There's a clear and enthusiastic consensus among Frazee High School's Adaptive Bowling Team members that the best things about bowling are "Knocking down pins!" and "Getting strikes!"
Having tons of fun, making new friends and becoming better bowlers ain't bad, either.
The five team members-Bethanie Skunberg, Nic Nolan, Zac Nolan, Jeremy Hausmann and Ashley Moltzan-haven't taken long to warm up to their new sport. The Adaptive Bowling Team just got rolling (pun intended) this year.
The team's coach, Lynn Tappe, who is a physical education teacher in the Frazee School District and also the district's DAPE Specialist (Developmental Adaptive Physical Education), was inspired to start an Adaptive Bowling team in Frazee after hearing about a former student who had made it to State in the sport through another school district. She got together with Athletic Director Nick Courneya and special education teacher Ann Zitzow to develop a budget for the program, and then got the school board's OK to start a team.
"They were very receptive to the idea and gave us the green light," she said.
Since then, the team has gotten uniforms, started regular practices in the school gym, and also played at The Cactus bowling alley in Perham. Practices are held during the kids' already scheduled DAPE time, so they don't have to stay after school, which Tappe thought might be difficult for some of them to do.
The team is recognized by the Minnesota State High School League's Adaptive Athletics program, CI Division (Cognitively Impaired). The Hornets are in the same Section as other Adaptive Bowling teams from Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and New York Mills. Playing as singles and doubles, the Frazee kids will be taking part in their first regional competition on May 8 in Fergus Falls.
"I'm having fun with it," said Zac Nolan, echoing the sentiments of his teammates. Nolan is a sophomore who bowls alongside his twin brother, Nic. "Scoring points is my favorite thing."
"They've been improving," Tappe said. "They've really learned a lot about bowling-like the four-step approach and how to move their arms... They've learned a lot about the etiquette of bowling."
Next year, Tappe said, the program will expand into a Special Olympics program so the team can compete with the Minnesota Special Olympics and players can continue on with the sport through adulthood. She also expects more student participation, as the sport opens up to eligible students outside of her DAPE class.
The Adaptive Bowling Team is just one of two new initiatives at Frazee High School that are helping to break down the walls between special ed and regular ed students. The other is a Unified Physical Education program, which mixes DAPE students in with a regular ninth grade phys ed class.
"It was a great experience this year," said Tappe. "Our kids were awesome, so willing to work with my DAPE kids and help them with games and activities. The best part of this whole experience is the friendships that come from it. Now the kids will see each other in the halls and strike up conversations with each other."
"I just feel sometimes that our general education students are not trying to be mean if they don't talk to my students," she added. "I just think they don't know how. This will break down those barriers."
Frazee is the first school in the area to start a Unified Physical Education program. Tappe said she first heard about the concept at a statewide DAPE Workshop in September, from a speaker with the Minnesota Special Olympics. The idea piqued her interest.
"I really wanted to find out more about it and implement it in the Frazee school," she said.
She wasted no time in doing so, and again found the school district supportive. There are many benefits of the program, she said, including: an improved school climate through acceptance, friendship and social inclusion; hands-on leadership development; and social-emotional learning through student interactions and activities. Students of diverse ability levels get to be genuinely included in a sport, and are empowered to educate and impact the student body.
In the future, Tappe would like to explore the possibility of starting a Unified Basketball team, as well as a Unified after-school program. But for now, she said, she's taking "baby steps" while the bowling and phys ed programs get going.