FRANKLIN — Brayden Didier wants to spend as much time as possible bowling. So why not get a job at a local bowling alley?
Between services at the Franklin Family Entertainment Center, you can watch Didier, a Franklin High School junior, practice constantly, especially after sustaining an injury that kept him away from the game he loves for months.
“I think I had a bad habit of wanting to start before I was supposed to,” said Didier, who underwent surgery in June for a torn labrum, biceps and rotator cuff. “I was so happy to start practicing again. I mean, I’ve done twice as much physical therapy as I was supposed to, trying to heal faster.”
The extra work paid off.
Last week, Didier led the Williamson County finishers in the State Bowling Championships by finishing seventh in the Boys’ Division I tournament. He missed the semifinal cutoff — and bowling for a state title — by about two dozen pins after throwing a 200.8 average and 1,205 runs in the quarterfinals.
For his dedication to his sport and teammates, Didier was selected as the latest winner of the Herff Jones Heart of the Team award. Herff Jones has partnered with the Williamson Herald to spotlight student athletes such as Didier, and in addition to the acknowledgment, he will be featured in a live broadcast of Tony’s Eat and Drink in Franklin on Monday at 6 p.m. as part of the “WillCo Sports Power Hour.”
Didier first tried bowling as a freshman when he was in Centennial High School. He remembers watching the state game at the Smyrna Bowling Center that same year.
“I was hooked right away,” said Didier, who also played baseball but fell in love with bowling. “When I first walked into that State bowling alley and felt that vibe, I thought, ‘I’ll be here someday.’”
He missed the game last year while attending Battle Ground Academy, which has no bowling team. After sustaining an injury playing baseball right after the school year, Didier decided he wanted to go full bowling. The junior was even certified as a bronze-level coach from the United States Bowling Congress.
“I was waiting the longest to start again and was bored to death,” admitted Didier. “I’ve played baseball all my life, but I think I just got to the point where I loved bowling more.”
Franklin coach Ted Logan struggled to describe Didier’s passion for bowling.
“I really can’t express how much he loves the game,” Logan said. “When he was still in rehab I really had to make sure he limited himself. I remember having to stay a little later to make sure he left the alley after practice.”
Logan said Didier, who qualified for junior nationals, is among the top 20 bowlers in the state at the high school level. His high finish in the state tournament helped confirm that, but the ceiling is only going to get higher as Didier continues to work on his game.
“I think if you get the top 20 bowlers in the state — and he’s one of them — on any given day, they can finish in any order,” Logan said. “There are only so many names that are constantly popping up on the tournament circuit, and he is one of them. His finish last week, that’s an elite finish.
“With his work ethic and love for the game I expect him to be a threat next year. He just loves the game and he will bowl until his fingers blister – you literally have to make him stop.”
Logan said that in addition to Didier’s personal drive, he also grew into a standout teammate.
“He was new to the team, but once we got to know each other, I know we were all happy to have him on our side,” said Logan. “And as our anchorman, he doesn’t mind giving up his spot for the hot hand. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to take us to a higher place, and that’s the problem with this sport, there’s no discussion of the data, so the hierarchy usually works itself out.”
Didier, Rusty Dahlke, Carson Cochran, Andrew Whelan and Parker Lewis all qualified for the state tournament for the Admirals, along with Mary Kate Polk, Maddie Yates and Leia Miller from the girls side at Franklin.
“It was incredible,” Didier said of working with his teammates. “There’s really nothing like it. It’s just a special, special sport with a lot of fierce competitors. Being part of such a great team, knowing we have so much potential, I’m looking forward to helping them get to that next level and trying to take the whole team to the next level.”
Both Didier and Logan said the sport is really starting to grow, especially after Williamson County Schools high schools recently added bowling. Logan said hundreds of young bowlers have already tried it and are already playing the sport.
“We’re very good at bowling in the county now,” said Logan, whose girls’ team finished second in the state last year. “With high school bowling being added to the WCS menu, we hope to be that destination you have to go through if you want to be competitive in bowling in this state.”
“Bowling is just rolling a ball, so it can be quite easy in a way,” Didier added. “I know there’s nothing better than stepping on that line. It is very easy to fall in love with this sport.
“You should also stop by the Franklin Family Entertainment Center. Chances are you’ll see me there.”