Columbia family finds solace for their son in bowling

Monday, October 10, 2011 | 10:12 p.m. CDT; updated 7:26 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Matt Matney bowls at AMF Bowling Alley in Columbia on October 1, 2011. Matney started bowling in a youth league this April and has continued ever since.

COLUMBIA — Matt Matney stands behind the foul line. He looks determined and focused. With his 10-pound bowling ball in hand, he takes several deep breaths. His father, Tim Matney, shouts from the seats behind the lane.

"Come on Matt. You can do it."

The 14-year-old approaches the foul line with his arm swinging back, then rolls the ball forward with extreme force. The ball shoots down the lane. The sound of the pins falling echoes throughout the bowling alley. Shouts and cheers are heard as Matt Matney turns around with a wide smile. 

Before he was born, Matt Matney's parent's were told they would never be able to have children, because they were both infertile.

"We called him our miracle child," Tim Matney said smiling. "We never thought we could have any children, but Matt's birth was a miracle."

The Matney family hasn't always had things work in their favor, though. 

When Sharon Matney was pregnant with her son, she had high blood sugar, so her son's body was used to having high blood sugar. Consequently, when he was born in 1996, Matt Matney's blood sugar was dangerously low and he became hypoglycemic.

He was in a coma for the first six days of his life. Before he was even a year old, Matt Matney was pronounced legally blind in his right eye and was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

There were worse things to come.

In 2007, Matt Matney, now a freshman at Oakland Junior High School, was involved in a serious car accident. He was in the car with his grandfather, who died five months later from injuries suffered in the accident. Matt Matney suffered a broken jaw, a broken hand and damage to the left temporal lobe of his brain

"Matt and his grandfather were attached at the hip," Tim Matney said. "Matt would've told you that his grandfather was his actual father. He blamed himself a lot for the accident, because he felt that he could've done more."

After the accident, Matt Matney began to show signs of depression and suffered severe aggressive rages.

"He was always depressed, and his anger was out of control," Tim Matney said. "He was violent. He pinned his mom against a wall and pulled a knife out on me during one of his rages. My wife was scared of him, and I was scared for him. We felt like we let our son down, because you can't help him to control the problems he has, and we can't protect him from it."

The couple decided to take Matt Matney to the Missouri Psychiatric Center where he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Two years later, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness that runs in his family.

Since the car accident, Matt Matney was an angry person. Matt Matney had lost his best friend in his grandfather and had been diagnosed with illnesses that he couldn't control. He felt lost, and his parents were as looking for any way to help their son.

Things began to turn around when Tim Matney was asked to join a Columbia bowling league with  Matt Matney's mother and brother in April. When the family arrived at AMF Bowling Alley, they saw that there was a youth bowling league and decided to sign their son up.

"We thought bowling was something to substitute for his anger and aggression," Tim Matney said. "He can throw that ball as hard as he wants and as fast as he wants. It doesn't matter if he does good or doesn't do good, he's still part of the team. He feels like he's achieving something."

Since Matt Matney joined the bowling league, his family has noticed positive changes in his personality and they have seen a less angry son at home.

"He's learning a lot about sportsmanship," Sharon Matney said. "It used to be when Tim and I would play Uno or something with Matt, he would get really mad if he lost, so we just gave up playing with him. But since this bowling league, we don't see that anymore."

In June, the Matney family hired a mentor, Robyn Jones, through Boone County Family Resources, to help the teenager with his anger and give him support. Jones said she has also has seen improvements in Matt Matney's behavior.

"I think bowling is a great thing for Matt to do," Jones said. "It's something healthy that he can react to emotionally, and no matter how he reacts we understand why he is reacting the way he is. It gives him something in common with other people and a better sense of community than what he has at school."

As far as their son's future in bowling, Tim Matney thinks if his son continues it will ultimately help him.

"I would like to see Matt continue, because I do think it's very therapeutic for him," he said. "He can go in there and take his frustration out, and nobody can say anything to him about it. He feels more confident in himself and his abilities."

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