COLUMBIA — Matthew Herman has a split with two additional pins in the middle.
He bends slightly then walks forward and throws the ball. As his team watches intently, the ball rolls down the middle easily knocking down the middle pins, which in turn clobber the left pin in the split. Then, with everyone's eyes glued to the left pin in the split, it slowly rolls to the far right pin, knocking it down for a spare.
The team cheers, high-fives each other, and congratulates Herman.
“That’s how we do it!” shouts Herman, a senior on the Hickman High School bowling team.
For this team, high-fives are a big deal.
“We teach them to celebrate every shot,” says Nick Balser, one of the three coaches at Thursday's practice. “It’s for spirit, for morale. You can always find something good about every shot. Even if you miss, you can learn something, like the oil pattern.”
The coaches say this positive behavior will help the team excel.
This is the first year Hickman has had a bowling team. Many of the 11 boys and girls on the coed team were already part of bowling leagues, but schools in this area didn’t offer bowling teams until now. Tina Balser, Nick's wife and another coach for the team, coordinated with the school to start its first bowling team with the help from the United States Bowling Congress and Columbia's AMF Town & Country Bowling Center.
The team will be competing in the Missouri Bowling Proprietors' Association of America's High School State Championship on Saturday in Ellisville. Hickman qualified for the state meet by placing first in the Central Missouri Conference against seven other teams.
The state championship only allows eight players to compete, so the coaches had a tough time deciding who to choose. Players were chosen based on seniority, leadership and teamwork, in addition to their performance as a bowler.
The structure for the state championship consists of three team games and 16 baker games, in which five players each bowl two frames.
It is important for the players to maintain their endurance for this sport. The coaches justify that bowling is just like any other sport. Players must be in shape, eat healthy, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. From the first day of practice, the coaches haven’t allowed the players to sit during practice. This helps them prepare for long conferences and championships they explain.
At this practice, it is obvious that everyone on the team are good friends. After every ball is thrown, there are cheers, hugs, and of course, high-fives. The players try hard to help their teammates succeed by giving advice and suggestions.
“We know everybody’s here for each other,” Herman said. “We’re a family.”