Nervous. That is how I felt Saturday afternoon as I entered the bowling alley in Wadena. Carry a bowling ball in my one hand and optimism in the other, I was anxious to get in the door and take a look at the lanes.
I had never been to the Wadena bowling alley before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that they were going to be different than the lanes in Fergus Falls, especially as the oil begins to break down but I didn’t know if the ball would have the same movement when it was tossed out there.
My mother had decided to come along and watch as well. That was good, at least she would be able to calm my nerves no matter what score was posted. But I knew that no matter what, you just need to go out and have fun and the bowling would take care of itself.
As the pinsetter put up the first rack of 10, I took a deep breath, eyed the pins up, sat back and ... watched my son throw the ball down the lanes. This was the first bowling tournament I have ever been to that I had no opportunity to throw granite at wood and merely was a spectator. I have to admit, my heart was beating faster rooting for my son than it does when I actually bowl.
This was the first time as a parent that I sat back and watched one of my children compete by themselves. I had previously watched my son play in the championship game for his park and recreation T-ball team, but that is a team sport. I knew that he couldn’t control everything that happened and too be honest, he really only cared that his teammates and him got a medal after they were done. That was a more enjoyable experience as we got to watch everyone do their best and see who came out on top.
Now, I sat in my chair trying not to coach my son and just let him enjoy the experience of bowling at a new alley. As a coach, you can’t even imagine the restraint I had to use not to critique his throw and to help him get a better shot at collecting a bunch of pins on his first throw. I tried to act like a parent that knew very little about the sport and just kept encouraging him to get as many pins as possible.
I have always hated being depicted as one of those overbearing sports parents that try to live through their children. While I can help my son improve his bowling skills, I am not going to put pressure on him to get better. If he enjoys the sport and wants to improve, he can ask me for advice or one of the many helpers at Northern Aire Lanes in Fergus Falls. In the end, all I care about is that he is having a good time doing something that can be a lifelong recreational sport.
Bowling is also very much a family thing for us Stiches. Both my father and my dad’s mother bowled. I have been bowling since I was 6 (almost 30 years) and my dad was right alongside me for much of that. When I graduated high school, my father and I decided to create our own bowling team and found a lot of success. When I moved away in 2010, early in the bowling season, my dad decided to hang it up in 2011. Little did I know that it would be one of the last times that I got to bowl with my dad.
Some of my favorite moments at the bowling alley were with my father. We won a junior-adult tournament one year, bowling a junior-adult league together and bowled together on the aforementioned team. Those are moments that I will never forget.
Last week, I got the opportunity to sign both my son and I up for a junior-adult league. I am looking forward to spending time with him doing something that we both enjoy. I am really going to work my hardest to not be too competitive when we bowl and just let the pins fly where they may.
In other exciting developments, my daughter has also stated she is interested in joining bowling. After a pizza party at the bowling alley, she enjoyed throwing the ball down the lanes and collecting four strikes. I hope that it becomes something that we can do as a trio in the future.
Anyway, back to the tournament. My son finished bowling over 60 pins higher than his average total in three games. He also had a personal best score in his first game. I left the alley proud of my son for how he did and happy that he had a great time bowling.
Zach Stich is the managing editor at the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.