Everyone knows that college football players put the work in over the summer to chase a championship in the fall. Your favorite basketball player is probably in a gym this very day getting up shots to perfect her three-point shot. How about bowlers? Do they just show up when the season starts? Surely they aren’t hanging out in the bowling alley every day with the blacklight and bad pizza?
Those are all silly questions that encompass the average fan’s lack of knowledge about non-revenue sports and its athletes. Morgan State junior bowler Touri Holmes takes us behind the scenes with an authentic look at bowling life for college athletes.
Holmes is the reigning rookie of the year in the MEAC and Morgan State is a team on the rise. She recently spoke with HBCU Gameday’s Ashton Horne.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Touri Holmes, and I am a rising Junior at Morgan State University. I am currently working towards achieving my BS in Computer Science, in which I want to use to become a Software Engineer.
You currently bowl for Morgan State University. What made you choose to play for this school. Were you a walk on or did you commit?
Before coming to Morgan State University, I attended a private Catholic school by the name of Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. It was a D2 institution, so not only was I not maximizing my potential, but I was not receiving enough money for me to consider staying for 4 years. Due to signing my national letter of intent (NLI), It was up to the athletic department to grant me the opportunity to transfer schools without losing a year of eligibility. After pleading my case before the department I was denied. Despite this challenge, I chose to fight for my future. Upon my second request, I was finally granted the One-Time Transfer Exception. I applied to Morgan State University and by the Fall of 2018, I was enrolled in classes.
You wear number 6? Is there any meaning behind that number or no?
I actually wanted the number 9 because my birthday falls on September 9th, 1999. (9/9/99) I guess you can say that’s my lucky number. But my teammate had already got to it before me so I’ll have to snag it next year!
Where did the love for bowling come from and when did it begin?
I’m from New Jersey, and New Jersey is one of the few states that offer bowling as a high school sport, and because of this scouts were drawn to our state which provided a great amount of opportunities for bowlers to continue their careers collegiately. My dad had always encouraged me to someday take advantage of this because many do not know that it can pay for your education. I used my Dad’s advice and his own bowling as my role model, and I began to practice every day in order to become the successful athlete that I wanted to be. My team and I won many achievements in High School, we were even featured in the My Central Jersey newspaper on numerous occasions (Conference Champions). I believe the chemistry that I built in the bowling community throughout high school definitely fueled my love and passion for the sport.
You attend an HBCU and also are currently on the bowling team. How much support does the team get from the school and how popular would you say bowling is in today’s society?
Bowling is the most underrated sport in the country. People are so convinced that it takes little to no skill. I blame their ignorance on their preconceived knowledge of the sport. Professional bowling is not what you pay $10 for on a Friday night. The lights aren’t turned off, the pins don’t glow in the dark and we don’t use bumpers. We use science and physics to pitch (on average) a 15-pound ball onto 40+ feet of oil. Most people laugh when they ask what sport I play and my response is bowling. The majority of the people on our campus do not even know that we have a bowling team on campus! One thing that has to be considered is the fact that we travel out of state to our tournaments, so it is hard to get a fan base to travel up to two hours to come to watch us.
Back in November, you beat nationally ranked Duquesne University even with your team short-handed. Despite placing 11th out the 19 teams for the invitational that’s a major win. Can you describe that feeling of upsetting a team that is ranked?
So here’s the thing about bowling: an individual game is broken up into 10 frames. In Baker games, within those 10 frames, five individuals each take two of them. So you can see how there isn’t much room for error. There is a tremendous amount of pressure for each individual to fill their frame with either a strike or a spare. Your leadoff is supposed to set the tone for the match, you know start off with a bang! Then each person follows building your team score. Finally, you’re left with the anchor who has the responsibility to finish the game which can either lead us to the win or loss. In matches like this against nationally ranked schools, it was crucial for us to use our team chemistry and work together to win the match. When we were able to do that, it was an amazing feeling and only helped us realize how much potential we truly had.
Five teams in the MEAC team ranked nationally this past season. What was it like going up against those tough teams and what did it teach your team?
Every match for us this season was a learning experience. There are so many different lines to play on the lane, and even when you think you might have found one because there are 10 people bowling on the pair it can be gone within the next frame. So the big thing that we learned this season was that we need to have the ability to move our feet or our eyes or even the ball for the adjustment on the lane.
