A League of His Own

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David J. Harris’ love for bowling began when he was 15 years old. He can still recall the times when Joe Zok took the time to teach him the ins and outs of the sport. “Joe took me under his wing. He taught me how to bowl and how to love the sport. He instilled a love of the game in me.” Harris explained.

His love of the game sparked a more than impressive career. For over 45 years  Harris has competed at high-levels in bowling, coached both professionally and voluntarily while also spending time as a league and association officer and bowling program coordinator. He competed in the PBA National Senior Tour until 1998 when he had to step back from competing due to health reasons. But, that didn’t stop him from working in the sport he loves.

In 2004, Harris was named the “Developmental Coach of the Year” by the United States Olympic Committee and the United States Bowling Congress. From 2005-2008, he was listed as one of the “Top 100 Coaches” in the United States in the Bowler’s Journal International Magazine.

His accolades and achievements would take pages to list, but Harris is known for much more in the Chesapeake community. He has turned his focus on Tidewater youth bowlers and has taken many of them to bowl both nationally and collegiately. He coaches around 300 kids each week, and he does it completely voluntarily. He has coached many of the kids from the early ages of four to five and continues to coach them through their young adult years.

Tyler Zog, 15, is one of these kids. “He’s been there ever since I first started bowling. He drilled my first bowling ball.” Tyler said. “He’s been there to coach me with anything, for any advice. He’s really more like a mentor.”

Harris began coaching Tyler when he was four years old and helped him compete in both the Teen Masters and the USBC Junior Gold national tournaments last year. When Tyler’s father, John Zog, was not able to attend one of Tyler’s national tournaments, Dave Harris and his wife went in his stead. “I didn’t even ask him to do that, he just did it” Zog said. “That’s just the type of person he is. He had other responsibilities, but he took the time out to be with Tyler. I don’t know where Tyler’s career would be without Dave.”

Tyler is not the only kid to receive this encouragement from Harris. Hundreds of kids have come and gone through his coaching and have nothing but good things to say about him.

Bailey Anderson, a junior at Greenbrier Christian Academy started taking bowling seriously last year and, after talking with Harris, decided to compete in the high school league this season. “I had no clue what I was getting into, but he has guided me through the learning process and even drilled a ball to fit my hand so I could learn new techniques.” Bailey continued, “Mr. Dave is such a blessing to all the youth he works with, and I really appreciate all the effort he invests in us.”

Coach Dave bottom right and Coach Steve standing far left
with Jr. Major Seniors, Saturday Morning League

Each summer, Harris and his wife get in their RV and drive cross country to the national tournaments. Harris uses his own time and money to go because he wants to be with the kids in those tough moments. “The first one [national tournament] especially, you want to be there. You’re fighting yourself more than anything else in an individual sport and they’re carrying the load of the world on their shoulders. I just go along to say, ‘Hey it’s okay.’” Harris went on to explain that he goes not out of obligation, but because it’s a completion of what he’s started in the kids.

The amazing part about all of his coaching is that he doesn’t get paid for any of it. When asked why he does it, Harris said, “I just feel I’ve been so blessed in life that for me to sit there and not give back is ludicrous.”

His eyes watered when he talked about the successes kids like Tyler Zog have had under his coaching and said, “I’m not sure you can explain what you feel. It’s like watching a child take its first step; the feeling is just WOW, you made a difference.”

The Chesapeake community is certainly grateful for the contributions Dave Harris has made. He was just recently inducted into the USBC (United States Bowling) Tidewater Hall of Fame. Harris does not like being in the limelight, but was honored by the induction. “It validates that whatever you’re doing is making a difference. At the same time, it was the most humbling thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t need to be rewarded.”

Harris finds his reward in seeing smiling kids. He calls it his ministry and genuinely cares about each kid he coaches. As a Christian, he puts God first and others before himself. His Christianity is not something he preaches, but lives each day.  “Christianity is not a noun and it’s not only on Sunday. Christianity is a verb, it’s an action. It’s who you are.”

David Harris has certainly lived those words out. He has proven his value to the community. “Your life has to be about who you reflect,” Harris explained, “And that’s what I’m trying to do.”

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