Seven years ago there were 21 5-A Texas schools that had bowling teams in their athletic program. Including Cedar Park, there are now over 240 schools welcoming this growing sport to their facilities. The head coach for Cedar Park, Jim MacKay, spoke to the Legislative Counsel this past October in hopes that it will become a UIL sport in the next four years.
“I don’t think it will this year or next year, but as it gets more popular and people’s scores go up, I think that it will,” Colter Covey, junior team captain, said.
MacKay has been coaching bowling since 2001. It’s his second year in Texas, and since arriving he has obtained a coaching job with Stony Point High School, where he made his presence known by winning the district competition. Now he is head coach of both the Vista Ridge and Cedar Park teams.
“I like being a coach because it brings together different people,” MacKay said. “Last year before tryouts nobody had ever talked to each other, but by the end of the weekend they had exchanged phone numbers and become friends.”
Along with establishing new friendships, the students have found that they have more potential then they expected. Some bowlers were surprised at their talent, and found that they can learn quickly and be successful.
“At Stony Point, three of the five bowlers on the team had never bowled before,” MacKay said. “The team finished the season with a district championship.”
Practices are held at Mel’s bowling center every Thursday after school from 4:30 to 6:30. Since it’s not a UIL sport and receives no funding, each player has to pay $125 to pay for all the bowling practices. The team has a tournament every Saturday.
“It’s really good,” Mary Gillis, junior team captain, said. “I have learned a lot. We practiced with Vista Ridge and Georgetown and it’s fun because it’s competitive and yet everybody cheers for each other.”
“I was ecstatic when I found out that I made the team.” Gillis said. “It was really exciting because I have never been on a varsity sport, and I really love the coach and the program. The games are fun and exciting, but the competition to make the team was an intense experience.”
Bowlers have something else to be excited about, too. Colleges offer full scholarships to the top bowlers in the country, and partial scholarships to other outstanding bowlers. Coach Mackay’s daughter was offered a full scholarship to The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill because of her spectacular play.
“I heard there were opportunities to get a free ride,” Covey said. “I’m actually thinking about trying to get a scholarship for it myself.”
There are three teams as of now, a boy’s varsity, girls varsity, and a boys JV. Currently there aren’t enough bowlers to form a JV girl’s team, however spots are still available. The team is playfully competitive and the boys and girls challenge each other.
“The girl’s scores aren’t quite as high as the guys, but they are still pretty good,” Covey said.
The teams all have good chemistry and get along well. Making jokes and talking in between turns just adds on the fun of the sport.
“It’s hilarious,” Gillis said. “I laugh so much, we all clicked really well. I would have never seen myself bowling… ever, but surprisingly I love it and all the people in it. Our coach is amazing and the entire team is freaking sweet.”
Coach MacKay has been adamant about helping the players get better. Improvements have already been made, but the team feels they still need work. The players hope to develop their skill throughout the first year of Cedar Park Bowling, and begin a dynasty for the T-Wolves. If high school bowling continues its growth, it is likely that it will soon be recognized as a UIL sport.
Although new to LISD, the bowling team is already making great strides. Coach MacKay is striving to keep the students improving and use this first year to build a solid foundation for the team in the future. Hopefully, with consistent growth, the sport will soon be recognized by UIL.