Bowling Team Members Recognized For Contributions

May 16, 2018

Two years ago, bowling was finally reintroduced to the AHSAA after being discontinued in the late 70s. This led to many finding a newfound love in the sport and joining the school’s program, but for a few, bowling had been a way of life for years prior. These competitors have brought a unique set of skills and leadership to the team and helped to expand bowling’s horizons among young people in the community.

Recently, two girls from the school team, senior Jackie Beard and junior Nicole Gilbert, have been recognized for their contributions to the sport locally by being inducted into the Huntsville branch of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.

“Originally, I got tagged in a Facebook post by the USBC director congratulating me,” Gilbert said. “I had no idea I was being considered. I sent it to my mom and asked her if she knew what it was about and she didn’t either. It was all really shocking.”

Beard discovered she had been given the award in an equally surprising fashion.

“I’m on the board that makes the nominations and accepts them and I had absolutely no clue that I had been nominated, so it was a total surprise,” Beard said. “They managed to keep it quiet under me so it was really exciting when I found out.”

Each February, two boys and two girls from the Huntsville area receive the award based on superior sportsmanship, leadership and ability. This was the first time a Sparkman student had ever won this honor, much less two in the same year. Jacob Tilly is a member of the bowling team who has played with the girls for two years and has witnessed the qualities which he says sets them apart.

“They both showed admirable bowling skills and teamwork and leadership, and they respected everyone they played against and tried their hardest. I’m sure those were all taken into heavy consideration along with the scores they posted,” Tilly said.

Head coach David Giambrone took over the bowling program this year, and, being relatively inexperienced with the sport, he says the girls have taught him a lot about the science behind each shot and various techniques one can use. He also has many great things to say about them.

“Their dedication to practice is outstanding,” Giambrone said. “They do it over and over and over three or for hours a week for a few hours at a time. We tell kids all the time that the more you practice, the greater your chances are to achieve excellence, and that’s exactly what these girls have done. They are committed to making themselves better.”

They both began bowling competitively well before high school. Gilbert began her career when her mother picked up a flyer for a youth league while at a bowling party. Beard followed in the footsteps of her parents and grandparents, but her love for the sport really took off after participating in a charity event for her sister, who has a spine disease.

“My sister does a spina bifida bowl-a-thon every year to raise money for her condition, so I started bowling with her and I just fell in love with it from there,” Beard said.

In order to perform at a high level, they have developed similar strategies for success, the key being mental toughness. Moving onto the next shot regardless of how well the previous one went and keeping yourself focused on each and every frame are important skills they have learned throughout their careers. Beard, however, does rely on a bit of supernatural help when she plays.

“A superstitious thing that I do is I’ll swipe my feet across the lane before I shoot,” Beard said. “I also drink sweet tea while I bowl because I feel like it just helps me do better.”

In their time on the school team, they have shared many sweet memories, but one from their first year together stands out. In January 2016, the girls headed down to the state championship, and when they left, they had been crowned as champions.

“It was really crazy because I wasn’t expecting much from it,” Gilbert said. “I was a freshman and it was the first year for bowling as a high school sport. We went down there and we didn’t know how well we were going to do and we ended up in the finals and after the first game we were up by 200 pins and it was pretty much over.”

Although that may have been the girls’ most tangible accomplishment, competing for the school has benefitted them in other ways, such as giving valuable team experience, gaining new friends and opening up scholarship opportunities. This award represents not only the contributions they have made to their school team but their enthusiasm for seeing bowling grow in the greater community as well.

It’s a very big honor because it shows that you are a very consistent bowler who has achieved something that many bowlers never have the chance to do,” Giambrone said. “I think its a combination of hard work, dedication, and having a goal in mind. It was a goal of theirs to be the best they could be and this only validates how hard they have worked towards that goal.”


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