Jacob Jenkins has been around bowling his whole life.
At age four, he would go to watch his dad bowl in a league and just about every time his dad (Jack Jenkins) would bowl since then.
“I grew up on bowling and this environment,” said Jenkins. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do… it just spoke to me. There’s always something new to learn… like a new technique. When I got to high school, I was very impressed. It opened my eyes to possibilities.
“It’s a competitive sport and there are always new challenges. Once you start to learn, it becomes more sophisticated.”
Between practices for Van Buren High School, competitions, working at Bowling World and weekend tournaments, there really isn’t much time the younger Jenkins isn’t in a bowling alley.
“Every bit helps,” Jenkins said. “Different tournaments help you adjust to different situations and there are even scholarship opportunities. It helps me develop my game when I go to compete at the conference and state levels.”
One of the other benefits of working at a bowling alley has given Jenkins, a junior at Van Buren, opportunities to watch other bowlers, to see the different approaches to learn from them and… free games. Jenkins said aside from matches, between practices for high school and picking up free games at the bowling alley, he’ll get about 10 full games a week.
For Jenkins, the PBA is a dream as going to compete at the college level. Among the schools he’s considering is Ouachita State in Kansas and Oklahoma Christian.
Jenkins competes in the Junior gold Division for his age and recently participated in an international competition in Dallas. “That helped me a lot to figure out how to adjust and work on my focusing,” he said.
“It’s really energizing to be down there [bowling] and the team aspect is something we all have to work on as well,” said Jenkins.
Team bowling at the high school level has a baker system. Each team of three will have a fourth spot, where the other three bowlers will rotate into during the match. While accumulating pins for their own individual score, the bowlers build off each other in the fourth spot.
“One thing we all need work on is to just be better as a team,” Jenkins said. “We’re getting better, but it’s still a lot of work.”
Bowling isn’t different from any other sport out there in regards to the psychological quotient. Jenkins said it’s amplified more with bowlers.
“It really requires a lot of focus. It doesn’t take much to get us out of our game, so we have to have a clear mind,” Jenkins said. “We struggle if we get down. One person starts to do bad, then the next and soon the whole team is down. If we worked on our focus, we could be a really good team.”
And Jenkins is working on helping build the team.
He’s recruited Jake Pullam to the Pointer squad and even helped teach Pullam how to bowl.
In the first match of the season, Pullam had the medalist honors.
“It wasn’t until I got into the competition, how much fun it was for me as an activity,” said Pullam. “It’s my life now.”
Pullam, also a junior, began bowling competitively last season. He tries to get additional practices in each week and sets a goal for himself before he begins.
“We really do need work on zoning more when we get into matches,” said Pullam. “We just need to do it.”
Another junior and relative newcomer (with just three years of competition) is Miranda Lockey. She followed her older sister, Sabrina Lockey, to the game.
“I really enjoy the challenge of bowling,” said Lockey. “It keeps the game new. I like trying to figure out what’s the best approach and finding new ways to do things.”
Lockey also finds herself helping out her teammates, whether it’s working on the approach or getting in the right headspace.
“If things start to go bad, it can really get into your head,” she said. “Once I get into a match, I’m very locked in.”
Lockey also competes in a Saturday league and in tournaments.
“I’m very committed to this game,” Lockey said. “Between just bowling on my own, or in a league, I don’t know if I have an off-season.”
Coach Kevin Ross has a background in sports psychology, which has served him and the team well since he became the bowling coach.
“It’s all related,” said Ross. “The concepts and principles are basically the same for any sport. There are a lot more mental aspects to the game, but it’s really not that different than the same aspects in football. These kids do great individually, but when it comes to team play, they get nervous, so they just need to get past that.”
Lockey, Jenkins, and Pullam also continue to recruit for the bowling team to help bolster its numbers.
“I don’t think we could find greater ambassadors to Van Buren and to the sport of bowling than those three,” Ross said.