When it comes to knocking down pins, Maddie Calvert is among Canada’s best.
The 20-year-old lifelong Thorold resident has won numerous youth awards, and is ready to represent his country in the Dominican Republic this summer.
Born into a bowling family, his first approach on the lanes came with five-pin bowling at age three. By the time he was five, Calvert was tackling 10 pens in the YBC (Youth Bowl Canada).
“It’s in our blood,” he said.
His home base is Jeff’s Bowlarama in Welland, when he’s not competing in lanes across North America, that is.
“These last couple years have been insane,” he told ThoroldNews. “Every weekend, I travel to tournaments. I have a job at Bass Pro, and all the weekends off they’ve given me are amazing.”
However, he wasn’t always a champion.
“I was basically your average bowler” in the beginning, he confessed. “In 2011, I finally broke through and represented YBC in the nationals in Regina.”
Calvert credits Steve Cadron with helping launch his success.
“For many years, the youth bowling program at Jeff’s (Bowlarama) was small, and he made it very large, and he’s the reason we’re so known for bowling now in Niagara.”
In addition, said Calvert, “Steve started a league that’s a little more challenging.”
According to Brian Staneff, Calvert’s coach, “Youth started to travel” four years ago to bowl competitively, which is when he “started noticing Maddie.”
“I’ve watched him bowl and learn the game, to the point where I think he’s one of the better youth bowlers in Ontario. The last two years, he’s had the highest youth bowling average in Ontario for his age category. Maddie has one of the best deliveries I’ve seen.”
Maintaining a 222 to 223 average in his Monday night league takes much more than lofting balls down a lane, his coach explained.
“There’s the technical and the physical part. The physical part is easy. The technical part in understanding the lane conditions takes a lot of time to learn. Maddie knows the conditions.”
Staneff continued, “There’s a coat of oil on the lanes,” and various "patterns" to contend with. “The ball reacts differently, depending on the conditions.”
To combat changing conditions in various lanes, “You need about six different balls,” added Calvert. “I have 12 bowling balls and every one does a different thing.”
Whether he’s bowling in Cleveland, Regina, or Dallas, “Sometimes they don’t tell you conditions,” he said, “and some limit the number of balls.”
Flying with bags full of bowling balls is another challenge, so most of the time, he drives.
“I try to attend tournaments with Maddie,” said Staneff, “and team trials, the Canadian National team tryouts twice, and have been with him at tournaments. He’s focused, and when Maddie’s bowling well, he’s tough to beat.”
Calvert said he finds competitive bowling to be “probably 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical. If I feel uncomfortable and I don’t have control of a match, I test my opponent’s mental game. I use a lot of reverse psychology.”
A few weeks ago, he said, “I won two singles and the Ontario Singles Scratch division and placed fourth for the Canadian Youth championship. The day that I won, that was very emotional.”
In July, he’ll be off to Detroit for the Junior Bowl championships. He’s also preparing to compete on an international level this August, when he’ll represent Canada in the 2019 PABCON (Pan American Bowling Confederation) Youth Championships in Santo Domingo.
Most tournament winnings amount to a few hundred dollars, which go into a scholarship fund, said Staneff, “that he has access to for post-secondary education.”
A self-proclaimed “tree-hugger,” Calvert is currently studying environmental technology at Niagara College, and said he’ll “try to find a job in that sector when I graduate.”
In the bowling world, he’ll be considered a youth for two more years before moving into the adult category.
“I have my sights set on qualifying for the Canadian team trials in Montreal. I’m hoping to get into the adult tour in Canada.”
“It’s pretty cool to see the world with a bowling ball.”