WINDSOR, N.S. - Sheldon Tingley’s love of bowling began when he was just a young boy in the youth bowling program at the Windsor Bowling Centre.
Now, he’s helping to give back to the sport he loves as the youth bowling program’s co-ordinator.
“I started in the youth bowling program when I was six or seven, and I grew up through the league until I became a senior,” Tingley said. “Then I just continued to be an avid bowler in different night leagues.”
Tingley helps young bowlers of all ages find their stride, while assisting his fellow coaches at the bowling alley.
“Just making sure all of the kids who are there are having a good time and will want to come back,” he said.
He admits that he’s not a champion bowler, without many accolades to his name aside from a few provincial ribbons from his youth, but he’s kept up with the sport in order to encourage others to take part and give it a try.
Tingley’s 11-year-old twin daughters, Aryannah and Amaliya, are active in the sport as well. He said being part of the youth league opens them up to interacting with kids their age they wouldn’t normally associate with.
Trying to grow the sport
“My main goal is to keep the youth league alive and make sure kids keep coming,” he said. “It seems like more and more lanes are shutting down. Windsor is the only one from here to Greenwood.”
The New Minas Fairlanes bowling alley shut down in March 2017.
“When I was in it, there were almost 70 kids there every Saturday,” he said. “Now 40 is pushing it — there’s just not as many.”
He’s hoping bowlers in the Annapolis Valley may consider coming to Windsor since the New Minas location closed.
“They had a pretty active youth bowling league. Where are they going to go now?” he said. “I just think back to when I was in youth bowling and what the coaches did for me and if it wasn’t for them, then I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.”
Tingley says his Saturday coaching routine is usually pretty hectic. He arrives around 9:30 a.m. and makes sure everyone has their shoes arranged by 10 a.m. They begin warming up while he goes through the teams, teaching proper etiquette and form.
His students range in age from very young, who are just learning the basics of rolling a ball down a lane, to bowlers with more advanced skills.
It’s about fun
But the key for Tingley isn’t about teaching kids to become world-class bowlers; it’s about fostering a sense of fun, camaraderie and personal growth.
“There’s a couple of kids who would become so discouraged, get mad and stop caring,” he said.
“That’s not the point. If you’re having fun and understand what you were doing wrong to begin with, then you have a little more respect for the game and want to improve,” Tingley said.
“I try to do for the kids now what was done for me when I started,” he added.
Tingley has been coaching for four years, and has served one year as the co-ordinator of the youth program.
“I was probably half way through the youth bowling program — was about 13 years old — and my coach said ‘you need to do this, work on your shoulder, your curve, steps, and if you don’t, you don’t get to go to Port Hawkesbury,’ which was the big trip we were looking forward to,” he said.
He credits their guidance with helping him improve his game enough to make the trip.
“Now it’s really fun to be on the other side, watching my group of kids go to tournaments at other bowling alleys and see them interact with kids from other places,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement, but the fun is the most important part.”
The Three Mile Plains native can often be found at the Windsor Bowling Centre with night leagues as well, which are made up of regulars, coaches and even some of the youth members.
Donnie Cox, a fellow coach with the youth bowling league, said Tingley has proven himself to be a great organizer of the league.
“Just his personality, he’s so good with the kids,” Cox said. “They look up to him, respect him, he makes it fun for them, and that’s what they want.”
Cox said Tingley is also a competent instructor on how league members can improve their game.
“Our job is to help them learn how to bowl, but also have fun along the way; that’s how we keep them coming,” he said. “And the Windsor Youth Bowling League has one of the biggest programs there is.”
Cox said the number of bowlers has declined over the years, but added that they’re trying new things to try to reach out to new members.