Inaugural Teen Masters SPARK AWARD Goes to Tom Blasco

July 23, 2019

Contact: Gary Beck

Inaugural Teen Masters SPARK AWARD
Goes to Tom Blasco

by Jim Goodwin

Whenever an organization creates a new award, perhaps the most important part is the person who is chosen for the first one . . . and by choosing Florida’s Tom Blasco, the Teen Masters Tournament has set a very high standard for what is planned to be an annual award honoring great youth bowling coaches.

Blasco is an iconic coach in Florida and beyond, and has been respected for not only his innovative techniques, but for the extensive knowledge and lessons in integrity he has passed on to students that will serve them for a lifetime. He received the award during the 23rd annual Teen Masters Welcome Celebration in Florida June 30.

“One of the biggest challenges we have encountered over the many years of our event is the too-frequent absence of knowledgeable coaches with a true passion for kids and sport of bowling,” said Teen Masters Founder Gary Beck. “Several weeks ago, we became aware that Tom Blasco has that passion and played an important role in coaching several Teen Masters participants, including at least two champions, and the idea for the award was born.”
The inscription on the crystal SPARK AWARD reads:

“Recognizing youth coaches who ignite a passion
in their students for the sport of bowling.”

“I am totally excited about all of the Teen Masters kids and everything they represent,” said Blasco. “And I really appreciate being chosen for this award. I can think of a bunch of guys who deserve it just as much as I do right here in Florida. This event is a completely different experience than any other. It makes these young people not just better bowlers, but better people. They have a passion for the game and Teen Masters gives them the skills to compete in any environment. Thanks again to Gary and everybody who had anything to do with making me the first winner.”

Blasco’s students list reads like a who’s who list of great bowlers . . . people like John Janawitz, Gregory Young, Crystal Elliot, Michael Coffey, Shawn Evans, Michelle Cruz, Elise Bolton, Rachel Frey and many more. Fellow coaches in Florida, like USBC Gold Coach Mike Niytray also have tremendous respect for Blasco.

“I don’t think enough attention is given to the coaches who first work with a bowler and spark that winning drive and desire,” said Niytray. “Some of these students go on to become well known bowlers and even great coaches themselves, and many also work with other coaches; but not enough is said about where it started, and Tom is certainly an unsung hero in this capacity. We have been close friends for more than 20 years; we discuss coaching theory, state of the game, and all things bowling.”

Former Team USA standout John Janowitz was a Blasco student as a teenager. Today, he is still winning titles and making his mark at the Kegel Training Center in Florida. We caught up with him while on assignment for Kegel with the European Bowling Tour.

“Tom is definitely one of the most knowledgeable and educated people I have ever met in all my years in bowling,” said Janowitz. “Nobody has done more to help youth bowlers, especially in Florida. He is a quiet guy who gets a lot done at the local and national level. We used to sit in his shop at the old Satellite Beach Bowl and talk bowling. I’ll always remember those days.”

Blasco had this to say about Janowitz – “I was fortunate to coach JJ when he was a 14-15 year old pup. Today, he is just an awesome person in his job, his ambassadorship, and just bowling in general. He makes me really proud.”

Michael Coffey, who attended and bowled for Lindenwood University, said “So many youth bowlers have developed a love for the sport because of Tom. I have been around him all my life, and every time we are together I learn something new. He has been very influential for me and always congratulates me for every accomplishment during my 14 years of bowling.”

Crystal Elliot will be a freshman at Duquesne University this year and a member of the women’s bowling team. She first bowled in the Teen Masters in 2012 shortly after Tom Blasco became her coach.

“Throughout the years he has pushed me to be a better person and a better bowler,” said Elliot. “He has not only been a coach for me but he’s like a grand father figure in my life. He always tells me ‘Don’t forget to be awesome,’ but sometimes he tells me to wake up and get my head in the game – a mental push much needed. I’m looking forward to college bowling, but I will continue to reach out to Tom when I am home.”

Criteria for future Teen Masters Spark Awards is being developed, and plans are for the Teen Masters participants themselves to be involved in the selection process.

The Teen Masters is America’s premier high school championship bowling event. For more than two decades, it has attracted youth bowlers from across the United States and the world. The 24th Annual Teen Master is scheduled next summer in Richmond, Virginia.

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About Me

Brian grew up in New York before moving to Phoenix, AZ in 1991. He has been involved in writing for his own bowling publication called “Striking Spotlight.” He has been published in the Desert Bowler Newspaper, Windy City News Newspaper and the Bowlers Journal. Hirsch is a Youth Director in the Kenosha USBC and a former Director for the Metro Phoenix USBC. As a Level 1 and RVP USBC coach, he can be found coaching his wife Amber and their son Masen each Saturday morning. Hirsch currently has (6) 300’s and (4) 800’s and is a member of the International Gay Bowling Organization where he is a five-time IGBO Champion and a six-time Arizona State Grand Canyon State Games Medalist. The Hirsch’s moved to Wisconsin to be closer to family and assist the Freedom Farm for Vets. Hirsch’s home bowling center is Sheridan Lanes, located in Kenosha, WI.


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