Brayden Speck’s journey from a graduating scholar-athlete to a collegiate student-athlete will be one of the more unique stories for local students making a similar move this summer.
The Monessen senior will head to Muskingum University this fall where he will major in Sports Administration and also continue his athletic career as a member of the Fighting Muskies’ bowling team.
“I started bowling at four-years-old,” he said. “My older sister was bowling in a junior league and my parents decided to take me out to try it, and it’s all uphill from there.”
It was the start of a passionate journey for Speck, and his drive and motivation fuel him to improve.
“I’ve bowled in the AMF Belle Vernon Junior League from that time until the end of this season,” he said. “I’ve also bowled previously in a Monday night adult/child league and currently bowl in a Monday night adult league for more competition.”
To further his game, Speck began working with Ron Hatfield, a bowling coach who has had his United States Bowling Congress Gold Certification, since 2005.
Hatfield, who has published a book titled “Bowling Beyond the Basics,” spoke about Speck’s desire.
“He is hard-working, mature, personable, determined, passionate, knowledgeable and coachable,” he said. “I knew from the very first meeting that this was going to be a fun coaching journey with him.
“I pushed him pretty hard our first session to make a significant change in his game, and he had it mostly down by the time he left. The next time I saw him, it looked like he had done it his whole life. He is quick to make changes, but he also understands that it takes much more practice and repetition to make anything natural. That hard-working and determined mindset is going to set him up for success as a college bowler and in life.”
Speck said it was Hatfield who put the thought of bowling in college in his mind.
“(Hatfield) told me about the school and the bowling program,” Speck said. “Once I toured campus and met the bowling team, I knew I was going to be a Muskie.”
What makes Speck’s story even more unique is that Monessen does not have a bowling team. No neighboring school does either, so there was no chance for Speck to compete on a local scholastic team.
“I focused on as many local youth tournaments as I could, as well as bowling youth-eligible adult tournaments,” Speck said.
Hatfield spoke about how Speck’s situation is different from his.
“It is common to only bowl in leagues if there is not a high school bowling team opportunity,” he said. “However, I am from Ohio, and here we have over 400 high schools with bowling teams.
“In Ohio, if you bowl on your high school team, you are not permitted to bowl in leagues during the high school season. So it is a very dynamic compared to where Brayden is.”
Hatfield said he sees positive results in Speck’s future.
“I honestly feel like he will excel at the next level,” Hatfield said. “There will be bumps in the road, but I know he will push through them and learn at every opportunity.
“He is the kind of athlete that coaches want to have on their teams. He will lead by example and will never stop improving himself and others around him.”
Before heading off to Muskingum, Speck will take part in the USBC Junior Gold tournament in Grand Rapids, Mich., in July. He qualified earlier this month when he was the top qualifier at the Pittsburgh Junior Shootout tournament in Plum, bowling a 616 series.