July 20, 2016
ARLINGTON, Texas - When Lucy Sandelin of Tampa, Florida, decided to quit her full-time day job nine years ago to become a full-time coach, she wasn't completely sure if it was the right thing to do.
The United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer was already giving evening lessons after work, so it seemed like an easy transition despite the hesitation. With an extra nudge from her late husband, Steve, and good friend Beth Owen-Cipelewsi, Sandelin created World Cup Bowling Academy in September 2007.
Needless to say, it's been one of the best decisions she's made.
Sandelin, the first American woman to win the QubicaAMF World Cup in 1976, started working with various bowling centers in her area and letting them know she was available to provide coaching. It didn't take long for word to spread that the 10-time Team USA member was open to provide knowledge.
"I made arrangements with different bowling centers and pro shops to let them know I was available," said Sandelin, who won the 2013 USBC Senior Queens. "It was kind of a win-win because many of the pro shops were busy. Some didn't have enough time for lessons so they would send me the business, and if the student needed a new ball or accessories, they'd go back to that shop. Same with bowling center staff. People would ask, they would send them to me and I would give them a free lesson. Sort of like a bartering system. It kind of grew from there."
Speaking of growth, the Junior Gold Championships has seen exponential growth during the past several years, and the 2016 edition this week features the largest tournament field in history, with more than 3,300 youth bowlers scheduled to compete.
As many as 20 of Sandelin's students are competing at Junior Gold this year, and the students are putting their knowledge to the test on the challenging conditions in Indianapolis. To help prepare them, Sandelin held a Junior Gold league on Wednesday nights at Pin Chasers Midtown for students to compete and learn in. As part of the league, bowlers also get the opportunity to learn from various guest speakers with this year's list including Creating The Difference's Ron Hickland Jr., 2015 Collegiate Home Run Derby winner and bowler, Jeff Campbell, and 2015 Professional Bowlers Association Rolltech World Championship winner Gary Faulkner Jr.
The diverse group discussed bowling related items and off the lanes information. Hickland discussed ball surface and the differences it can make on ball motion. Campbell talked about bowling, baseball, life, and how they all work together. Faulkner talked about his journey from Junior Gold champion, to collegiate champion, to now PBA champion.
Faulkner won the 2011 Junior Gold Championships, and then threw the title-clinching strike to help Webber International win the 2012 Intercollegiate Team Championships. With his recent PBA victory, Faulkner is someone Sandelin's students can look up to.
"Gary came to speak during our awards night and that was powerful because Gary is them," Sandelin said. "Gary won Junior Gold. Gary was a collegiate champion. Gary is a PBA champion. He's 25 years old. He's them - and they're not much younger than him. He got to talk to them about being humble, going to Junior Gold and staying in the present. And, don't think you're the big dog because there are a lot of big dogs out there. It took him, I think, three years before he won and his first year he came in 800th place. He was letting them know not to expect things, but to enjoy it and enjoy the experience."
Since Sandelin began coaching, she's had three students under her tutelage since the age of 10, and two of them will be joining the collegiate ranks this fall - Ben Hardin (Wichita State) and Tyra Merritt (North Carolina A&T).
Along with her teaching, Sandelin also has helped students with the recruiting process by creating a video to display the various attributes of the students for prospective coaches.
"The video captures footwork, back and front views, spare shooting and then I conduct an interview so the coach can hear them speak," Sandelin said. "I put it all together with a little music and place it on my YouTube channel with keywords for easier searching and links for the student and parent along with a DVD. I have some juniors who are getting phone calls now because of the video. This is really powerful. As a person who's never had kids, this must be what it feels like to be a parent. To give them the knowledge and watch them take it, grow with it and have success and run with it."
Part of being a member of Team USA is the opportunity to work with elite coaches such as former Team USA coaches Fred Borden and Jeri Edwards. Sandelin recalls many eye-opening tips that were given to her by the coaching staff that she now passes to her students. It's just another indication Sandelin made the right choice to become a full-time coach and help build a future for the sport.
"I love when I give them a tip," Sandelin said. "Nothing they read in a book, but just something I've used in the real world. And, they look at me and go, 'that really worked.' That happened to me when I worked with the Team USA coaches. This is the knowledge I'm sharing that USBC gave to me through Team USA.
I remember when Jeri asked me why I didn't look at the dots and I said 'what dots? They're dots out there? I just look at the arrows.' She told me to try the dots and it totally changed the shape of the ball roll.
Now, I'm getting to do this as my job, which I love. I mean, how cool is that? My job is to go to bowling centers and teach people how to bowl. It's like my dream job."