Another opportunity for Blaze athletes opens up

Bowling added to Clinton schools’ list of offerings

The Clinton Blaze athletic program gives elementary school student-athletes the unique opportunity to compete in sports for a school-sanctioned program.

Blaze programs allow students from Clinton, North Clinton and South Clinton elementary schools to compete in cross country, boys and girls basketball, track and field, tennis and bowling. The Blaze also has a dance team, sponsors an archery class and will soon add cheerleading and color guard.

One of the most unusual opportunities the Blaze affords young athletes is the chance to bowl in an intramural league.

The Clinton City Schools bowling league, directed by Coach Tammy Thatcher, recently completed its third season. Bowling is a spring sport and the league plays at the bowling alley in the Clinton Community Center.

While the league is for elementary students, Thatcher and Clinton City Schools Athletics Director E.T. Stamey have noted that the elementary school league has sparked interest in the sport from adults in the community.

And a simple recent gesture may bring more interest --- at least for one family.

A recent CCS graduate, Fletcher Kitts bowled in the Blaze’s program in each of its first three seasons always arrived at bowling events early as he always wanted to use the same bowling ball.

“We had one young man who found a ball and he always showed up early so he could use that ball,” Thatcher said. “And on the last Wednesday of our season, he asked if they (the Clinton Community Center) would sell him that ball.

“Of course, we had to go through finding out if the ball belonged to anybody, and then, they gave him the ball, so I’m sure that family will continue to go down there and bowl.”

Kitts, who has bowled in the Blaze league since its inception, holds a single-game record, as he bowled a 161 last season, so he’s found a place in the game.

Thatcher, who grew up in Colorado, has bowled since she was young and she loves teaching the game to Clinton’s elementary school athletes.

She also found her niche in bowling early in life and has a lifelong passion for the game. She and her husband have also competed in a couples league.

“Bowling is a sport that the kids can take with them and play for the rest of their lives,” she said. “For us, this is a learning experience. We’re here to have fun but we’re also here to learn. One day, I had to come down hard on them and I told them that we could have fun, but we were also here to learn, and I saw a lot of improvement that day.”

“I’ve bowled since I was five or six. I grew up in Colorado and my mom had us in bowling and in scouts all the time because we could do those things inside.”

Thatcher is retired from Clinton City Schools, but she remains under contract with CCS, where she oversees the production of the yearbook for the district.

“I’m retired but I (still) have a contract with Clinton City Schools,” she said. “I’ve been with CCS for 32 years, so I believe in the schools and I believe in what the Blaze (athletic program) is doing.”

Bowling can last a lifetime, but it’s also an inclusive sport.

“We have some kids in our sport that may not be able to play other sports,” Thatcher said. “We had a special needs athlete and he was able to bowl.”

Thatcher’s place in the Blaze program is in the bowling alley but she’s also pleased to see the other sports and activities flourish. She’s also happy to see the program expand. She credits Stamey’s tireless work ethic and Director of Schools Kelly Johnson’s support.

“Every year, E.T. and Kelly are adding something new,” Thatcher said. “And E.T. has taken a part-time job and turned it into a full-time job.

“He’s come to every bowling meet. Sometimes, he’s a little late because he goes to track first or he’s out meeting someone in the community. He’s tireless.”