October 20, 2013

Blind bowling tournament comes to Myrtle Beach area again

Everyone who bowls or helps in this tournament wins.

Everyone who bowls or helps in this tournament wins.

The Carolina Bowling Alliance, a group based in Raleigh, will have its 17th annual Blind Bowlers Tournament and Shootout next weekend in Surfside Beach.

The tournament, for people with little or no vision, will roll Saturday and Sunday at Surfside Bowl Entertainment Center.

James Benton, the alliance’s outreach coordinator – as well as president of the Raleigh Outlaws blind bowlers group (www.raleighoutlaws.org) and second vice president of the American Blind Bowling Association ( www.abba1951.org) – said bowling scores in multiple ways for people who refuse to let visual impairment keep them from enjoying the sport.

Employed by the state of North Carolina as a job developer and coach for young people with visual impairments, Benton called his occupation, which he wants to continue for another five to 10 years, “a very fulfilling part of my life,” and the blind bowling pastime follows that path as well.

Question | What adaptations come with embracing bowling amid blindness?

Answer | The biggest adjustment you have is to develop confidence. Learning to beat blindness is never easy. For some, it’s a lifelong process; for others, it a thing that develops as a child, and often as an older adult, as different types of conditions such as diabetes and macular degeneration spawn blindness. ...

It’s helping people to develop confidence in the ability to compete. We can teach that through sports. If they can learn to compete and have fun and enjoy one another, it carries out into other aspects of life that you take command of. It just changes things when you feel good about who you are and takes that heavy weight off your shoulders. The Carolina Bowling Alliance has a motto: fun, fellowship and sportsmanship.

Q. | What triggered your interest in promoting bowling as a limitless activity for blind individuals?

A. | I’ve been active in the blind bowling program since 1982. ... I wanted to do something to be competitive. We bowled together as students, and played various adapted types of sports on computers. ...

The Raleigh Outlaws blind bowlers group started with about 12 people. Today, we’re the largest blind bowling program in the country, with about 60 members.

Q. | What hurdles have you cleared in modifying your life?

A. | I was born with congenital glaucoma, and I had multiple surgeries as a youngster. I was able to start seeing at age 2-3 and had decent vision from an early age until I was 7-8 years old, then that vision began to wane. I was completely blind by the time I was 13.

I was raised in the mountains of North Carolina, near Asheville, and I got to see the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. No one can convince me there is anything more beautiful. That’s what I remember, and I still carry that vision in my head. I don’t miss sight per se, but it would be great to lay eyes on my son, daughter and three grandkids. I saw my wife when she was a kid, so I can build on what I think my spouse looks like. In my head, she still has a childish face, because that’s what I recall.

Q. | What camaraderie arises beyond the athletic aspect to bowling?

A. | We want for people to learn to have fun, enjoy each other, and compete and be good sports, and push one another to be the best they can be. ... One woman once remarked on a strange thing she saw: two teams competing against each other and rooting for each other. It’s an everybody wins thing, and you’re pushing each other to win.

Q. | What other ways has bowling in this setting made your life richer?

A. | It’s being with the different teams and the different bowlers, and having seen them enjoy themselves and having a good time being around them. It’s seeing and being a part of everybody having fun. ...

At age 55, I like to push myself to do things that I don’t know would have secured that level of confidence and self-esteem if I was not part of a bowling program.

Q. | At home in North Carolina’s capital, in your bowling league, how do the season and year play out, and how do you practice to keep and improve your groove?

A. | Our bowling season begins after Labor Day and goes to mid-May. We have a 27-week season, and we have 10 teams ... and we on each team bowl against every other team three times a year. ... Most of us are somewhere between 40 and 60. ...

I’ll practice in an end lane, practicing my technique, throwing, posture and approach. ... We do more practice during summertime, when the league is off.

Q. | How has the Myrtle Beach area earned the nod to host another one of these special tournaments?

A. | We enjoy the hospitality. ... The people there are very nice to us, and the community has been extremely gracious through the years. ... The host bowling site is very accessible, and well maintained and well managed. They love what we do; they’re excited to bring the tournament back there.

Q. | Among the request for volunteers, how can our community help during this tournament?

A. | We need people who can be pin callers and pin spotters. For that job, you look at the person as he or she throws the ball. You’re going to describe to that person who has low or no vision where the ball went and where the pins are remaining, then the bowler can go for the spare. It’s pin support ... and it’s a whole lot better with people with vision who can help us.

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