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John Williamson – Coach of Vanderbilt University’s 2007 NCAA Women’s Bowling Champions

By Admin | December 19, 2007

Where are you from?

I was born in Iowa but grew up in Franklin, Tennessee, about 15 minutes south of Nashville.

Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

I went to the University of Mississippi and majored in History and minored in Psychology and Political Science.


What was your career path from college to bowling coach at Vanderbilt?

I was an intern in the office of Major Gifts at Vanderbilt before becoming the Director of Baseball Operations at Vanderbilt for two and a half years. That program is very successful and led to me becoming the bowling coach when the program was added.

You do not have any high-level bowling experience or coaching in your background. In fact, you have no other major coaching experience. How is it possible that you could lead a bowling team to a national championship?

Bowling is similar to other sports where throwing is involved; the basics involve leverage and timing . Much like golf, most of the players we recruit arrive highly skilled with hometown coaches that have honed their games.

They don’t have a lot of need for fundamental work and we don’t want to ask them to radically change what has worked well for them for so long; rather, we work on expanding their game, making them compete everyday in everything they do, and motivating them to be successful.

I played college football and almost every sport growing up. The things it takes to be successful in other sports are true in bowling. Hard work is the key and we are fortunate that our student-athletes buy into that philosophy.

Individually, I want to learn something new every day so I’ve attended many clinics and seminars and picked the brains of experts. We use many techniques including video to teach and assist our team.

Is the job of being the women’s bowling coach at Vanderbilt a full-time job?

Yes, it is a full time job and I have no other assigned duties. Doing this one properly is more than a full-time job!

Your program is only four years old. Why did Vanderbilt decide to field a varsity bowling team?

Vanderbilt needed to add a varsity sport for several reasons. After considerable study, bowling was selected over some others.

Do you actively recruit and offer athletic scholarships? How do you find promising young bowlers?

We actively recruit and offer financial aid to the best and brightest junior bowlers, much the same as any other collegiate sport. We have athletic scholarships and we search the country to find the best for our program and university.

Many of the top junior bowlers are now found in the Northeast and Midwest because their high school programs are more mature.

How did you develop your program from new to NCAA champs in three years.

We formed the first team after Labor Day so we competed with women right from our student body. There were no recruited student-athletes that first year.

Our first recruiting class consisted of five young women from across the country. These five trailblazers had the ability and the desire to start something special and they have laid a strong foundation.

We added two new freshmen in our third year and won the NCAA championship, the first for any team in Vanderbilt history.

The biggest difference between now and when the program started is that I don’t have to convince the nation’s top talent consider Vanderbilt. I now select who will be the best fit with the high academic standards, the image and personality of our team, and that of the University.

What is the length of the bowling season? Is it a spring or fall sport?

Our season is considered a winter NCAA sport. We begin tournaments in early November and run through the middle of April. We will play in eight regular season tournaments.

Who are the traditional powerhouses in women’s collegiate bowling? Who are your big rivals?

Nebraska, Central Missouri and Fairleigh Dickinson are probably our biggest rivals but in bowling, on a given day, anyone can win.

What characteristics make a championship level collegiate bowler?

The things that make a championship bowler include mental toughness, natural talent, and the desire to work hard. Strength can be worked on and improved but if you don’t have the desire to push yourself, you won’t reach your potential.

What is your practice and training schedule like?

We practice five days a week at the bowling center and work out twice a week with our strength coach. She has designed an innovative workout that challenges our bowlers and enhances their mental toughness.


How is the academic performance of your team?

Our oldest recruited bowlers are only juniors this year but every one has a 3.0 GPA or higher. We had the highest team GPA in 2005-2006, a 3.47 cumulative on a 4.0 scale, and narrowly missed repeating last year for our athletic department. The women are very committed and task oriented. Most choose us originally for our high academic standards and reputation.

Are there opportunities for the women to continue their careers after college?

The women’s tour is having a small comeback, there are options to bowl on the national team around the world but right now there is no bowling in the Olympics.

What country dominates women’s bowling?

The USA and Malaysia are probably the perennial powers but Central America and Europe all have good teams as well.

How is bowling doing on the overall American sports scene? Is the popularity of bowling on the upswing or downswing?

High school bowling is on a tremendous upswing. It has recently passed hockey as most participated high school sport. Competitive youth bowling is growing and the players are becoming more advanced at an early age.

Has the Vanderbilt community supported your program? Where are your matches held and how many people attend?

Our matches are held in the Smyrna Bowling Center, a first-class facility 20 minutes from campus. The Vanderbilt community has been very supportive. For example, we had a red carpet welcome home after our NCAA title with high ranking University officials, students, fellow coaches and fans among the hundreds in attendance.

How does bowling at the top competitive level differ from what happens at the local lanes in town?

The balls and shoes are the same available to anyone for purchase at a bowling pro shop. We compete on very difficult lane conditions, similar to how the greens would be at the Masters Golf Tournament compared to greens at a public course.

The oil patterns on the tournament lanes are challenging; we mostly work on lanes that are termed “sport shot” conditions. These oil patterns force bowlers to be more accurate and would greatly reduce the scores of the average bowler.

Has your team ever bowled at the Reno lanes?

Our team has never bowled at the National Bowling Stadium but some of our players have in individual tournaments. There are no NCAA varsity tournaments yet at Reno.

What do you say to your bowlers about performance enhancing drugs? Were your bowlers tested after they won their NCAA championship?

We don’t really talk about performance enhancing drugs. We talk about drugs in general. Our University randomly checks our players bimonthly and the NCAA randomly checks at the championships. Someone is tested at the NCAA but the whole team is not.

Who is your best bowler?

Overall team balance is our team strength so it is hard to identify one “best” bowler. Sophomore Josie Earnest was the MVP at last year’s NCAA Tournament but juniors Michelle Peloquin and Karen Grygiel are very accomplished and consistent as well.

What is your personal bowling average?

I spend so much time coaching and recruiting that I don’t bowl that much anymore. I would average in the 180’s if I were to bowl in a league right now. My strengths are running a program, working with and motivating our individual team members to maximize their college careers in the classroom and on the lanes, and recruiting.

Copyright 2007 DailyInterview.com

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