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Tuesday September 8th, 2015

Posted at 12:00pm

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As school starts again, one sporting league is hoping to give students a chance to let loose.

With cooler weather on the way, many are preparing to bundle-up for fall activities. Youths used to flooding hockey arenas or football fields may want a warmer alternative however. If that’s the case, Playdium 5 Pin Lanes (located at 4985 Wyandotte Street)will be giving them an enticing opportunity to join their Youth Bowling Canada (YBC) leagues on Thursday, September 10th.

“It takes place from 6pm to 9pm, with free bowling and $5 savings on registration fees,” said program organizer Mandy Russell about the registration event. “Of course anyone is welcome to register by visiting Playdium Lanes on or before the first day of bowling on the weekend of September 12/13. Late registrations may also be accepted if there is space available.”

YBC registration is $25 for 31 weeks of league competition. Taking place from the second weekend in September to the end of April, it’s a commitment that sees kids through until the end of winter. Children between 3-5 play one game for $4.50 every week. Five to seven-year-olds receive two games for $8 and those 8-19 play three games for $10 per week.  A $2 prize portion must also be paid every week — even if the bowler is absent.

While daunting to some, league organizers try to accommodate everyone.

“Pre-bowls are always encouraged if a bowler knows they must miss a week,” said Russell. “Bowlers ages 3-10 typically will bowl on Saturday mornings at 9:30am, and ages 11-19 will bowl Sunday evenings at 6:30pm. There may also be a Saturday noon shift — if needed — based on registrations. We try to accommodate the best we can for whatever shift is the most convenient.”

Beyond registration and weekly fees, a shirt must be purchased for $15 and worn while bowling. Kids must also sell a case of 30 chocolate bars (at $3) to be eligible for tournaments and year-end trophies. As part of joining the league however, accomplishment badges, tournament entry fees, a year-end banquet and trophies are paid for.

Although it may seem like a lot, bowling is less expensive than the alternative. With no equipment costs and lower registration fees, it’s perfect for kids of all ages: Tax receipts are also given to parents every year for all costs until their child turns 16.

In addition, the sport allows for increased participation and creates a fun time for everyone.

“A league like YBC is great for kids because everyone gets a turn and no one sits out,” said league coach Nick Russell. “It’s a great way to meet life long friends and learn great sportsmanship. There are a lot of benefits including traveling to different cities and towns in the area or (if you qualify) traveling to a Provincial or National Tournament.”

Beyond how important Nick feels the sport is for children, he’s also gained a lot from coaching over the past year.

“Coaching these kids is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done,” said Nick. “Seeing the looks on the kids’ faces every Saturday is the reason I get up to do it and will continue to do it. The single best moment was when a child’s grandmother came to watch and before they left she took me aside and said I was great with the kids and that her grandson looked forward to seeing me each week.”

Last year, 75 youths took part in the YBC program. Although she’s hoping for more registrations this season, Mandy acknowledges that it’s a challenge with so many places focused towards children.

To help combat this and improve the league, organizers are planning more fun days and activities. Bowlers are involved in several tournaments and coaches also have at least level one training in the community coach program.

Still, while competition is a big part of YBC, it isn’t how Mandy measures success.

“In my opinion, success is when the youth are enjoying themselves and meeting new friends,” she said. “Whether it be in league play or at tournaments.”

With that being said, one youth did enjoy lots of success in competition as well. 17-year-old Lauren Szucki took part in two national tournaments. Qualifying with a Ladies high average of 251, Szucki bowled on Team Ontario at the Youth Challenge nationals in Edmonton in March. Her team finished seventh at the competition.

More impressive perhaps was Szucki’s performance in singles competition.

“Lauren also bowled as a Senior Girls Single competitor in the 4 Steps to Stardom ‎tournament,” said Mandy. “She won the provincial championships with a score of 1310 for 5 games (262 average.) Nationals were bowled at Parkway bowl in Toronto. The level of competition at this Championship was amazing to watch. It was one of my best experiences in 5 pin bowling to witness the camaraderie and sportsmanship among those teenage girls.”

Despite finishing fourth after losing a tie-breaker, Szucki only missed the weekend high average by 0.4.

In addition to the YBC program, Playdium 5 Pin Lanes offers something for everyone. There are leagues for people ages 3-93 at different levels of competition. Last year they started one for the disabled as well that has enjoyed great success. For those not heavy into competition though, they also offer weekend rock & bowl.

Whatever the season holds for those in the YBC program, Mandy echoes Nick’s sentiments: Showing up to participate is what’s truly important.

“Bowling is fun for all ages,” she said. “It is a social activity that teaches the values of sportsmanship and fair play. Everyone plays equally, no one sits the bench. There is opportunity for competitive tournament play if desired. Almost all tournaments are based on an over-average basis, which means everyone has the same chance at qualifying no matter their experience.”

For more information about the YBC program, league-play or other bowling activities, those interested can visit Playdium 5 Pin Lanes’ website or facebook page.

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