The season ahead for Nebraska bowling is an unfamiliar one.
Late last month, the team got a first look at their renovated practice facilities. The project includes technological and aesthetic upgrades that have head coach Paul Klempa excited to be back with his team.
The renovations, according to Klempa, address one major goal: giving his bowlers the tools to succeed.
“Somebody gives you something that nice, you want to thank them by performing … you want to perform at a higher level,” he said.
Changes to the facilities included replacing fundamentals like the lanes and pinsetters. Klempa also described a new advancement that would give his bowlers real-time analytics and feedback to improve their game.
“Probably the neatest thing that we get as far as technology is a product called Specto,” he said. “It’s a single sensor that covers all six of our lanes. Any time someone throws a ball down that lane, it is recording what it did.”
Specto’s software provides data on over 50 different variables as the ball travels down the lane. Bowlers can use a mobile app to get instant feedback on ball speed, position and revolution rates.
Aside from the upgrades aimed at giving the team a competitive advantage, various amenities were also overhauled.
“There’s a players’ lounge that’s bigger than any we’ve ever had. Nice seating, snack bar, fridge, microwave and a couple of TVs. It’s really nice,” Klempa said.
The team was also given a new pro shop and locker room to better accommodate equipment needs. While the upgrades will undoubtedly enhance the experience of bowlers already on the roster, the second-year head coach is also looking toward the future.
“If you’re after the top player in the country, and you’re offering them a full ride, and so are other schools, then the quality of your facilities can be one of the things that make a difference,” Klempa said. “So, absolutely, it cannot hurt recruiting. It’s only going to help it.”
Klempa’s optimism for the future is tempered, though, by the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season. After last year’s season was cut short just before the NCAA tournament due to COVID-19, there is still no official plan that has been agreed upon for the 2020-2021 bowling season.
“Normally, we have three tournaments in the fall. We’re not doing those,” Klempa said. “That means that we’re hopeful we’ll be able to start in January.”
Out of the nine conferences to sponsor women’s bowling, two of them have decided to move forward with fall competition: the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) and the Southland Bowling League.
After Nebraska won the national championship in 2015, the next four title winners have come from the GLVC or Southland. Klempa is keenly aware that perennial contenders like McKendree, Vanderbilt and Stephen F. Austin are planning fall competitions while Nebraska remains sidelined. Developing bowlers in practice without the pressure of a live match has become critical.
“Normally, you would have two or three tournaments in the fall where you go out and kind of take inventory of what you have as far as players,” Klempa said. “You make decisions going forward, and, by the second semester, you’ve worked out the areas physically that they need to work out. You’ve determined what personnel you’re going to be using.”
Klempa hinted at some upcoming decisions to be made regarding potential formats for the bowling season. The head coach said he only wants one thing: uniformity.
“I think the NCAA Bowling Committee is going to be meeting Oct. 6 to make decisions on the bowling season — and that includes competition. I’m hopeful that they do some sort of thing across the board,” he said. “Uniformity on who gets to compete when. Allowing [matches] prior to other ones is not good for competitive integrity.”
Despite the absence of competition for Nebraska currently, Klempa still feels the pressure to compete. The introduction of the new facilities as a tangible economic investment into the team has compounded that pressure.
“I think, naturally, there needs to be some pressure when you’re given something like this, a renovation so nice,” he said. “If you don’t have an increased level of gratitude for that, it will impact your performance, and, frankly, the impact of luck. I think that if you don’t have a greater level of appreciation for what you’ve been given, then you will pay the price.”