Serving O'Brien & Clay Counties

Local youth bowling program is growing

Up to 40 bowl on Saturdays at Locomotion Lanes

What is there for youth to do on an early spring Saturday afternoon? For over 40 area youth, showing up at Locomotion Lanes in Sanborn to bowl is the answer.

A youth bowling program was in existence at the Sanborn bowling center before Bert van Dam became owner in 2019. But his background, as well as interest by area adults, has prompted a more concerted effort to build enthusiasm for bowling.

"I've always bowled. It's a family thing," van Dam said. "You can do it with your kids."

According to van Dam, 42 youth are involved this year. That compares to 32 in 2021. They represent "quite an area" that includes the communities of Sanborn, Hartley, Primghar, Ocheyedan, Sheldon and Orange City.

To get young bowlers started, they are provided with the most important piece of equipment – a ball.

"It's a beginner's ball, nothing fancy," van Dam said. "It's theirs as long as it fits them."

Volunteers provide instruction in bowling fundamentals, as well as offer support and encouragement to participants. Adult volunteers include Stan and Julia Meyer, of Hartley, Eric Mastbergen and Todd Venega.

A scholarship program is also offered to those who are active in the youth program as long as they are eligible.

In addition to bowling at Locomotion Lanes, participants have the chance to compete in tournaments, such as the state youth bowling tournament next month at Muscatine.

Being part of a team is not just about being able to bowl as well as they can.

"We try to teach the fundamentals of bowling and try to carry those over into life," van Dam said. "They have to be responsible to the team, and they have to be courteous and follow the rules."

The youth program is part of a wider effort to increase interest in the sport. A program in which Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn middle schoolers may participate is offered again this spring. According to van Dam, numbers have increased from 22 in 2021 to 26 this year. The number of girls has grown from two a year ago to eight.

"That's where we need them," van Dam noted.

High school students have bowled in a program hosted by Sioux Central, as numbers did not warrant H-M-S having its own program. But with participation numbers on the rise, the school board has approved a high school bowling program. It is hoped activities for youth bowlers will help sustain participation in the sport well into the future.

"That all along has been our goal," van Dam said.

He also sees growing interest in bowling among people of all ages and abilities.

"Families want to get out and do something. With COVID they could do nothing," he observed. "It's fairly affordable. You don't have to be smart to bowl. Size and weight don't matter. Anybody can do it."