Bama Lanes may not be Bryant-Denny Stadium, but University of Alabama bowling club president Craig Bartlesmeyer sounds eerily reminiscent of coach Nick Saban as he talks about the expectations for the upcoming season.
“The last couple of years we went to a tournament and we’d get last place and come home and not feel really good at all about it,” Bartelsmeyer said. “This year, we’re taking one tournament a semester, and really focusing on that. We’re gonna train for that specific tournament, and we’re gonna win the whole thing, hopefully.”
That one tournament will be the Victory Eagles Classic, presented by Victory University in Memphis, Tenn.,, on Dec. 7 and 8. Bartelsmeyer and coach Vicki Smallwood both said the chief obstacle for the team will be funding.
“Travel’s very expensive; it’s our main expense,” Bartelsmeyer said. “We aren’t going to get any money [from University Recreation] this year because we didn’t do enough in community service last year, so we’re going to work on that.”
One of the ways the club will involve themselves in the community is through Tuscaloosa Youth Bowling, a youth outreach and scholarship program founded by Smallwood eight years ago.
“A lot of people don’t know this about youth bowling,” Smallwood said. “But each bowler gets a scholarship fund.”
Starting as young as 5 years old and continuing to age 20, youth bowlers accrue funds based on bowling time, all of which are deposited into a savings account. The account, like many education funds, is only accessible once the student enters college.
“In Tuscaloosa, no one sits on the bench,” Smallwood said. “Every child will bowl, and every child will make scholarship money.”
While the club works to regain University Recreation funding, the club will shoulder the responsibility for expenses themselves. Competitive members pay dues, and the club will host a fundraising tournament and raffle. Outside of travel expenses, the club is looking to replace outdated equipment with top-tier supplies. New uniforms will be covered by dues, and the club has contacted several corporations to gauge interest in a bowling ball sponsorship.
To Wyant Boreson, coordinator of Sports Clubs for University Recreation, this independence is a desirable and important step for the club. In fact, club fundraising could result in more funds allocated from University Recreation, he said.
“We want clubs to ultimately be independent of us,” Boreson said. “We do allocate some money to them, but we cannot support all of our clubs. So we encourage them to fundraise to the best of their abilities.”
The bowling club pratices Sundays from 2-4 p.m., and Wednesdays from 3-5 p.m. at Bama Lanes.