For years, bowling has been a popular sport in Saugerties. The Saugerties Bowling Club at Simmons Plaza is full most nights and packed on the weekends.
That popularity has spilled over to Saugerties High School. For the past 17 years, students have played on a club team.
Last year, school district leaders decided to make the club team a varsity team. A handful of young bowlers with a love for the game joined the team.
“A number of students came to us asking to make bowling a varsity sport,” said Dominic Zarrella, the high school’s athletic director. “So we held a general-interest meeting and a number of students came out asking to make it a full sport. So we did it.”
“Only a few students came out for the team last year,” noted Darian Wood, senior captain of the girls’ bowling team. “But this year, there were about 40 kids looking to get on the team. There were so many that there were cuts.”
“It was amazing,” said head coach Sean Collins. “So basically when I heard that the school was going to make bowling a sport I applied, and the rest is history, so to say.”
As a kid growing up in Saugerties, Collins was a bowler. When the time came, the middle-school phys ed teacher signed on to coach.
School officials approached the bowling club to see whether they could use the lanes for the varsity team. As Collins tells it, “Robbie Houtman has been a blessing. He has been generous with his time and his business. Without his support and time, basically having a team wouldn’t be possible.”
Zarrella said Houtman does not charge the district for use of the lanes. “He donates it to the team, which is terrific.”
Wood is a big believer in Collins and the team. She has a variety of sporting interests. This past fall she was a captain of the girls’ volleyball team. In the spring she is a captain of the girls’ softball team and plays softball on a traveling team.
“So last year, I was looking to do something during the winter,” Wood said, “and I heard they were starting a varsity bowling team, and decided to give it a shot.”
She now has a 178 average and is a leader of the team. “Everyone on the team loves the sport, and it’s a great bonding experience for all of us,” said Wood. Her younger brother Dawson is on the boys’ team.
The sport is relatively inexpensive. The athletes buy their own shoes and balls. Balls cost about $140 each, and each player has two. One is a strike ball, which players say is their go-to ball. The other just goes straight and is used to pick up a spare.
Coaching bowlers is mostly a quiet occupation, unlike most other teams sports where the coach is always yelling, and calling out plays or diagramming them on the sideline. “Basically, coaching the sport of bowling isn’t as simple as picking up ball and throwing it down the lane,” said Collins. “It is what makes bowling fun, however.”
Collins explained. “A lot of the coaching is technique and form, such as how to hold the ball, lane approach, and overall body positioning,” he said. “When coaching them, we try to take a lot of time and work on making spares. Everyone likes to get a strike, but knowing how to and making spares consistently is what makes a great bowler.
“With more experienced bowlers on the team it’s working with them to understand and ‘read’ the lane conditions. Bowling is one of the few sports where you can’t see what’s your opponent. What I mean by this is what the oil pattern on the lanes is, how is your ball reacts the conditions, and what you need to do as a bowler to adjust to the conditions,” Collins said.
In a January 11 game against Kingston, the Tigers fielded teams much more experienced than the Sawyers were. That experience showed, as both the Kingston boys’ and girls’ teams beat Saugerties.
Leading the way for the Sawyers were Matt Seyfarth, who had a high game of 245, Jose Decker with a 194 and Dylan Henninger with a 192.
For the girls, Wood had a 209. Eighth grader Ashley Altieri rolled a 178, and Elise Peters who had a “turkey,” three strikes in a row at the end of a game to record a 163.