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How Coach Beats Odds and Bowls Over Championships

Published: 2023-03-22
How Coach Beats Odds and Bowls Over Championships
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Each year Women’s History Month follows Black History Month on the calendar, so the back-to-back opportunity to recognize and appreciate both often unnoticed and underappreciated contributions to sports is my invitation to write. 

Despite progress made in recent years, women of all faces and races continue to face numerous challenges, including inadequate resources, lower wages, limited media exposure, and discrimination in coaching and leadership positions.

As women, we must support and encourage each other in our efforts to break down these barriers and inspire others with our journeys. The unique experiences of women in sports cannot be learned in a classroom, making them invaluable resources.


How Black Volunteer Coach Wins

During an interview with Lillian Singleton, a black volunteer bowling coach at Spain Park High School, and also a member of the Bowling Hall of Fame, I discovered that bowling is more than just a leisure activity.

Some high schools across the country have embraced it as a varsity sport. In 2015, the Alabama High School Athletic Association officially recognized bowling as a high school sport, and since then, Spain Park has made a name for itself, claiming three state championships in boys' bowling (2016, 2017, &; 2022), making it the most successful high school boys' bowling team in Alabama.

Coach Singleton is no stranger to success, but what sets her apart is that she is the first black female high school bowling coach in the Birmingham area. This distinction not only allows her to bring her perspective as a woman but also as a member of a minority group.


What Fired Her Coaching Flames

When asked about her journey to becoming a bowling coach, Singleton revealed that her late husband was her initial inspiration, allowing her to observe his gameplay and assist him in improving his technique. This experience led her to believe that she could help others too, prompting her to pursue certification in coaching through 10 Pin University in North Jersey. After completing her certification, she began coaching at Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick, NJ.

Being a female coach in a male-dominated field presents its own set of challenges, Singleton explained. While coaching at the league level was not an issue, the high school level was a different story.

She told me, male coaches displayed resentment towards her, and she often felt unwelcomed at meetings, with people staring at her as if to question her presence. She has even been heckled and badgered during tournaments. However, her team's boys have always stood up for her, refusing to tolerate such behavior from other coaches.


Why Defeat is Winning

When asked about her sources of inspiration and determination, Singleton mentioned her father and her competitive nature. As a black woman, she knows that people will try to bring her down, but she does not let that discourage her. Instead, she strives to be the best, taking pride in strategy and competition. Even in moments of defeat, Singleton seeks to learn from the experience, reflecting on what she could have done differently and using the lesson to guide future practices.

Singleton's commitment to coaching bowling also contributes to her health and overall well-being. As a coach, she is constantly on the move, staying active and mentally engaged. Additionally, she prioritizes healthy eating, incorporating plenty of vegetables into her diet. She enjoys walking, bike riding, and even running relays with her grandkids, showing that age is just a number.


Women Coaching Styles

For women considering becoming coaches or already in the field, Singleton advises obtaining certification and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching. Every athlete is unique, and coaches should focus on enhancing their strengths and individual styles rather than imposing their preferences.

Lillian Singleton's story serves as a testament to the invaluable contributions of women in sports and as an inspiration to others. Her determination, resilience, commitment to coaching, and her well-being are admirable qualities that we can all learn from.