Sliwinski gets the ball rolling with inaugural bowling team


Photo by Keith Claxton

Senior Nico Milano bowls at the Lisle High School Regional.

Miles Hayford

Band and Music Production teacher Mike Sliwinski started bowling competitively during his freshman year of high school and says that the sport is good for mental and physical health. Sliwinski is responsible for bringing competitive bowling to Nazareth. In addition to his own love for the sport, he felt that there was room for another sport during this time of year. “The addition of the bowling team helps offer more opportunities for students to get involved in the student life during the winter time,” said Sliwinski.

Bringing bowling to Naz has been a process. Sliwinski has been working on starting a team for some time. “It has been a goal of mine for the last couple years to bring an IHSA bowling team to Nazareth Academy,” he said. His own interest and students’ interest over the years confirmed that he should put his efforts towards starting a bowling team. So this year he finally did.

Starting a new athletic program isn’t that simple. First, Sliwinski had to get approval from the administration and athletic department. Then, he had the difficult task of finding a home bowling alley. To do that, Sliwinski had to research the various rates and lane availability of the different bowling alleys near Nazareth. “So, at the end, Hillside Bowl was what we chose because they gave us the best rates and the most accommodations,” said Sliwinski. 

Another challenge that came with the creation of the new bowling team was the fact that the team has a lot of recreational bowlers and not many with competition experience. Most high school sports can be played both competitively and leisurely, but bowling is unique in the way that for most, it is only a leisure sport.  So, working on proper footwork, getting them fitted for the correct bowling ball, learning about how to pick up different types of spares, and adjusting to oil patterns were priorities. “It’s about teaching the game from square one, in a sport where almost everyone was a beginner,” said Sliwinski.

“The team is taking initiative, and is really looking to improve, asking questions and are open to coaching, and everyone has made huge improvement from where they started in the first week of November,” said Sliwisnki. 

Senior Maureen Staelgraeve shares Sliwinski’s sentiment and said that she and her teammates continue to learn new skills and are getting better. Some of the highlights include Senior Zach Stimach shooting 1,115 over six games to advance to the IHSA Sectional and Senior Nick Czochara’s 578 series over St. Viator.

But, most importantly, the season has been a lot of fun. Senior Adrian Perez called the season “a great ride.” Perez agrees that the comradery that comes with the bowling team is a big factor in what makes it so enjoyable “Overall, it’s a lot of fun being with your teammates just trying to throw strikes.” 

“Being part of the inaugural team and making Nazareth history is pretty special and awesome,” Staelgraeve said. Perez called it an honor to be able to play for the first ever bowling team at Naz and said, “growing individually and as a program has been such a meaningful gift that I don’t take for granted.” 

Senior Demario Angarita agreed, saying, “it means a lot to me to be a part of the first bowling team at Naz ever because I know we’re building the foundation to something a lot greater in the future.” As the first season comes to an end, it is great to know that the creation of a Nazareth bowling team was a smashing success, and that the program will continue to grow next year.

Garnering more players is one of the main goals for the future. Staelgraeve notes that while the team is currently made up of about 30 students, many of whom are also in band and on boys cross country (both clubs that Mr. Sliwinski is in charge of), the high spirits of Mr. Sliwinski will definitely draw many others to the alleys.

There are hopes to start a once a week Summer League that works similar to the multiple summer youth camps Naz hosts for other sports. This would certainly contribute to Sliwinski’s main goal to get more students involved and “get more competitive for the future.”