MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Kai Strothers, who is only 10 years old, has been hanging out in bowling alleys almost as long as he’s been alive. As a toddler, the Maplewood resident would sit on the sidelines as his parents bowled in a league; when he turned 4, he rolled a ball down the alley himself and joined his own league. At age 8, Kai leveled up and began to receive coaching twice a week. On Jan. 19, he achieved the near impossible by bowling a perfect 300.
“It felt like it was a dream come true,” Kai said of his perfect game in a Jan. 30 phone interview with the News-Record.
The Tuscan Elementary School fifth-grader bowls twice a week with his coach at Jersey Lanes in Linden, and twice a week with a league in Manalapan. He also tags along when his mother bowls in her league.
“I learned from my mom and my dad and my uncles,” Kai said. “I want to be a professional bowler.”
Bowling runs in the family. Both of Kai’s parents bowl, his grandfather bowled and his uncle has rolled two perfect games as an adult.
“He would come with me and his dad and use the bumpers, so since he’s been old enough he’s been in a league,” Kai’s mother, Sharonda Strothers, said in a Jan. 30 phone interview with the News-Record. “He doesn’t think about it as this huge deal; he just loves to bowl.”
While Kai hopes to bowl another perfect game, he’s not counting down to the day it happens again.
“My favorite part is having fun and getting strikes,” he said.
But while Kai wasn’t stressing about his score during the game, his mom definitely was.
“I was a ball of nerves,” Sharonda Strothers said. “You know, in all the years I’ve been bowling, I’ve never done it. So as I was realizing it could happen, I was trying to keep cool because I didn’t want him to be disappointed if he didn’t do it.”
Kai’s Manalapan league teaches him different league patterns to prepare him for higher levels and professional bowling. He can bowl in that league until he graduates from high school, and he can also be a part of a high school bowling team. When he turns 18, Kai has the option to bowl in college at the NCAA level or to turn professional. His mother said that will depends on the level he’s competing at then, and what he wants to do.
But that’s still eight years away. Until then, Kai is going to continue what he’s doing now: having fun and getting strikes.
Photos Courtesy of Sharonda Strothers