I saw on your Instagram you won Rookie of The Year honors! Congratulations! Was that a personal goal for you or it took you by total surprise when winning it???
Truly, I had no idea I was going to win an award this year. Transitioning to a new school comes with a ton of challenges, but through hard work and dedication in the classroom it all pays off! As you already know I had to fight so hard to get where I am today, going from D2 to D1. So this opportunity that I have here, is one I do not plan on taking for granted. I made the AD Honor Roll both Fall 2018 / Spring 2019, and I currently hold an overall grade point average of a 3.7. I was inducted into the Tau Sigma Honor Society and I also obtained the TA (Teaching Assistant) position in the Communications department after hosting a TV show this past Fall 2018 called Diaspora in 30. To say the least, Morgan has done nothing but shower me with blessings and I can’t thank my coach enough for the opportunity to be here.
In the preseason poll last year your team was picked to finish 7th in the MEAC. How did that make you feel? Do preseason rankings motivate you any or do you not pay attention to that sort of thing?
I wouldn’t say that the preseason poll gave me any sense of doubt in my team. I believe that due to the new addition of teams such as Monmouth, the MEAC was going to gain some tough competition. Of course like any other team we have our strengths and weaknesses, but we can only get better by taking on the challenge of these tough competitors and that’s exactly what it did. It made us stronger.
How nerve-wracking can it be when it comes time to suit up and take on the other team? Did you embrace the moment from the start or did it take you a while to get comfortable?
Bowling is an intimate sport, there is only one person on the lane at a time which means the focus is all on you. When competing against another team you are literally going frame by frame seeing who can throw the best ball and get the better coverage of the lane. Now bowling matches are far from silent, in fact, each player on the team gets their own strike chant, as well as a team spare chant. When the pressure starts to build the noise from the crowd can become a bit intense! But I’ve grown to love the pressure, I love the sound of the pins clashing on a strike and turning around to see your team cheering for you, ready to give you a high five for your shot.
How often do you practice in the off-season? What would you say you need to work on and what would you consider your strengths.
Back home, each summer I purchase the summer games pass which gives you 3 free games every day for the entirety of the summer. So with this pass, I’m there almost every day! I love being in the bowling alley, it’s such a small community and everybody knows everybody. So I can walk in, hop on a lane and challenge myself to beat the people around me. I believe that one of my strengths in bowling is spare shooting, my coaches always stress that spares win games. At practice, I used to shoot each pin on the lane 50 times starting with my 7 pin and ending with the 10. This training truly helped me get comfortable with converting spares. A component I really wish to improve on is my footwork. This season I had trouble shortening my steps when it came to approaching the foul line. So this summer I plan to take some cones out to the lane to prevent this from becoming an issue in the future.
What are your expectations for the Lady Bears this upcoming season?
We have lost 5 girls, so that leaves us with 3 returning. So this upcoming season is going to be interesting. It is going to be our responsibility to do some recruiting and build the team chemistry that we will need to make this team successful. We plan on implementing a new practice plan, as well as collaborating with our trainers to ensure we achieve our best performance out there on the lanes.
How tough is it to do school work and balance your bowling commitments?
Being a student-athlete is difficult. Whether it is running to class, workouts, study hall, or trying to catch the bus for practice, it seems like there is never enough hours in the day. I am so thankful that I have an academic advisor, Chad Allen, that helps keep my head above the water! I inform Chad of the assignments for each of my classes and he also makes sure that I complete my six hours of study hall every week. This routine helps me remain organized and anything that I possibly need to help me academically is provided to me through his counseling.
What are some things a lot of people assume when it comes to being a woman bowler? Have you ever faced any stereotypes or comments that try to discredit you?
It’s funny I was chatting with my classmate one day who had just gotten out of practice, and he told me that the track coach told his athletes that “if they want to have fun they can join the bowling team.” But like I said, I don’t allow ignorance to affect the credit of the sport. A friend of mine Gazmine Mason was the first African American to win the Olympic Bowling Singles, she is a 3x Gold Medalist, and is the founder of Black Girls Can Bowl 2. This page supports African American female bowling athletes comprised of all ages. She is starting a movement throughout the bowling community that shows that black girls CAN bowl and despite all the criticism we get, we will continue to flourish.
Last but not least please give your shoutouts and tell people where they can follow you on social media.
Well, I want to thank my friends and family for continuously showing me unconditional love and support throughout my journey, and you can keep up with me on Instagram @touriholmes.