Kulick experiences World Youth Championships in new way

ARLINGTON, Texas - The first time Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, walked into the World Bowling Youth Championships, she had just won a collegiate national championship and was putting the pieces in place for what would become a hall-of-fame worthy professional bowling career.

The Junior Gold Championships was just making its debut, so Kulick's selection to the 1998 World Youth Championships squad came because she was one of the age-appropriate young bowlers who excelled at the United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials.

It certainly was a special reward that accelerated Kulick's appreciation for wearing the red, white and blue on the lanes.

"I was very much aware of what the talent was like in the United States, but getting to bowl internationally for the first time really helped me see how incredibly talented the bowlers are across the world," Kulick said. "I really became a smaller fish in a bigger pond, but nothing could replace the honor of bowling for our country, regardless of how I did on the lanes."

That was two decades ago, and the last 20 years have been filled with success against the best women in the game, the top male bowlers on the planet and an international talent pool that continues to get stronger.

Kulick's resume includes two appearances on Junior Team USA and 14 years on the adult team. During her time in the program, she has earned nearly four dozen medals in international competition.

The year after making the first of her two appearances at the World Youth Championships, Kulick had the opportunity to represent the United States at the adult World Championships. She earned gold medals at all three events.

She has continued to find success on the biggest stage in international bowling, most recently with a pair of medals at the 2017 World Championships.

Although she's still an active member of Team USA and a top competitor on the Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour at age 41, Kulick also has added a service section to her growing resume.

She has spent time serving on the USBC Board of Directors and has embarked on a coaching career within the Team USA program.

Her coaching role recently led her back to the World Youth Championships, where she spent two weeks guiding the 2018 edition of Junior Team USA to success among the world's best at Thunderbowl Lanes.

"It's such a privilege to bowl in this event as a representative of our country, but then to be on the opposite end of it and be a coach and an extra set of eyes is pretty special, too," Kulick said. "We had a stellar coaching staff this week, and with four of us, it let us have roamers, scouts, ball-motion readers and more."

Each of the four Team USA coaches in the Detroit area for the World Youth Championships brought a different type of insight and experience to the group.

Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe bowled collegiately, flourished nationally and even had a chance to win some medals of his own during the 1990s. Along with his Junior Team USA responsibilities, he also is the director of bowling at McKendree University and spends many summer days as a ball rep on the PWBA Tour.

Assistant coach Andy Diercks has enjoyed more than a decade of success while coaching at the high school and collegiate levels, while Mike Shady, a standout at the USBC Open Championships and a 2017 inductee into the USBC Hall of Fame, is a school teacher by day and regular name among the Bowlers Journal International Top 100 Coaches list. Both are USBC Silver coaches.

Kulick is the only one who has competed in a world-championship event, and she had those memories in the back of her mind while at Thunderbowl Lanes.

However, as someone who has worked with many coaches, she makes sure to be careful about how she approaches each player and what she does with the details of her own time on the lanes or how she handled certain situations.

"I want to be a resource for the players, but I try to never personalize it," said Kulick, also a USBC Silver coach. "I want the athletes to experience things in their own way but know I'm there to help. I can tell them about how certain situations were for me, if they ask, and, ultimately, I want them to trust me because of my experience as a player and now as a coach."

All competitors at the 2018 World Youth Championships bowled 18 games and competed for medals in singles, doubles, team, all-events and Masters competition. Each event (except for Masters, which was best-of-three matches) featured six games, and each day gave the players and coaches more opportunities to get comfortable on the 44-foot London oil pattern.

Kulick and her fellow Team USA coaches were successful in helping the Junior Team USA girls to the medal rounds in singles, doubles and team, though they came up short in their first two opportunities.

Five-time Junior Team USA member Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, earned a bronze medal in singles and teamed with Taylor Bailey of Joliet, Illinois, for silver in doubles, while Caitlyn Johnson of Rockwell, North Carolina, advanced to the singles final and tested Kulick's experience.

"I think, I was just as nervous as Caitlyn in her last frame of the singles gold-medal match, and while it's a new perspective for me, it was pretty exciting," Kulick said. "Of course, I still want to be able to throw it for the gold, but to be able to be part of it and mentor someone putting herself in that position is pretty thrilling, too. It's a different set of goosebumps."

Thanks to the return of the PWBA Tour in 2015, Kulick has remained motivated to keep her game sharp, while also focusing more on her fitness and nutrition, especially as she advances in her career.

After helping the Junior Team USA girls into the team semifinals, Kulick left Detroit and headed south to Florida for the 2018 Pepsi St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open, so she was not at Thunderbowl Lanes on Thursday when the girls won the team gold medal for the first time since 2012.

While she may not have been there in person, Kulick kept an eye on the scores and was very excited to see the team finish the job it started two days earlier. Her feelings on their success were simple and proud.

"Gold is glamorous," Kulick said. "It shines like no other."2018WorldYouthTeamGoldForWeb465x262

Kulick, who set aside time during the World Youth Championships to work on her own game, went on to finish 11th at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open and then changed hats once again to sit in the broadcast booth alongside Dave Ryan for the event's live finals on CBS Sports Network.

The World Youth Championships is held every two years, and the 2018 edition brought more than 200 competitors from 37 countries to the Detroit area.

World Bowling provided livestream coverage of the event, and bowling fans from around the globe were able to watch the competition live from start to finish. Coverage included all qualifying, semifinal and final rounds.

For more information on the 2018 World Youth Championships, visit 2018WYC.WorldBowling.org.