On a Thursday night in early May, four young bowlers walk into North Bowl for a weekly get together alongside their parents. They sit by the lanes as those participating deliver the ball with skill and ease, talking as an extended family, really, watching the game they love.
While this night may be more relaxed than their typical Saturday league practice, the one thing on all of their minds is their task at hand — competing nationally at the Junior Gold Championships in Grand Rapids, Mich. this July.
The bowlers — Alexis Hubert, 15 of North Attleboro; Justin Goodspeed, 15, of North Attleboro; Thomas Carter, 10, of Attleboro and Victoria LaRouche, 12, of Attleboro — may not be who you’d expect to see bowling competitively at a local center. However, they’re here for what the sport has always given — a sense of fun and community. And with hours spent practicing individually three to four days a week with multiple games a day in addition to their league practice, they’ve qualified to compete among some of the best young bowlers in the country.
There will be eight area bowlers attending the competition this July. The other four are Aiden Robinson, 15 of Norton; Leila Paiva, 17 of Attleboro; Noah Burbank, 17, of North Attleboro and Natashea Vance, 14, of Attleboro.
“Bowling is a very welcoming community, especially if you’re a beginner or if it is your first time attending a competition,” Hubert said.
Hubert, who qualified via the JBSC AMF Chicopee Event on Jan. 30, started bowling at age 7, following in the footsteps of her parents Erica and Rich Hubert. Rich, the league manager, started bowling in the late 1990s and met Erica in 2001 while participating in the sport. The Huberts signed their daughter up to bowl one day after she first expressed interest.
Rich, who was awarded the Mass USBC Youth Association Award Michael Eramo Memorial for Coach of the Year for the 2020-2021 season, said he’s dedicated to the bowling community, living by the saying, “Bowling is family.”
For Alexis, a Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School student who will be attending the competition for a second time, competing against bowlers nationally allows for connections and friendships to be made with others who share the same passion for bowling.
“We get to choose the teams we are playing on for this competition, and I get to play alongside my other friends from out of state,” she said.
Carrying on a family tradition, LaRouche is a fifth-generation bowler, whose father, Ricky LaRouche, is president of the Youth Bowling Program at North Bowl.
Meeting the pros
Victoria, a Coelho Middle School student, started bowling at age 6 and said she didn’t expect to qualify for the competition until she was 13 or 14. She was entered into the competition via the Rhode Island State Pepsi Youth Championship in 2022.
“This will be my first time attending. I’m excited to meet the bowling pros and just the whole experience in general,” she said.
Carter, who qualified through the DJBT Event last September, began in the sport when he was just 3½ years old. He’s also attending the competition for the first time, and said he’s both excited and nervous to compete against people from all over the U.S.
His mother Jeanette Carter has been bowling for more than 20 years and is treasurer of the youth program’s leagues at North Bowl. She’s heading up a fundraising effort to help the young bowlers support their competitive dreams, which included an event last Thursday night.
While bowling is fun, it comes with costs — players need eight to 12 personal bowling balls, which can cost from $100 to $200 each, along with shoes, uniforms, bags and gloves. The fundraising helps send the young bowlers to compete nationally. As they compete over the years, their winnings are stored in an account they can’t touch until age 18, providing them with a head start when they decide to attend college or pursue other plans.
Competitions like the one these bowlers are attending also provide the opportunity for college bowling coaches to scout out players for possible scholarship opportunities.
“Bowling definitely is an older sport, but what I think a lot of people don’t realize is that you can bowl in college and get scholarships,” said Erica Hubert.
Justin Goodspeed, a North Attleboro High School student, has been bowling since age 5 when his mother, Amie Goodspeed, entered him in a league. He said the sport just stuck with him.
Goodspeed qualified via the JBSC North Bowl Event last September and this competition will be his fourth.
“There is a lot of fun stuff to look forward to, especially socially. We get to meet new people and bowlers from all over,” he said. “The walk-out ceremony is also something that is super special for us. I used to get the pregame nerves but not as much anymore,” he said.
For Lynn Goodspeed, Justin’s mother, there are life lessons to be learned on the lanes.
“In New England there isn’t much bowling in high schools. These leagues and competitions allow for that, which is so important as it provides experience and new opportunities for the kids,” she said. “The kids also still cheer for each other even when (they compete) against each other because sometimes they will have to play together.”
Even though time has passed and generations have changed, it’s these time-honored lessons that the bowlers’ parents, who have played together for years in different leagues, have sought to instill in their children through the sport they love.
“The youth is the future for this sport,” Rich Hubert said. “You do this for the love of the sport and for the family it comes with.”
If you are interested in supporting the bowlers, contact Jeanette Carter at 508-944-9391.