ST. PETERSBURG – Until this school year, junior Jeremy Reiskind, 16, bowled for fun but it never was anything serious.
Reiskind is one of eight members of the boys’ varsity bowling team at Shorecrest Preparatory School, which won at the district level and placed 18th at the recent state competition.
Reiskind played previously on the school's football, soccer and track and field teams. Bowling has been different.
"I liked the atmosphere of the whole team and sport. We would always have fun bowling while joking and eating food," Reiskind said.
Bowling is a unique sport. Air conditioning and french fries are part of the equation during practice. Math and science are also involved, with angles, velocity and torque important.
Although bowling is a relaxed environment with opportunities for social interaction, it's also a mental game where mastery can be seen through performance.
"I learned that practice really does help performance. I started the year throwing a straight ball and bowling around 150s. At the end of the year I was throwing a hook and was averaging around 180," Reiskind said. "How quickly your scores could change game to game really surprised me. In the state tournament there was a bowler who bowled a 290 then bowled a 160. Scores can change a lot from game to game from only the smallest margin of error."
Shorecrest started the bowling program in the 2010-11 school year to continue to provide alternative opportunities for students to participate in athletics and be part of a team.
Only two of last year's players returned for the second season since the teams had 14 seniors in the first year. The sport was popular and the school had tryouts for its 8-member boys’ and 8-member girls’ teams. Both teams won this year at the conference level.
“You don't have to be a certain size to be a good bowler. Once you figure out where to put it, velocity matters," said Coach Tripp Welborne. "We had a wide mix (of participants). Some athletes from other sports, others who have never participated in another sport."
Where the team bowled affected the strategy because of how each alley prepared its lanes for play.
"Figuring out the different oil patterns of the lanes was the most challenging. Each lane has different oil on the lanes that makes the balls do different things. Some make the ball spin more while others make it spin less," Reiskind said. "Once you are bowling the oil comes off; the lane gets dry."
Playing sports at Shorecrest has many benefits for students including the opportunity to build community at the school. Sports “keep your connected to people outside of your grade. It brings the whole community together," Reiskind said.