“We have a cabinet full of shiny Trophies and medals, some even framed. All have memories, some are more special than others – Junior Triple Crown, EYC and other championships, Collegiate events etc. but, most of all are the memories they hold.“
It is not often you see interviews with the people behind the people. Star bowlers naturally get attention but sometimes the real story is behind the scenes. A fact is, behind every great bowler there is a support network and that usually always starts with family. In a three part series, we wanted to speak with three parents across the vast zone that is talent and stardom. The series will see us speak to a World Star’s parent, a parent of an up and coming star and a parent of a junior with dreams of becoming a great bowler. Despite a gulf in experience they are all connected in many ways.
We continue with Phil Crawley in England and ask what it is like being father of rising star Verity Crawley?
Verity just went out of the 2016 Queens event in the states but it was another very promising performance on the back of last years amazing run at Queens. When you look at her game now, I guess you can see all the hard work she has put in?
It’s an amazing journey and change – to remember when she first picked up a ball, her transition through teenage years, the Youth circuit in the UK and in Europe, playing for Junior Team England and Youth Worlds in Hong Kong. The move to the US to become a student athlete at Webber University – the support along the way from all the coaches – in the UK ( Steve Thornton, Jon Zadel, Jim Missen) and also across the world – like Sid Allen, Del Warren and her current coach in the US – Randy Stoughton – it’s a real tear jerker to see her personal growth and her development in Bowling, both in her physical and mental game.
Can you explain the feeling last year when Verity lead Queens?
Amazing, we were so proud and pleased for her. She had worked really hard on her game all year and was disappointed that Webber didn’t have a great Collegiate nationals. But at Queens, it was something else. She really matched up and played so well. Amazing play at the qualifiers, just a shame that it didn’t continue in match play. That said, she beat some world class players in qualifying – onwards and upwards as they say.
When you look at your daughter as she starts out on her adult career what advice can you give her as a father beginning to let your child fly?
Strive to always do your best. Life has its up’s and down’s and disappointments, but work through them and follow your dreams. You will meet people along the way that will help, but also hinder you, believe in yourself and enjoy life. You only live once – take the opportunities when you can but remember, we are always here for you.
Let’s go back now Phil, How did bowling come into the Crawley family, was it when Verity came along or before that?
It started many years ago, my wife bowled as a junior and also in leagues before we married, when she moved to the South, she didn’t bowl, until we went to one of my works evenings – bowling! She was asked to sub for a team and then she continued to Bowl.
When the kids came along, like most people, we went bowling one day – to the local bowl and saw 50+ children bowling, our two were asked would they like to try this and that was it. They both started bowling at 6 and 11 years old. It snowballed, both of us then got involved with the Youth Bowling Club, my wife first, who qualified as a Coach and then I got involved , again qualifying as a coach and for the past 16 years have helped run the YBC – to help promote bowling.
Was bowling just fun for Verity at first or was it apparent early on she might have something?
Initially it was fun, after all, she was a 6 year old. Within a very short space of time, she started doing more competitions as part of the Youth Bowling Club and started to play a Sunday morning league for fun. By the time she was 9 or 10, she was playing at a County level for Dorset and was more involved in the Youth circuit at that time, you could see something was developing.
Then she started having coaching from Carly Thornton (Steve Thornton’s wife) and you could see her developing, unfortunately Carly stopped, however, then Zara Glover (now Giles took over) and she seemed to blossom. Zara also moved on and Jon Zadel took over – you could see Verity developing.
By this time Verity was about 11ish and the Junior circuit was beckoning, her Brother was playing and she started playing the circuit.
Eventually you hit the UK junior scene, competitive yes and not just the kids lol, Endless trips around the country and hotel rooms. How hard is it as parents to be involved or was being involved just easy for you both?
How very true, not only is it competitive on the lanes, but also off the lanes too – clearly as parents you want your offspring to do well, but at times, this can cloud personal relationships – will it ever change , unlikely, but as long as the “kids “ enjoy and do well, we should all be pleased for them.
Remember, at one time, we had two bowling the circuit and as you say, countless weekends away, hotels, travelling this country and Europe, but we made some brilliant friends, met lots of really great people, it becomes your social scene. Both my wife and I were totally engrossed and involved in this scene, it took over your life – as it does many parents on the circuit.
It was also not easy letting go when Verity went to the US, the involvement on tournaments went from full on to nothing, a real void, but you watch streaming when you can, you get really sad and also watch some static live scoring, it’s hard, and if you get an opportunity to travel to see them play, then you jump at it, circumstances permitting.
Would we do it all again? Of course we would – bowling has given Verity many opportunities to thrive and develop and it also has given us the opportunity to travel and meet some great people.
You mention there the all to nothing part of the journey you as a family are on. You have been to the USA to see Verity play, How different has that been to the English way of events and competition?
So, we have seen lots of collegiate bowling on live stream and also watched various PBA and more recently PWBA events on streaming, but nothing prepares you for the atmosphere of collegiate events, especially the Inter Collegiate Championships.
