The Nolen family tradition

WARREN – James, Jason and Brianna Nolen find it hard to remember a time in their lives when they weren’t bowling, or the sport wasn’t a part of their lives.

When speaking to the siblings about their early years at the lanes, they might crack on each other or call a bluff on each other’s stories – but that is what siblings do.

Though they may not agree on everything, and though they are at different stages of their high school bowling careers, they are all happy that the sport has become a family tradition.

James, a senior, Jason, a junior, and Brianna, a freshman, are all a part of Warren G. Harding’s bowling team. James and Jason have two of the higher averages on the boys team (202 and 213, respectively), while Brianna, though only a freshman, is the leader on the girls team that is coached by their grandfather, John Nolen – who is the reason all three have grown up in a bowling alley.

“They all started around the ages of 7 or 8,” John said. “I wouldn’t let them start until they could hold the ball in their hand. It’s been a good ride with them.”

John has a long history around the lanes. He used to run the Echo Lanes junior program, has bowled all over the United States in tournaments and currently bowls in some senior leagues in the area when he isn’t coaching the Harding girls.

“I knew I was going to be around it for four years with Brianna anyway,” John said. “I had been a part of it as a grandfather with the boys, but now I’m a coach. It’s nice to have all three of them on the Harding team.”

For all three siblings, each loves something a little bit different about the game. For Brianna, while she enjoys the methods that bowling teaches, it’s another way to do an activity she loves with her friends. For Jason, he said he loves what the sport gives to him in the form of physical activity, as well as the mental concentration part of it. For James, who plans on bowling in men’s leagues and tournaments after graduation, it’s all about the competition.

And when it comes to competition, the year has now led up to the postseason tournament, which begins on Sunday for the Warren G. Harding bowlers as they will compete in the Division I sectional tournament at Mahoning Valley Lanes.

For the boys, they are a favorite to advance out of the sectional and on to the district tournament, which will be bowled on Feb. 23 at Riviera Lanes in Akron. The top four teams and top four individuals on non-qualifying teams will advance to districts.

“Yes, the goal is state, but we got to get through sectionals and districts first, but state is the goal,” Jason said.

Warren G. Harding was the state runner up in 2010.

For the girls, it won’t be as easy to make it as a team, as the squad is young and still gaining experience, according to coach Nolen. However, Brianna, who averages a 176, could still have a chance to advance on as an individual based on her season average. Just the thought of all three making it to the state tournament excites the youngest Nolen.

“That would be amazing, I would be excited for all three of us to go,” Brianna said. “He (John) would probably be the most shocked.”

It would certainly make grandpa proud.

“What grandparent wouldn’t be proud of that,” John said. “That’s the ultimate goal in high school bowling, to get to the state tournament.”