CALUMET CITY | Two years ago T.F. North won a South Suburban Conference title in boys bowling, now the Meteors trying to get back on track and recapture that championship form.
Building a winning program is never easy but at T.F. North it seems to be harder than anyone would expect. Most players come through with little to no competitive bowling experience, and often don’t even own a bowling ball.
“The first goal is to get every kid his own ball,” coach Steve Twietmeyer said. “We start working from there and everything is focused on building towards their senior year. If we get them out their freshman year, we try to get them to 180-plus averages so they can compete for a conference title their senior year.”
Twietmeyer has had to be creative to get the program heading in the right direction. He asks local bowling alleys and pro shops for donations of balls while the team budget from the school covers drilling finger holes.
Recruiting starts in the hallways. Twietmeyer uses every angle to find bowlers, from announcements in the classrooms to going to fall sports practices, and he even goes to basketball tryouts to let guys know that if they don’t make the team that there is another option for a competitive outlet.
The hard work has been paying off for the Meteors who have a pair of seniors eager to leave their mark on the program by acting as mentors to the younger bowlers, and a strong freshman class willing to hear what they have to say.
One of those seniors is Javon Brown, the lone holder over from the 2011-12 championship team.
Brown, who bowls in several leagues in the offseason, spent his fall making line calls and battling in the trenches as the starting center on the Meteors football team. He relishes the leadership role.
“This is my first sport; I’ve been bowling since long before I started playing football,” Brown said. “I help the young guys every chance I get, they are the future of T.F. North bowling.”
The other leader is Juan Gutierrez, who came out a year after the conference title because of that team’s success.
“I heard about their success from friends on that team and they got me to come out,” Gutierrez said. “I just try to work with the young guys and help them however I can. I let them know to listen to the coaches and they will help develop their game.”
Gutierrez isn’t just toeing the company line when he says to listen to the coach, he’s an example of what coaching can do. When he came out last year, he had a 90 average and just a year later he’s consistently bowling in the 170s.
“Having my own ball and all that coaching has made a huge difference,” Gutierrez said. “I used to bowl a few times a year with friends, now I’m at the lanes all the time getting as many games as I can."
Besides the leadership that Brown and Gutierrez provide, the emergence of freshman Kenny Bowie adds more hope to the Meteors.
Bowie, who came from basketball tryouts, has been a mainstay on the varsity since the first meet and looks to be the cornerstone of the team for seasons to come.
“The seniors have really helped me out,” Bowie said. “I ask for their feedback and they give me pointers, they show me that I can be the next great bowler here and can be a leader but I know I have a long road ahead of me.”
With these three bowlers and the advantage of hosting the conference meet this year Twietmeyer may just have the pieces in place to make a run at another title.
“There’s a little more to it for us, all the stars have to align,” Twietmeyer said. “Home lane advantage makes a difference, teams don’t like bowling here. We don’t quite have the group we need but bowling at home is an advantage for us, in the tournament format you don’t have to be the best team to win just the best team that day.”
Only time will tell but with a combination of senior leadership and young talent Twietmeyer seems to have the team on track to challenge for titles again.