After Greater St. Helens League officials announced in early 2021 that their schools’ traditional winter sports teams would begin their 2020-21 seasons in April, Camas girls bowling coach Barb Burden reached out to the bowlers from the Papermakers’ 2019-20 squad to ask if they were planning on coming out for the shortened season.
She expected to hear a few rejections, as turnout for most Clark County prep sports teams has been down this year compared to previous years, but she was shocked to hear nearly every girl on her team say they wanted to bowl, but couldn’t.
“Not one of them said, ‘I don’t want to bowl,'” Burden said. “Some of them are turning out for softball or track or (other sports).They were using bowling as a second sport rather than their main sport and had to make a choice. And some of them didn’t come out because their parents didn’t allow them to (participate) as long as COVID is going on. When I started hearing the reasons, it didn’t really surprise me.”
Burden received one “yes,” however.
In Camas High junior Cassie Templer’s mind, there was never any doubt she would turn out for her Camas bowling team in 2021 — even if no one else did.
“I love bowling. I would’ve been really upset if we couldn’t do bowling this year,” Templer said, adding that she wasn’t too surprised to hear her teammates were focusing on other sports.
“I knew with the way they were doing sports this year, the other girls had other priorities,” she said.
Templer, Camas High’s lone bowler for the 2020-21 season, concluded her campaign by finishing seventh at the 4A District 1 championship meet, held Tuesday, June 2, at Crosley Lanes in Vancouver, with scores of 173, 192, 177 and 152.
“It’s her and me against the world,” Burden said in February. “It would be difficult if the person was resistant to coaching, but thank God Cassie has the patience of a saint. She just smiles a lot and says, ‘OK, coach. I’m trying.’ She listens, pays attention and really wants to improve. I have great hopes for her.”
The unique situation forced Templer to focus more on her individual progress rather than team performance.
“It’s been super different,” Templer said. “Before, I had my team backing me and celebrating the little victories. It’s been pretty hard for me to realize, ‘Oh, yeah, I just got a strike. That’s awesome.’ Instead it’s like, ‘This is my score right now. Let’s get more strikes, let’s get a higher (score).’ It’s definitely nerve-racking because the other (schools) have a full team, so it’s kind of like me going against five girls instead of just one, like I normally would.”
Practice sessions also were also different. Rather than dividing her time and expertise between 15 to 20 girls, Burden focued all of her attention on Templer.
“I’m able to give her more information and more knowledge than I would if I was working with a large group,” Burden said. “She’s getting more individual attention. I can be more precise and give her tricks of the trade that she can pick up on and practice. We’re just refining what she already knows. It’s a different level of coaching.”
“The one thing that has been nice about being one-on-one is I get a lot more knowledge of what goes into a routine and how to throw the ball correctly,” Templer said. “Before, I would kind of get an overview of what you’re supposed to do, and I would learn it for myself and experiment.”
Templer saw the benefits of such intensive coaching early on. During her 2019-20 season, Templer knocked down an average of 135 pins per game. In her first 2020-21 meet, she averaged 155 pins per game.
“We’ve made some big changes that have really improved my scores, and I’m looking forward to getting routine down, getting my muscle memory down and being consistent with what I know how to do,” Templer said. “I definitely would love to make the average shoot up, but one thing that we are really focusing on is my routine, making sure that it’s solid and that I do it every single time.”
The unique situation, however, presented a few challenges for both coach and bowler.
Burden, who has bowled for decades and is a member of one of the most prominent and highly decorated families in the history of Clark County bowling, didn’t want to overwhelm Templer with her insights and experiences.
“The hardest part for me is to not overcoach her, because she’s the only one I have,” Burden said. “I want her to succeed. I’ve bowled for 60 years, and I want to give her as much of my knowledge as I can, but I have to bite my tongue sometimes. It’s hard for me because I have a tendency to nitpick, which comes from my history and not from her. It can be tough with only one kid listening to me.”
Templer misses her teammates and all of the different ways that they helped her feel comfortable and improve during her freshman and sophomore seasons. She’s had to adjust to different routines and rhythms without them, and hopes that they’ll be back again next year.
“The last couple of years I have loved the camaraderie and celebrating (with teammates). We used to do chants for spares and strikes. I love the anticipation of watching another person try to pick up a difficult split and being super excited for her,” she said. “Teammates help pace you. Instead of bowling one ball after the next, you get to watch other people do it and how they’re doing it and have a little bit of time to watch them and self-reflect and then go back up.”
Templer hopes to continue her bowling career after she graduates from Camas High in the spring of 2022; she’s already researching scholarship opportunities and sending videos to college coaches.
A Running Start student, Templer is already taking accounting classes at Clark College and hopes to someday be a forensic accountant.
“I took a forensics class last year, and I (discovered that I) absolutely love forensics, but I don’t really think I can go into crime scenes or do a lot of lab work,” she said. “While I love forensics in general, I’m not too interested in going into the specifics of forensics. But I’ve always loved numbers. I was researching career options, and I came across forensic accounting, and it seemed to combine my two favorite subjects.”
Templer was already thinking of her future, in fact, when she joined the Camas bowling team in 2018.
“That’s one of my driving forces,” she said. “My freshman year, my mindset was, ‘I want to get as many varsity pins as possible because I know everything I do now will affect that future, and I know being involved in a sport looks good on a college application.’ Plus, it’s a really good way to stay active and relax between school and work and everything.”
Even if she doesn’t bowl in college, Templer said she will likely join a bowling league.
“It’s so much fun,” Templer said of the sport. I look forward to (seeing) what heights I can reach with it.”