WARNER ROBINS — Students from the fourth and fifth grades at Russell Elementary recently went to the Gold Cup Bowling Center for the school’s annual bowling field trip.
The trip is part of the school’s physical education program that teaches bowling to students.
It was in 1986 that Russell became the first school in the county to teach bowling. Physical education teacher Cathy Sutton, who still teaches at Russell, was joined by another teacher — Bill Beatty, who is now the baseball coach at Warner Robins High School — when the physical education program was expanded by the state to include all grades.
Beatty, who had taught in Alabama prior to coming to Russell, told Sutton about the bowling program at his former school, and the two started their own program at Russell.
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At the time, the school didn’t have a gym or any other hard surface, so Sutton and Beatty took students into the parking lot in front of the school and bowled between the cars. Elementary schools at the time included sixth-graders, and Russell started the bowling program with the fifth and sixth grades.
“We had big classes and wanted to introduce our students to a lifetime sport,” Sutton said. “Bowling is something you can do all the time, that anyone can do whether they are athletic or not. Once you are taught how, you can bowl the rest of your life.”
Sutton said some of the advantages to bowling is young people are moving and being physically challenged. Bowling is a social activity as well, she said.
After the first year of the bowling program, Sutton and Beatty made arrangements to go to the bowling alley with the students for some bowling experience in real lanes.
Now, Sutton introduces bowling to students in second and third grades, and students throughout the school look forward to the rite of passage of going on the bowling field trip.
Sutton’s son, Drew, got involved with a bowling league for young people. She became a certified bowling coach, which has encouraged the program even more.
“It is really cool,” said Erik Fauth, a fifth-grader. “You bowl while you are learning, and you learn while you are bowling.”
Erik said learning to bowl at school encouraged him to join a bowling league and to bowl on his own as well.
“It helped me learn about the sport and helped me learn how to do better the next time,” said Erik, who got two strikes and a spare during the bowling field trip.
Madi Davis, another fifth-grader at the school, said her bowling experience prior to learning about it in physical education had been confined to a few bowling birthday parties.
“It is a really fun activity, and it is different from other sports in that you can do it the way you want to. There are different ways you can do it and still do a good job,” she said.
“But maybe the most important thing about bowling,” Madi added, “is that you learn that when you work hard at something, you can have success.”
Contact Alline Kent at 396-2467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.