COLUMBIA — The black bowling ball spins diagonally as it moves toward the pins centered at the end of the lane. It hits for a strike, the fourth in a row for Gerald Wills Sr. He raises one finger into the air for a brief second, the only celebration he shows. Behind him, his wife and two sons cheer him on. Wills doesn’t get to bowl often, but the Show-Me State Games offer him an opportunity to compete in the sport he first played as a 10-year old.
The hands free Bluetooth headset attached to Wills' ear agrees with his bowling style, businesslike. When it is his turn, Wills wastes no time. Quickly, he approaches the line and sets his ball in motion. Sometimes, he turns his back before the ball even hits the pins.
"When you let it go you can pretty much tell. You can see where it lines up," Wills said.
Wills doesn't get the chance to bowl as much as he would like. His work as a salesman for a chemical distribution company, combined with coaching his son Gerald Wills Jr.’s team in Columbia Youth Football League keeps him out of the bowling alley.
“This is something that’s recreational for me every once in a while,” Wills Sr. said. “I wish I could do it full-time but I can’t." Saturday was his second year competing in the Show-Me State Games.
Wills Sr. bowls recreationally, but his competitiveness shows. After missing a pin, he opens his right hand and inspects it like it failed him. It is the same mentality Wills Sr. had as a member of the track and football team at Missouri Valley College when he played in the 1990s. The same mentality 8-year-old Wills Jr. shows when he talks about his own Show-Me State Game experience. Wills Jr. placed second in the 100 and 200-meter events in his division of the track and field competition at Walton Stadium. The competitiveness comes from his father, Tammy Wills said.
“It’s fun. I liked it, but I didn’t like getting second,” Wills Jr. said.
Wills Sr. and Wills Jr. are not the only athletes in the Wills family. Fifteen-year old Gabrielle Wills was also planning on competing in track and field events held Saturday evening, and 4-year old Tyson Wills plans to run next year.
“It’s pretty much free entertainment for the entire weekend,” Tammy Wills said.
At the end of the day, Wills Sr. had to settle for fourth place in the 20-39 year-old men’s adult singles division, failing to win a medal like last year. While there was no gold, bronze or silver, Tyson Wills still considers his father a winner.
“Dad’s awesome,” Tyson Wills said.