Practice sessions this season for Seaman bowlers happen to incorporate laser lights.
No, the Vikings are not pushing their workouts to late night and getting into cosmic bowling or razzle dazzle.
A former touring professional is actually handling their instruction.
As the new Seaman coach, Bob Benoit has different techniques he wants to try. The apparatus with the laser is positioned near the end of a lane and helps teach bowlers how to adjust their sights for lane patterns without looking at the pins.
“In my day, we taped matchbooks to the lanes,’’ Benoit said.
Back then, bowling was not sanctioned as a sport in Kansas high schools when Benoit attended Topeka West before spending his senior year at Skyline High School in Dallas.
Now, high school programs exist and Seaman is among the best. The Vikes captured the Class 5-1A boys championship last year and placed second in the girls state tournament.
When Geoff Poston left to become coach at Ottawa University, Benoit was already working with some youth bowlers in Topeka. A former PBA winner, Benoit decided to apply for the opening at Seaman. For the first time in his life he went as far as to prepare a resume, which he handed to Seaman athletic director Brad Dietz.
“He took it and threw it in the trash,’’ Benoit said. “I said, ‘What are you doing? That took me two hours to do.’ And he said, ‘Bob, you don’t need a resume.’ We sat and talked and he pretty much hired me on the spot.’’
The challenge now will be for Benoit to simplify instruction.
Finding a happy medium for technical aspects will be a priority, though “we’re going to have quizzes,’’ Benoit said, ranging from the height of the pins, the circumference of the ball, the significance of the arrows, the lengths of the rangefinders. Lane patterns will also be analyzed to determined break points.
“We’re also talking to them about ball reaction,’’ Benoit said. “We’re actually filming the ball going through the pins so we can show them how the ball interacts, so when they leave a 10-pin they’ll see why they left it.’’
The reason? Seaman boasts college-caliber talent and Benoit wants to prepare his bowlers for that level.
Especially since he knows several college coaches who were pros he competed against during his 20 years on tour from 1980-99.
Details, however, from those experiences will be related with a degree of caution.
“I do want to pass on what I’ve seen over 20 years and what I’ve gone through and what I’ve learned from other touring pros,’’ said Benoit, 63. “But I’ve got to be careful about how I do that, because then they’ll think this guy only wants to talk about himself and that’s me. It’s about them.’’
Nonetheless, it is interested to get Benoit started comparing the current tour to what he played on when he captured four PBA tournaments and pocketed more than $700,000 in career earnings.
Part of that was wrapped into a $100,000 bonus he claimed with a perfect game in the championship match of the Quaker State Open in 1988, when he topped Mark Roth, 300-255. The $127,000 Benoit earned for that victory was then a record.
“I was very fortunate,’’ he said. “I got to be part of the era when the tour was at its absolute best, with its biggest names like Earl Anthony, Mark Roth, Marshall Holman.”
Today, much of the tour is taped during segments in Las Vegas. Tournaments have dwindled from the 36 that comprised the tour when Benoit competed. Prize money has fallen off and so too has interest from the days ABC carried broadcasts each week with Chris Schenkel on the call.
“All this cheering and clapping when you’re bowling, and the noisemakers they’re trying to make it a game it’s not,’’ Benoit said. “I don’t even watch it. I can’t stand to watch it on TV.’’
It was hard enough for Benoit to drop the intense edge players must maintain on tour.
“For about five years after (retiring), I tried to compete in leagues, but it wasn’t fun and I wasn’t any fun to be around,’’ he said. “I was still in that tour mode, that mindset, and it was really hard to get out of that. People didn’t want to bowl with me, because the tour turns you into an animal and somebody you don’t want to be.’’
The solution, at least for Benoit, may have been to find various activities to fill his, uhh, spare time.
“I built houses right after I quit the tour in ’99 and in ’08 the market crashed,’’ he said. “I had five houses sitting and I couldn’t sell ‘em. Things were getting pretty tough and the banks were wanting to get the loans paid. Things came down hard and all the money I had saved over the years off the tour, I lost every dime.’’
Benoit then became a bail bondsman and now has his own business, Bad Boyz Bail Bonds.
He also services vending routes. And, is working toward obtaining a real estate license. And, works on muscle cars. And, bowls in two leagues and competes for a traveling team sponsored by Storm Bowling.
Also, there’s this new gig coaching Seaman.
“Since I’ve been out of (touring professionally), people will say, ‘Hey Bob, you need to bowl a couple of tour stops,’’’ Benoit related, “but I don’t want to go back to that side. I kind of call it the dark side. I like where I’m at now and I want to stay there.’’
Contact Kevin Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.