Bloomfield High School has a sport that many people in the area don’t know they have, bowling. To be more specific, Unified Bowling.
The difference between bowling and unified bowling is that unified bowling is part of a program called Unified Sports. Unified Sports is an inclusive program that focuses on students with intellectual disabilities partnering with students without intellectual disabilities.
Students bowl on teams of 3. Either 2 athletes (students with qualifying disabilities) and 1 participant or 1 athlete and 2 participants.
They bowl in a "Baker's format", meaning that the athlete bowls frames one, four, seven, and 10. Bowler two bowls two, five, and eight. Bowler three bowls frames three, six, and nine. The bowlers typically bowl 6 games in a meet.
Bloomfield started their program in the fall of 2018 when Reann Risor was asked if she would coach the team.
“Our bowling team got started when our athletic director, Kirk Hamm, came to me in the spring of 2018, asking if I would be interested in coaching a Unified Bowling team,” said Risor. “Our first team was in the Fall of 2018 when we had seven students making up two teams. This year we have six (5 returning from last year) students making up two teams.”
All-though Risor said yes to the coaching job, she never really thought about being a coach, except for youth sports.
“I never really had a goal of coaching a high school sport but I have enjoyed coaching some youth sports so I figured I'd give it a try when this came a long,” she said. “Last year, I coached alone, while it was fun, it was tough, especially at meets where our two teams were on opposite lanes. This year, I have an assistant coach in Lu Jessen who bowled for many years and has been awesome. She's brought a ton of insight about the game and has a lot of positive energy.”
Unified Bowling was sanctioned by the NSAA a few years ago and has been growing ever since. This year alone, there are a total of 65 teams competing, including Bloomfield.
When asked if they had advice that they tell their bowlers, their answer was fairly simple.
“My assistant coach, Lu Jessen, and I are always telling the kids to slow down and have fun,” she said. “It's a sport, so naturally the kids are competitive and want to win so sometimes they get down when they are having a rough day. We try to get them to stop and smile and remind them that all we ask is that they have fun and do their best.”
One of the many great things about Unified Bowling is how supportive the kids are of each other. The Bowlers are Bloomfield are no exception.
“The students are really supportive of one another,” said Risor. “They've pushed each other in practice to learn and bowl to the best of their ability. They are always building one another up and never put each other down.”
Bloomfield has only competed in one meet this season, but they have already beat their previous six-game record by over 100 pins.
Bloomfield will compete in districts November 3, in Norfolk at Kings Lanes. This is the first time the team will compete at districts.