Expect no pin left standing when Aleta Sill is in the alley. This Livonia lady’s record will bowl you over – 31-time women’s bowling champ, first female bowler to earn $1 million, dozens of perfect games. But she’s also a down-to-earth booster of this old-school cool sport, which she teaches kids as young as 5 at Country Lanes in Farmington Hills. Since she was just inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame – and it being Women’s History Month – we chatted her up for her story and to find out why bowling is great for children.
Think Sill was throwing strikes as a tyke? Nope. She began bowling at the tender age of 5, when her grandparents took her along to the alley one night. “They let me throw some balls after their league. It was something that I wanted to do every week, but I kept throwing gutter balls,” she laughs. As an incentive, her grandparents promised her new equipment. By 12, Sill was learning with a coach and began playing professionally shortly out of high school.
From pro to coach
Sill got good. Really good. “The best score in bowling is a 300, and I have 35 or 36 of those,” she says. She’s one of two bowlers to win the Triple Crown – twice. She toured for 21 years, retiring in 2001. She’s now in the role of teacher with longtime pal Michelle Mullen. Every year since ’05, she notes, they’ve had a student win a state champ as a freshman. “When you see these kids and they are scoring, that’s the best feeling. They are growing up big, and they are doing great things.”
Besides bowling – and golfing and gardening – Sill’s top love may be her seven pets. Rescue animals have been a big part of her life. “Princess” stands out. Sill nurtured this 12-year-old husky, who had diabetes and eventually went blind and deaf, during the dog’s later life. “Her last few years had probably been tough,” Sill says, “so it gave me pleasure giving her a great final few.”
A natural fit for kids
Once kids start bowling, many love it. There are few physical restrictions, for one. “Anyone can do it.” Newbies get hooked fast, despite a dip in participation in recent years. Sill’s top tip? “Good ball fit.” A pro shop like hers – Aleta Sill Bowling World, at Country Lanes – can help get that ball custom fit. This prevents problems like tendinitis later on. Technique is key in avoiding knee injury, too.
Interested in lessons? Sill’s youth coaching rates run $65 for 45 minutes. She teaches the basics, how to spot and avoid traps and even records students to see where they’re improving. Partner Mullen also offers training for special needs kids. Learn more by calling 248-615-9060 or visiting Your Bowling Coach on the web.
Around May, visit kidsbowlfree.com to see how kids can get two free games of bowling daily, all summer long, at select lanes in southeast Michigan. And on Aug. 8, Country Lanes hosts Bowl 4 Rescue, an all-ages event that raises cash for local pet rescues.
Country Lanes’ winter typical bowling hours are 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. It’s at at 30250 W. Nine Mile Road in Farmington Hills. 248-476-3201 or on the web.
Bowling Fun Facts
- George Washington, our first president, kept in shape by bowling. He played an outdoor lawn version on a “bowling green.”
- The youngest bowler to bowl a perfect game was Hannah Diem of Florida. She was 9 years, 6 months and 19 days old at the time.
- Bowling can actually earn kids money for college. Up to $6 million in scholarship prizes are given out each year.
- The Detroit area tops the nation in number of registered bowlers, checking in at around 59,772. That easily eclipses Chicago’s second-place 27,664.
Fact Sources: South Eastern Michigan Bowling Centers Association, Bowl.com (United States Bowling Congress), U.S. Bowling Congress/Detroit News 2012 stats.