WATERLOO — For years, high school bowlers have been staring down a 7-10 split.
As their prep careers ended, they were often left with two choices — get a job and join a local rec league or give up the game to pursue a college education.
Times have changed.
In 2017-18, there were 154 collegiate bowling teams ranging from the NCAA level to NAIA and NJCAA. That number will grow again in 2018-19, and Hawkeye Community College will be among the new programs when the RedTails begin competition in the fall.
It’s a win-win.
“I feel like the Hawkeye program allows kids who may not be interested in a traditional college or four-year degree to still be able to use their bowling ability to further their education through HCC’s scholarship program,” notes Waterloo East coach Mike Weber.
“I also feel having a local college offering a bowling program and a possibility of scholarships will encourage more kids to give high school bowling a chance.”
It follows that Randy Dodge doesn’t have to look far to begin building a roster for his Hawkeye program.
On any given Tuesday or Friday afternoon, the RedTails head coach can watch some of the state’s top prep bowlers blasting pins a quick drive from the HCC campus. He has already signed three-time state tournament participant Ashlee Snapp of Waterloo East, along with Alex DuFour and Lucy Klein of Waterloo Columbus and Cory LaBarge of Pleasant Valley.
Dodge has an extensive resume as a high school coach, youth instructor and bowling proprietor in Nebraska. He also helped Wayne State University get its program started.
“I’ve wanted to get into college bowling for quite some time now,” he explains. “I looked at some different places, and Hawkeye was one I looked at.
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“When I visited, I liked the campus and I liked what they said and how serious they are about the program. They have been extremely supportive, from recruiting to our schedule and equipment. That was a pretty important part to me.”
Dodge knew the Cedar Valley has a reputation for producing outstanding high school bowlers and state championships.
“It’s even better than what I thought before coming here,” he says. “There are a lot of good, quality kids.”
Dodge also expects the RedTails program to draw interest from neighboring states like Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota. He has a Feb. 16 showcase planned where Hawkeye will host about 20 prospects.
Hawkeye won’t compete in a conference immediately, but Dodge expects that to change in the near future. In the meantime, the RedTails will take on schools from all levels within a schedule of approximately eight regular-season tournaments followed by the Junior College National Championship in New York.
HCC will hold most of its home competitions at Cadillac Lanes, although the team of around 15 men and 15 women will also practice at Maple Lanes.
“We’ll use both centers for our kids to be able to bowl on different lane surfaces, different approaches and different patterns,” notes Dodge.
College bowling will be an adjustment for most of the new RedTails.
“One thing many of these kids will face is the big fish in a little pond scenario. A lot of these kids are used to being the top kid in their area. When they come to college, they will realize there are a lot of top kids there.
“Another thing is the travel and how many more tournaments and practices they’ll have to balance with school. On the bowling side, they’ll have to learn how to deal with new patterns. There is a lot of transition. When the lanes break down, there’s quite a bit more on the technical side of bowling most of them haven’t experienced coming into college.”