Standout bowler Norma Manns is scoring points in competition and in life.

Story and photo by Gretchen M. Sanders

Norma Manns bowled her first game at age 20. In her 30s, she wanted to get better, so she watched professional female bowlers on television, studying every shot they made. With no consistent coach, Manns practiced what the pros did, trying out her skills in small tournaments, to much success. Soon, people wanted her to teach them all she knew. “I left corporate America and became a full-time bowling coach,” Manns says.

Manns traveled the country collecting coaching certi cations, eventually taking over one of the largest youth bowling programs in the country at the now-shuttered Showplace Lanes.

And since many of her students could not afford college, she took them throughout the country to compete for scholarship money. It proved a good plan. Nearly 20 of her students went to college on full or partial bowling scholarships, including her daughter, Anita Manns Arnett, who bowled for Wichita State University.

“I taught these kids life skills through bowling,” Manns says. “I wanted them to know that they’re not always going to win, but that they can still compete.”

Several of her other students went on to bowl internationally for Team USA and, in 2005, Manns coached and bowled for an adult team that won the Women’s United States Bowling Congress Championships.

Today, Manns manages insurance for MX3 Homes and teaches bowling in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. She also captains an eight-woman bowling team in a traveling league.

With time and age, Manns, now 59, is only getting better.

“I shot my highest score yet, a 290, in San Antonio in November,” she says.

A score of 300 is a perfect game.Here’s how this self-taught champ keeps bowling strikes.

The a.m.:

“I have prayer time at 4 a.m., and then I usually do a Beach Body video workout at home. I make spinach, kale and fruit smoothies for my husband and me every morning and drink mine on my way to work. I get there by 6:30 a.m.”

The Workout:

“I usually spend three evenings a week at Dart Bowl. I get there around 5 p.m. and teach or practice for two hours. I stretch before I start because I sit in front of a computer all day, and my muscles need to warm up. If I’m not giving a lesson, then I’ll bowl a few games alone, working on different skills. Bowling keeps my arms toned, but my legs get the real workout. The sport requires more endurance than one might think. In competition, most bowlers will bowl three games, with each game lasting anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. I don’t sit between turns, so I’m on my feet a long time. If you bowl correctly, it’s definitely exercise, and it’s easier if you stay physically fit. That’s why it’s not uncommon for me to speed walk 3 miles at a school track on my way home.”

The Diet:

“I eat throughout the day because I have a fast metabolism. About an hour after my early morning smoothie, I eat breakfast, oatmeal with raspberries and an egg. I snack on grapes before having a tuna sandwich for lunch. Cheese, nuts and cranberries hold me over in the afternoon until a dinner of grilled salmon, baked potato and salad—all made by my husband. People say I eat a lot, but I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t have a sweet tooth. I try to drink four 16-ounce bottles of water a day and eat trail mix if I’m really craving something sweet. When I’m competing, I avoid salt so I don’t retain water. Salt makes my hand swell and not fit my ball.”

The Gear:

“I bowl in walking shorts so I can bend and get low to the floor. When I go to tournaments, I always carry a minimum of six bowling balls drilled specifically for my hand. Balls are drilled to do different things, and they have different surfaces. Some balls are shiny, others dull, but they all react differently to the oil on a lane. Not all lanes are the same. Oil patterns on the lane change from day to day and determine how the ball will behave. A bowler must learn how to read oil patterns and know which ball to use. Each of my balls weighs about 14 pounds. I haul them around in roll bags and do all the handling myself. I wear special bowling shoes with detachable soles and a Rev-X glove to keep my right wrist in position. It helps my balls hit the pins harder. I also tape my fingers at the base for support.”

The Motivation:

“I grew up poor, so I believe that it doesn’t matter if you’re a garbage woman, just be the best one they’ve got. I’m motivated to be the best bowler I can be. Even at my age, I don’t feel like I’ve peaked yet. I can get better. As long as I stay t, I know it’s possible to improve. I’m more t than many of the other bowlers out there.”

The Mindset:

“I don’t say negative things to myself. I say, ‘I’m strong, I’m powerful.’ ”

The p.m.:

“I watch tennis, basketball, [University of Texas] volleyball or really any sport on TV to wind down. My husband played football in high school, and I was a cheerleader at Huston-Tillotson. Our house is nothing but sports. I turn them off by 9:30 p.m., though, because athletes need more than six hours of sleep. Bowlers are athletes!”



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