Bowling News USA - April 27, 2016 Steve Kloempken prepares for USBC Hall of Fame Induction
Storm's Executive Director of Marketing, Steve Kloempken, 45, will be inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame in the Outstanding USBC Performance category this week. His success on the lanes includes five gold medals on Team USA, three Intercollegiate Team Championship titles, two Eagles and numerous other top 10 finishes at the USBC Open Championships, and more. What he’s done on the lanes is impressive, but off the lanes what he’s done for the sport is equally as important. Get to know a little more about our own Coach K.
Who was a big influence to your bowling early on?
Bowing is in my family. My grandparents owned a 4-lane bowling center in the 1950’s in a small town in Minnesota called Arlington. My mom spent her days and weekends there growing up. My grandparents loved watching pro bowling on ABS Sports every Saturday and my mom still bowls league today.
What other sports did you play growing up?
I started played soccer as a kid and then started bowling when I turned 11. Eventually I was forced to pick one sport to focus on. When I decided that it was bowling my Mom signed me up for lessons with Don Johnson. My mom would drive or I would ride my bike down to his center, Charleston Heights. I never took for granted how fortunate I was to be five minutes away from one of the best coaches in the world.
I spent lots of time practicing on the lanes. It was always an internal competition. I always wanted to bowl better than myself.
What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
When I was growing up I got hurt playing soccer. I had to go to physical therapy and decided I wanted to be a physical therapist. I wanted to help people like they helped me. Eventually, the bowling bug took over and I figured out that I wanted to do something within the industry. I shot 300 in high school competition and I knew I wanted to be part of the sport for the rest of my life. I’ve just always felt at home within the bowling industry.
Tell us about your time on Team USA.
The process was different. You bowled qualifying locally then moved on to State finals, then advance to regional finals, then you’d advance to national finals. There wasn’t even a person from every state back then. It was the best of the best. Bowling internationally gave me some amazing memories. I bowled in Cuba when Fidel Castro was still in power. I won doubles & trios at World in Singapore in 1991.
My Team USA coach, Gordon Vadakin, asked me if I’d ever thought about bowling in college. At the time I was in school part time, working and bowling. If I maintained this schedule it would take me tons of years to compete my degree. Gordon told me to think about bowling for Wichita, get experience on the lanes, and work after I graduated. Everybody should consider bowling in college.
Tell us about the Coach K Scholarship.
Originally, Skip Wilson who was on the first national team and was the only one who funded an individual scholarship at Wichita until the Coach K Scholarship came around in 2010. This was something I wanted to do for a while, and I finally put my foot down one day and made the commitment. The name came around because I was worked a camp with Coach Vadakin and they couldn’t pronounce our names. We just started calling ourselves Coach V and Coach K for the kids. It’s now the 6th year of the scholarship.
What’s the best part of your job at Storm Bowling?
The best moment is when I see a light bulb go off. When they are doing something over and over again like pulling the ball and you’re working with them on fixing it. All of a sudden they do it. They get it.
I also like helping people find their personal style. Some people watch the pros and will say they want to bowl like Pete Weber or Jason Belmonte but we all have our own personal styles. You have to find your own way to achieve consistency and master your own game.
What’s your favorite moment been during your career at Storm?
These are what I recall as the most memorable moments over my 18 years here. I represented Storm at the first ever Storm Fair event in Japan, toured the country with different seminars, coaching, and pro-am events. I helped pour the first ever balls with fragrance (Power Bolt and Eraser). I was there for the PBA Outdoor Experience with Eric Forkel’s win in downtown Manhattan. I helped with the Storm article in the Wall Street Journal and the interviews with mainstream media the weeks after. I coached the Korean National Team in the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar and Singapore National team in 2014 Asian Games in S. Korea and 2015 Sea Games in Singapore. The most memorable moment BY FAR is not one that brings back a smile. I was doing seminars in a bowling center in Osaka, Japan in March 2011 when the huge earthquake hit and resulting tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdowns. There were 300 aftershocks too in the week following the big one. 400,000 buildings either partially or totally collapsed. Luckily we weren’t in Tokyo yet.
What is your favorite Storm ball of all time?
It’s a combo that helped me win the USBC Open All-Events title among many other titles. The X Factor and original Thunder Storm. I used these balls all the time.
What was your first reaction when you heard you’d be inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame?
I was in the car at lunch heading into Ogden. Frank Wilkinson called me. Speed limits are pretty fast in Utah already but when he told me the news I looked down at the speedometer and saw I was going a bit faster than the speed limit. Apparently when I get good news I like to drive faster!
It was just a mind blowing experience. I didn’t expect it right now. It’s definitely something you hope for. Something you aspire to achieve at some point in your career but I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. I’m still actively competing. I’m still working on my game and trying to be better than myself.
What’s your favorite thing about bowling?
The two main aspects that I love are the social component and the competitive component. I love being able to be social and bowling with my teammates. I also love trying to beat my friends.
I really enjoy being able to test my skills every year at the Open Championships. I love reconnecting with my teammates. We’re great friends and sometimes we don’t see each other year round. That’s the cool thing about bowling. Bowlers usually have friends who are also bowlers.
If you could give a young person advice, what would you say?
You should compete in college and make sure you find the right school for you. Make sure you check the bowling program, coaches, education opportunities and location. It’s like a wheel. Make sure you have all the spokes there. When you find the right place for you, jump in with both feet. Give it 100% effort. See where it’ll take you.”
I’m not done yet. I still have lots of goals. I’m excited to achieve this accomplishment while I’m young enough to be competing at the highest level. I want to win some titles. City, state, masters, U.S. Open…who knows. My friend Leanne Hulsenberg won the U.S. Open title after she was inducted into the HOF. It’s not the end of my career either.
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