Women’s Club Bowling team | Photo by Club Bowling team.
From bowling with his parents at the age of 10 to his retirement, bowling has always been a part of Jeff Fleck’s life.
The coach started a club team for his son to enjoy the sport while saving money for college. Sixteen years later, with the women’s club team now becoming varsity, Fleck has the opportunity to coach the sport that has defined his life at an NCAA level.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Fleck said. “I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been doing for 16 years as the club coach, but it was always a pipe dream back when we started the program, that if the numbers were right we could maybe go NCAA.”
From the ground up
Starting a club for Fleck was always more for fun than competition
“My daughter bowled in college, and my son told me that if we started a program here, that he could commute and we could save some money,” Fleck laughed. “That literally was the impetus for the club.”
Two national club championships on the women’s side and one on the men’s side won earlier this month have cemented the club as consistently one of the best.
“Jeff knows how to build a successful, competitive bowling program while having a lot of fun at the same time. Student-athletes who have gone through the program come out as stronger bowlers, but also become better people along the way,” Colleen McKee, a women’s club bowling coach, said.
Fleck now has the chance to do what he loves full time. With his retirement coming up in August, he’ll be able to dedicate his time to coaching for NCAA bowling.
“The timing worked out really good because I’m actually retiring in August,” Fleck said. “I’ve always said that if I could ever spend enough time doing this, I would love to do it.”
A player’s perspective
One of Fleck’s strengths as a coach is building a positive culture in his team.
“I’m a big believer in teamwork,” Fleck said. “I’ve always enjoyed the aspect of playing to win, but having fun while doing it.”
McKee, who played under Fleck for four years, credits him for her knowledge as a bowler and as a coach.
“I would not be the bowler or coach that I am today if not for him. At tournaments, no other coach is as excited and enthusiastic as Jeff. It is very clear how much he cares about his bowlers, and the program itself,” McKee said.
Through Fleck’s coaching style and love for the game, several of the club’s alumni have become coaches of their own programs, both at the high school and college levels.