The buzz about the event is fantastic, it’s competitive and so it should be, but everyone is friendly, they all route for each other and players have friends from many other University teams. I think the difference is their preparation – they really prepare as a team.
To watch them warm-up as teams on the lanes is amazing, they communicate well, they trust each other, they play as one, rather than as individuals. Of course their own results are important to the individual player, but it’s a team focus – certainly the baker format of play supports this and it’s essential for success.
Many of these teams and players have been together for 4 years, so they know each other’s games, maybe we should have something similar in the UK, when the squad comes together and stays together – maybe it might develop our play? However, these athletes training together in the region of 5 times a week.
For parents just starting the whole junior scene or those early into it, what advice can you give them to save money or stay sane?
That’s really difficult, as it all depends on your own circumstances. However, we committed to supporting both of our children in the tour, so it was our decision. How to save money ?….. it might be possible to share travel costs of you are close to another family/player, you also need to consider what events should be played or not, but again difficult as if the player has a poor event, they may need to do the next, which is at the other end of the country.
I don’t think there is a magic bullet to help this, you have to consider everything. As for staying sane – you have to be realistic about the goals and are they achievable, in the end enjoy what you have and what your children do, be there for support through the good times , but also the bad.
What was the process behind Verity going to Webber University, was she selected or did you as a family do the selecting?
Originally Verity was going to study at Winchester University, but following her great achievements at the EYC in Aalborg, she had numerous offers to study in the US. We discussed this with Sid Allen, who has always kept an eye on her, and with his recommendation and discussions with Del Warren at Kegel, she was offered a place a Webber International. We reviewed some of the others, but felt that Webber was the most appropriate. It was all so quick, from initial discussions to her 1st semester was under 4 months, it was very hard, very stressful and heart breaking – but we have to say, worth it for her, the experience, friendships and collegiate bowling have been amazing.
As an outsider looking in, what is the situation with Verity in terms of being available for Team England. She should really be in that team, Is there a reason this is not the case yet due to her unable to get to the trials?
So, not an easy one to answer, however………………
Verity applied for and gained a wild card for this year, unfortunately at the time she was also trying to get another Visa to stay in the US for a further 12 months after graduation, which meant that until this was granted, if she left the US, she would not be able to return without this Visa.
Team England wanted her to attend training in the UK for the weekend– firstly she couldn’t leave the US, she was still studying and may not have been able to return due to her Visa. Secondly, the final costs of return flights to the US. More importantly, Team England wanted to know which events she could play if selected, again the Visa issue was prominent, in that Verity was unable to commit to events, until she knew she could return to the US, the Team management wanted to know in a few days. This was a really difficult and traumatic experience for her, in the end, she felt there was no option, but to decline the wild card and her potential place.
Her concern over this, is that it might preclude her in the future, she doesn’t know at this moment in time, what next year brings – will she be able to stay and work in the US or will she return home – it’s an unknown. One sure thing – she will still be bowling.
What I can say, is that she loves the sport, she loves playing and would be so proud to play again for her country. Who knows what will happen in the future, what I do know is that if it were possible to play for England, she would take the opportunity and hopefully circumstances would be different, allowing her to do so.
When you look at bowling in the UK, what do you see and do you see ways to do some things better?
My cup is always half full! We can always do things better and should strive to do so, but I believe everyone needs to pull together from the grassroots upwards. Like many, I don’t know the answer, leagues are dwindling in numbers, some YBC’s are growing, others dwindling – we need to enthuse young people into the sport at all levels, we need to publise the great successes our bowlers have – in the UK, Europe and beyond.
Bowling is still not seen as a sport by some, we need to change this, we need funding to enable our key players to develop and grow. Other countries receive sports funding and have major educational programmes in place – what is there in the UK?
If you had to make a snap guess at how much money you spent getting Verity to the position she is now, how many tens of thousands could it be?
If I really thought about how much money we have spent over the years, I’d say – how did we manage to do that, it’s unbelievable how much it has cost. You have alluded to figures in your question, I suspect it’s in that order of magnitude. However whatever the cost, its’ been worth it.
What we know now, would we do it again – I suspect the answer is Yes
A kind of second part the previous question, What key choices along the way made her future possible?
It is hard to think about what choices were made. For us – she loved the sport, and so did we, so our choice was to support her in the Junior Tour and beyond. When you look back it makes you wonder how you did this – the weekends away in the UK and Europe, the hotels, the costs, the equipment, but somehow you do and we did. You sacrifice somethings for the benefit of others
We have always supported her in what she has done. It’s a conscious choice we made, if that meant using savings/investments it was our decision to do so.
The Crawley house, a house full of trophies I would bet? Do they have a shine of sorts like other bowlers or too many and in the loft?
We have a cabinet full of shiny Trophies and medals, some even framed. All have memories, some are more special than others – Junior Triple Crown, EYC and other championships, Collegiate events etc. but, most of all are the memories they hold.
Finally Phil, of everything Verity has done in her life, What makes you the most proud of her?
Being our daughter: she is who she is, she’s a confident individual with a passion for her sport – my wife and I are so proud of her: for who she is, what she has done and how she conducts herself through life.