Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio - University of Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham has named Bret Little and Phil Karl as the head coach and assistant coach, respectively, of the school's new men's and women's bowling programs.
Little - the proprietor of Skyline Lanes in Gallipolis, Ohio since 2013 - is a 1997 graduate of the University of Rio Grande who has played in multiple leagues and tournaments over the course of his career, including an attempt to join the Professional Bowlers Association in the early 1990s.
Little obtained his first coaching certificate from the United States Bowling Congress in 2008, before earning Bronze level status from the USBC in 2014 and Silver level status in 2015.
"Jeff approached me about being the head coach back in July 2015 and it's been a work in progress ever since," Little said. "Bowling is a growing sport, particularly at the youth and collegiate levels. The big plan right now is to get things up and running and to make a good showing this first year and then go from there."
Lanham said he's happy that Little agreed to come aboard as the front man of the fledgling program.
"When we started talking about adding bowling as a sport at Rio, there was no hesitation that Coach Little was the person to lead this program toward achieving its goals," said Lanham. "Bret's experience as a trained bowling coach will help him on his skill development of our young program."
Little, who garnered his first coaching certificate from the Young American Bowling Alliance in the late 1990s, also received his IBPSIA (International Bowling Pro Shop Instructor's Association) certification in 2015.
Karl, a native of New Jersey, is a graduate of Taylor (Ind.) University and Miami (Ohio) University who spent 36 years as a teacher/administrator at schools in College Corner, Ohio and Jackson, Ohio.
During his career in public education, Karl had stints coaching cross country, basketball and track & field, while also teaching bowling as an activity course as an undergraduate at Taylor.
"I'm very excited about being named the assistant coach at the University of Rio Grande and building and developing the program from its roots," Karl said. "We're presently building the program through extensive electronic means, as well as one-on-one contact with athletes and their parents at bowling matches and various levels of state tournament competition."
Karl, who is certified by the USBC as a Bronze Level coach, is well-schooled in the sport. He was an eight-year member of the PBA who participated in 30 tournaments, including the 2012 US Open, with a top finish of 17th in the 2005 Storm Open.
Karl, who has five perfect games in his career, was also a 10-year participant in the USBC National Open Championship and placed fourth in the 2005 Ohio Senior Singles Tournament.
His responsibilities will include recruiting, assisting in skill development and monitoring the academic work of the bowlers.
"Bret and coach Karl have both been heavily involved with the recruiting process," Lanham added. "The passion and determination both these coaches show is the first step to a successful program."
"Phil has been a Godsend to the program," Little said. "He's put in a lot of miles on the road thus far trying to keep up with the kids who have contacted us. It's been a little easier for him to get out and talk to people that it has been for myself to this point, plus he brings a lot of experience to the table."
With bowling not among the sports sponsored by the River States Conference, where Rio Grande is currently a full-time member, the school is considering joining the American Heartland Intercollegiate Bowling Conference or becoming an associate member of the Mid-South Conference.
"I've talked with the guy who runs the American Heartland Conference and he definitely wants us to join," said Little. "That league has schools from nearly every division in the NCAA and NAIA, predominantly from the Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania area. It's the option we're probably leaning toward at this point."
Little added that the early returns on how the program is being received are very good.
"Once people started to find out about us, it's taken off like wildfire," he said. "We've made a lot of contacts with high school coaches in a 100-mile radius, but we've not done a lot of out-of-state recruiting yet, simply because of the interest we've gained inside the state."
Little said he and Karl are planning on hosting a number of clinics in the coming weeks to help with the recruiting process, in addition to working with area high schools on the task of starting programs of their own. While more than 400 high schools in the Buckeye State currently sponsor bowling programs, none of those are found locally."
"Coaching is the easy part," said Little. "Learning the ropes with everything else that's involved has been the big thing for us. That's where you can get overwhelmed."
Individuals who are interested in becoming part of the Rio bowling program are asked to contact either Little or Karl by e-mail ([email protected] or [email protected]) or by completing the online recruiting form which can be found on the school's athletics website, www.rioredstorm.com.