids their own age and skill leves are like. And they make some really good friendships along the way.”
Many of my fondest friendships have also been formed – and many existing relationships nurtured – at the bowling alley. So I know Nordman speaks the truth.
From strictly an athletics standpoint, this little tale drives the lesson that continuity is paramount. Let’s look at the other side of the coin. From what I’ve gathered, the plight of Dixon hoops can be at least somewhat traced to middle school teams not sharing the message, vision and system that kids will be part of in high school.
Call me crazy, but let’s take a moment and learn something from the bowlers.
If you build it, starting with youth programs, and build it right, success will be expected for years to come.