Op Ed with Bob Branco – 10 Pins and a Smile

Since I was a child, one of my favorite sports that I knew I could participate in was bowling. What helped in the beginning was that I had usable sight, so that when I rolled a bowling ball down a lane, I could see the pins fall. At the Perkins School for the Blind, I took part in several bowling tournaments, and on one occasion received a silver medal. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that my limited vision helped, but then again, many of the bowlers had limited vision, while others were completely blind. I used the small balls at Perkins, and the type of bowling we participated in was candle pin.
Many years later, after I lost my vision, I was invited to a local bowling establishment with some friends. I knew that this was going to be a real challenge for me, because I had no limited vision any longer. I asked myself how I could handle things on the lane. At Perkins, the lanes had guard rails to help a blind bowler aim properly. When I was at the local bowling center, I bowled a few strings, and my score was very bad. I knew why. I wasn’t directed properly, and none of the people I was with knew how to direct me. It wasn’t until much later when I became involved with organized bowling that I had friends help me. If you are totally blind, and ready to throw the bowling ball, all you need someone to do is to guide you verbally. It may be that you’re past the foul line, so someone needs to tell you that in order for you to back up. Rolling the ball is no problem.
If your aim is too far to the left, a sighted person would ask you to move your arm to the right, and if you were too far to the right, the sighted guide would tell you to move your arm to the left. Under this guidance, my bowling scores improved dramatically. For nearly fifteen years, I’ve been in bowling leagues and getting the proper assistance. Each year I average about 70 pins per string, and although there are many bowlers who do much better than me, I am proud to know that I can bowl reasonably well, given my circumstances.
Some of you might have felt that the sighted person needed to guide or move my hand, but it’s not necessary. As long as I know where the pins are, I am able to keep up with my friends the best way possible. On several occasions I was asked if I needed bumpers installed on the bowling lane to prevent the ball from going into the gutter. No, it’s not necessary.
Bowling is not only fun, it’s good exercise. During the fall and winter months, and into early spring, I bowl every Sunday. It is a good feeling to walk up to the lane 30 times just to try to do the best I can. I’m not looking to earn a trophy or be a champion. I just want to enjoy myself at a skill I can accomplish.

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