One of the most distinguished sports teams on the campus of Arkansas State University is the women’s bowling team. Although not highly publicized, Arkansas State Women’s bowling team has become a perennial national championship contender under the instruction and tutelage of head coach, Justin Kostick. Under Kostick, Arkansas State Women’s bowling team has a record of 578 wins and 237 losses, accumulating a 71% winning percentage. The women’s bowling team has developed a winning pedigree, as the team has made nine straight NCAA championship appearances, and has recorded two national semi-finalist finishes in the NCAA tournament. The team’s success speaks for itself, as Justin Kostick has been named NTCA Coach of the Year three times at Arkansas State, which Coach Kostick says is all due to him having great players over the years. Kostick says “The one thing as a coach is you’re just kind of here to guide, but if you don’t have really good players, you can’t win awards like that. A lot of that is a testament of those coach of the years, were we ranked #1 going into the national championship, two out of the three years, and the other year we were second, but we were number one most of the year. A lot of that is attributed to having really good high quality players”. The team has recruited successfully, as they have received high quality players from all over the United States, most significantly developing a pipeline to the state of Michigan. So far this season, the team has compiled a record of 18 wins and 7 losses, with the team’s highest finish being 2nd place in the Wildcat Invitational tournament, hosted in Orlando Florida.
Although many don’t consider bowling a sport, it takes tremendous skill, technique, and mental toughness. Collegiate bowlers are often required to perform under pressure in intense moments when games are close. Thus, bowling players are subjected to similar high pressure situations as sports that are highly respected, such as baseball and basketball. As Coach Justin Kostick puts it, “The mental game is a big factor [in bowling]. You have to be able to quiet your mind. Bowling is very similar to shooting a free throw in basketball”. Women’s collegiate bowling is becoming more popular every year, as there is up to 80 teams in NCAA bowling currently, and there are 6 schools with FBS football, including Arkansas State, that have a women’s bowling team. In collegiate bowling, in order to make the NCAA tournament, the teams must receive an at-large bid; meaning that 8 teams with the best overall records make the tournament to compete for a national championship. In bowling, there are scholarships awarded for players, however the NCAA has two ways of distributing financial aid. Either the NCAA can allow a school to give head count scholarships, meaning a full ride or nothing, or equivalency scholarships, where a program can split up the scholarships however they want amongst the players. Currently Arkansas State has 5 equivalency scholarships, as the program is fully funded with financial aid, with 5 being the maximum amount of scholarships a NCAA bowling team can receive. Women’s bowling is the only form of collegiate bowling sanctioned and funded by the NCAA, as men’s bowling only occurs at the collegiate level in the form of a club sport. Last year’s team amassed 76 total wins, and a total of nine all-tournament player selections throughout the 2014-15 season. Moreover, the highest win total that A-State’s women’s bowling team has ever received is 98 wins, which occurred in the 2013-2014 season, where A-State saw its program atop two consecutive national polls as the number one team in the country for the very first time. Arkansas State competes in the Southland bowling conference with 2 other universities; Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin State University.
Local fans of A-State women’s bowling have a few chances to catch the team in action, as they have a host tournament, that takes place in Jonesboro, Arkansas from January 13th through the 15th, as well as the conference tournament that takes place in March. Arkansas State Women’s bowling team practices and competes at the Hijinx Family Entertainment Center at 3102 Shelby Dr, Jonesboro, AR 72404.
This blog was written by Malcolm R. Miller
Links for additional information about Arkansas State Women’s bowling team
Soundcloud Links to Audio Recordings from Interview with Team