By Stacee Sledge
While bowling with friends last summer, Sehome High School teacher Erin Furda joked that her dream job would be to coach a bowling team. Little did she know that within just a few months, she’d be doing exactly that.
Last fall the Bellingham School District put out word that it was looking for a coach for girls’ bowling; they hoped to have teams from Bellingham High School, Sehome High School, and Squalicum High School.
Only one student from BHS expressed interest, but 10 girls from both Sehome and Squalicum – enough for two full rosters – jumped at the chance. And when Furda heard about the coaching opportunity, she did too.
“I applied more out of a personal interest in coaching,” Furda says. “I was really involved in athletics when I was in high school and I’ve always wanted to coach.” But the demands that can come with many coaching positions kept her away.
“Most coaching positions have a really serious time commitment – five, six, seven days a week,” Furda says. “I have young kids at home and it’s just not something I was ready to commit to yet.”
With a shorter season, she expected coaching bowling to have a lighter time commitment, giving Furda the opportunity to interact with students in that capacity and be involved in sports again.
“I threw my hat in the ring,” she says, smiling, “and they hired me!”
The season began in early November and will run through the District Tournament on January 30. If they qualify, the teams will head to the State Tournament in early February.
Turns out, Furda dedicates a lot of her time to coaching – but she doesn’t regret it for a moment.
“It does take a lot,” she says with a laugh. “We practice or have a match four days a week.”
Many of those matches are held outside of Bellingham, as most of the teams are in Marysville, Lynnwood, Everett, and the Seattle area.
“We do a lot of traveling,” Furda says. “We often leave the school at 1:00 p.m. and get back at 8:00, 8:30 at night.”
Furda is quick to say she’s having a lot of fun. “I hope I get to keep doing it.”
“The girls have to pay their athletic fee like they would for any sport,” Furda explains. “And then it’s up to the team to fundraise for balls and shoes and those types of things.”
Bowling equipment, much like golf, is very personalized; the balls are drilled to fit each girl’s hand.
And thanks to successful fundraising, Furda and the group were heading out the following weekend to get more of the girls their own balls.
“It makes a huge difference,” Furda says of the customized bowling balls. “The house balls are plastic and don’t fit your fingers and hand size. You get a really different result. Professional bowlers will have three or four different balls, almost like a golfer with different clubs.”
Furda admits she’s learned a lot right alongside her girls this season.
“I didn’t try to pretend that I had a lot of bowling knowledge coming into this,” she says, laughing. “I’ve tried to model that you can always learn new things – and once you commit to a team, you can learn and get better.”
“That’s been a really important partnership for us,” says Furda. “He approached us simply out of love for the game.”
She also credits the local bowling community with helping the teams feel supported.
“A lot of people are just really happy to see young people bowling, and for the sport to be revitalizing,” she says.
Furda’s favorite thing about this first year of coaching has been watching the two high schools train together and form friendships – and she hopes Bellingham High School will join in next season.
“These schools don’t typically get the opportunity to form friendships and to train with people across district, and that has been really awesome to watch,” she says.
The two schools have, in essence, formed one large team – even though they compete against each other.
“That’s honestly been my favorite part,” Furda says. “Mixing girls from different schools and getting to play together and getting to know each other – there’s just such great camaraderie.”