Gucwa named head coach of NCC's new women's bowling program
Rich Gucwa Jr.'s earliest memory of bowling occurred when he was 4 years old, watching his father during a tournament at the former Holiday Bowl in the Chicago area.
Gucwa's dad — whom he called a “high-level bowler” in the area — shot a 300 game and posted an 804 series, which was a rare feat when it occurred in 1974.
The younger Gucwa said he remembered the rest of the action in the entire bowling center, which contained more than 70 lanes, coming to a halt as people watched his dad bowl his final frame of the day.
“He seemed like a superhero to me that day,” Gucwa recently told Will County Gazette. “I've been hooked on bowling ever since.”
Gucwa now gets to bring his lifelong passion and knowledge of the sport to North Central College as the first head coach for the new women's bowling program. The announcement was made Dec. 29 on www.northcentralcardinals.com.
"We feel fortunate to hire a person with as much knowledge, coaching experience and passion for the sport of bowling as Rich Gucwa Jr.," Jim Miller, NCC director of athletics, said on the website. "Rich has numerous contacts in the Chicago region where many successful bowling programs exist. Our hope is to use these contacts to establish a recruiting base that will allow us to build a highly competitive women's bowling team."
According to the announcement, women's bowling will be a winter sport and begin October 2017 at NCC.
Gucwa's early fascination with the sport has ballooned into a profession, both competing and coaching. According to the NCC website, he used to be in the Professional Bowlers Association as part of his 20 years of bowling competitively.
Moreover, Gucwa has 15 years of experience as a private and high school coach. Bowlers Journal has named him a “Top 100” coach each of the last three years, and he was the varsity boys' bowling coach from 2007-14 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Prep in Elmhurst.
The appeal of bowling is twofold for Gucwa: it can be played at practically any age, and the lanes themselves present challenges.
“You can be competitive at age 10 or at age 60: (Professional bowlers) Pete Weber and Walter Ray Williams are still out there doing it in their 50s,” he said. “It's also a mentally challenging sport. The lane condition is essentially the 'defense.' It's invisible and it moves.”
Gucwa said bowling is a growing sport at colleges these days. Augustana College will be adding a women's bowling team starting this fall, according to NCC's athletic website -- joining established programs at Aurora University, Elmhurst College and McKendree University.
“There is so much great young talent in the Chicagoland area that it makes perfect sense that many colleges and universities continue to add bowling to their athletic programs,” he said.
Starting a program from scratch, Gucwa added, involves a wide scope of tasks -- recruiting, hiring an assistant coach, designing uniforms, scheduling, and setting up exercise, nutrition and practice plans. But it's a job Gucwa seems thrilled to tackle.
“I'm incredibly honored and excited to be named the inaugural coach for the NCC women's bowling team,” he said. “To have the opportunity to develop a team and a culture from scratch at this level is rare. I am definitely looking forward to the challenge.”