A PROGRAM IS BORN: Stillman College Holds First Bowling Tryouts

TUSCALOOSA, AL — The echoing crash of bowling pins filled the void in the private VIP section of Shindig Family Entertainment Center on Wednesday, signaling the birth of something new and exciting for Stillman College athletics.

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Open tryouts were held at the bowling ally for the inaugural men’s and women’s bowling teams for the college, which comes as the school is expanding its sports to also include volleyball in the coming academic year. Wednesday’s tryouts saw roughly a dozen participants, mostly men, taking to the lanes in the hopes of impressing and earning a roster spot.

Shindig Family Entertainment Center, Patch confirmed, will serve as the home venue for the Tigers when they kick off the 2022-2023 season. The schedule is reportedly still in the works.

Dondrae’ Collins — a former Stillman baseball player and drum major — was tapped as the head coach for both programs and oversaw tryouts on Wednesday, hoping to find the prospects who will put the school on the map.

“I guess with being on the collegiate level, just being out here and seeing who is interested is the first step,” Collins told Patch. “I know I see a lot of good bowlers out here who either wanted to go to college or didn’t have the choice to play sports. I think Stillman College is going to catch a lot of people off guard with it.”

Indeed, Collins is no stranger to program building and aims to win, not just compete.

As Patch previously reported, the Macon, Georgia product is credited with starting the bowling program at Central High School in Tuscaloosa and coached the Falcons to the inaugural AHSAA regional tournament. For the last two seasons, Collins has coached baseball and football at Paul. W. Bryant High School.

It’s this familiarity with the high school game that Collins hopes will translate into strong recruiting and student retention.

“For people that show up today, I’m expecting at least half of them to be ready to play,” he said of the tryouts. “Some of them who have inboxed me, they had some bowling experience. It seems like a lot of them are ready … It’s going back to their past. A lot of people who are serious about this sport have been bowling since they were young. You can tell people who are really tuned into the game and you can tell people who just like to do it recreationally.”

As far as local talent in concerned, Collins said he has already put out feelers with Tuscaloosa City Schools, as well as scouting talented from strong, established programs like American Christian Academy.

,[ACA] is going to be definitely be somebody I’m going to stay up on,” he said with a laugh, after mentioning the AHSAA state bowling title won by the Patriots in 2022.

Stillman officials said future tryouts beyond Wednesday are possible, but have not been officially scheduled.

Athletic Director Terrance Whittle spoke from an administrative side when asked about the school expanding its athletic offerings, with Stillman becoming one of just two schools in Alabama to offer men’s bowling — the other being the University of Mobile.

“Obviously, our goal is always enrollment,” Whittle told Patch. “What we’re doing with men’s and women’s bowling and, of course volleyball, will help us stay on course with meeting enrollment. From an athletic department perspective, it gives us an option for students who want to go to college and participate in sports . The option is there for students who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity.”

But when asked what a successful first year would look like for the bowling programs, both men acknowledged the inevitable uphill climb for a program on the rise.

“From an administrative level, a successful first year is having bowlers and having bowlers competing and being good students,” Whittle said. “So, there is a retention rate there. For me, that’s success. They show up and do well academically. That’s a successful first year and it will allow [Collins] to keep growing the program.”

Academics are also the top priority for the new coach, who expressed his plans to put the primary emphasis on classroom performance.

“From my point of view it always has to be school first,” Collins said. “It’s like high school, but you don’t have your mama to wake you up for class. A couple of wins would be good, but I know it’s going to be a bumpy road and I think that bumpy road could be good for the program. It’s not going to be handed to us and I don’t want it to be handed to us.”

To learn more about the Stillman College bowling programs, email Collins at dcollins@stillman.edu.

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