Whitney Fisher is no stranger to firsts on the bowling alley.
In 2001, then Whitney Cox, she earned a state championship for the Alton Redbirds in girls’ bowling, becoming the first bowler to do that in school history and still the only to this point. She accumulated 2,552 pins to win state by 48 pins. That performance also cemented her in the inaugural class of the Alton athletics Hall of Fame in 2011.
Fast forward to 2015, now married and known as Whitney Fisher, she will be a pioneer once again, becoming the first women’s bowling coach at Division II Maryville University in St. Louis.
Still a resident of Godfrey, Fisher embraces the challenge and is ready to hit the lanes at full speed. Fisher will start heading the new Saints’ program for the 2015-16 campaign.
“I’m very excited because this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Fisher said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to coach my own collegiate team. I coached high school (Civic Memorial for one year), but to be able to coach in college and start from scratch, I’m very excited. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but it should be fun.”
Fisher’s résumé showcases volumes of experience. Since her prodigious career at AHS, she went on to bowl at Western Illinois University, where she helped the Leathernecks to a No. 3 ranking in the nation and the national tournament in 2005. She rolled three perfect games that year and a high series of 813.
She won the championship of the Midwest Collegiate Singles Tournament that season and was eventually selected by the College Coaches Association as a member of the National All-Tournament Team.
Following her career at WIU, Fisher competed on the Bob Showers Memorial Scratch League, helping guide her team to two consecutive titles. Fisher was also drafted by the Elite Metro East Bowling League.
With her high school and college success, to her time dabbling in professional leagues, Fisher believes it all adds to her arsenal as a head coach. She understands the technical side of bowling and has built relationships with coaches, which will help.
“I think bowling on what we call sports shots instead of house shots is key because that’s all you’re going to bowl on in college,” Fisher said. “When you’re in high school you’re bowling on the easier stuff, which is the house shots. It’s learning how the technology works with the oil, how you have to play the lanes, what bowling balls you can use. The other thing I think I have as an advantage is my relationship with the high school coaches around this area as well as some of the former college coaches around here that I bowled against when I was competing at Western.”
The sports shots compared to the house shots deal with the different oil patterns on high school to college lanes. A house shot uses less oil, meaning dry boards and more hook for the ball. A sports shot consists of heavier oil ratios, meaning the ball travels straighter and accuracy is even more important.
Fisher plans to continue to play in tournaments, so she may have the opportunity to compete against prospective Maryville bowlers at times.
There is an advantage in the recruiting process with this opportunity, according to Fisher.
“I think (playing against prospective bowlers) will definitely help me because of my background and having the experience of the different shots and some of the tournaments I’ve bowled in,” Fisher said. “Bowling and competing with them I think will definitely help.”
The road to this point has been long and winding for Fisher and she’s glad it’s brought her to collegiate coaching. When she thinks back to being a high school champion with the Redbirds, it seems like a lifetime ago now.
“Yes, it does,” Fisher said, laughing. “I hadn’t watched a regional or sectional since my sister (Ashley) had been in school at Alton High, so recently my sister went with me and we checked out the regional and sectional to see what the talent looked like in our local area now.”
Fisher plans to troll the local alleys more consistently now, checking for up and coming talent as possible future women’s bowlers for the Saints.
“Right now Illinois has some really good bowling programs through the high school and a lot of the other states don’t, so it’s been hard finding talented bowlers in the other states,” she said. “I’ve been having to get creative and reach out to some of the bowling alleys to see if they have anybody who is interested in going to college for bowling and what their averages are and all those things to see if they are worth going up and talking to.”
Women’s bowling is the 20th NCAA sport at Maryville University. There are 61 NCAA women’s bowling programs in the country.
The NCAA bowling championships are coming to St. Louis in 2015 and 2018.
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