Canadian bowling coach Frank Buffa takes his sport seriously – and so he should. The one-time physics professor is a multilingual, internationally respected figure on the global scene, and a United States Bowling Congress gold-certified coach – ‘one of only a handful in the world’, he explains proudly. As head coach for the UAE’s national bowling team, Buffa (pictured right) spends much of his time bouncing between home, the Middle East and the countries to which their tournaments take them. Next up is Hong Kong, where the team will compete in the 22nd Asian Ten-Pin Bowling Championships, which kicks off on Sunday September 2.
But Buffa’s mission is not just to coach the big names in bowling. Much of his time in the UAE is spent educating potential coaches at bowling centres around the country in a bid to spread the culture of bowling as
a sport, encouraging people to learn at least the basics in order to enjoy it.
When we meet at Dubai International Bowling Centre, he winces as he motions towards a family hurling balls down one particular lane with reckless abandon, pointing out that the sides of the gutter have been raised. ‘That’s not the game. There’s no satisfaction in that – it’s not fun,’ he explains, as we watch one youngster turn the alley into a pinball machine, his ball ricocheting off the barriers before losing momentum altogether. Buffa has just returned to Dubai after a four-day stint in Abu Dhabi, instructing potential coaches. ‘No one is offering lessons here,’ he explains, though he notes it’s not just a local problem. There is a lack of coaching worldwide – an enormous shame for what he describes as the most popular participation sport in the world. ‘A survey in the US showed that 77 percent of first-time bowlers don’t go back, as there’s no one to show them the basics, and when they keep getting it wrong they lose interest.’ When I ask if he thinks those figures would transfer pretty evenly to Dubai’s relationship with bowling, he nods. ‘It’s the same all over the world,’ he explains.
If you’re starting to wonder about your own relationship with bowling, Buffa notes that the most common mistake is holding the ball incorrectly. To give me an accurate illustration, he motions towards a young girl in a lane nearby. I watch as she raises the ball almost to her head, drops it to her side and tosses it forward with the back of her hand towards the ten pins lined up neatly in front of her.
Buffa says his biggest bugbear is that bowling is still yet to be taken up as an Olympic sport, which he puts down to a lack of marketing and lobbying – and, of course, a lack of coaches, which makes it difficult for the sport to be taken seriously. But, bit by bit, this is something Buffa aims to change. When not travelling the world coaching everyone from national teams to beginners, he also runs his own training centre in Montreal: he explains that people come from all over the world to learn from one of the best. He’s also in the business of bowling equipment.
It’s a strange twist of fate when a physics professor finds himself in a position to take up his hobby full-time, but undoubtedly fortunate for the UAE national team (and anyone in Dubai in need of their first lesson). From the look of the skill level on the lanes, they’ll be queuing out the door.
Coaching Dhs150 per hour; lane hire from Dhs60 per lane per hour. Dubai International Bowling Centre, next to Century Mall, Al Mamzar (050 126 1671, 04 296 9222).
Buffa’s golden rules
1. Have a lesson and learn from a professional. If you keep getting it wrong, there’s no enjoyment.
2. Choose the right ball. Your thumb and fingers should fit in all three holes, all the way.
3. Don’t use any muscles when you bowl. You should just be swinging through from the shoulder.