In her second season since Monmouth University gave her the nod as the school’s first Head Coach, Karen Grygiel has coached the Hawks to two straight NEC division championship appearances.
Coach Grygiel knows first hand what it takes to build a quality program from the ground up. As a member of the first recruited team for Vanderbilt University, she lived it on a daily basis. Reaching the pinnacle of success in 2007 by capturing the NCAA National Championship, in just a few short years, provided Coach Grygiel with the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to build and sustain a successful NCAA Collegiate Bowling program. It is this same experience and wisdom she now applies to Monmouth University’s young program.
That is why when Rebekah Varin got the word from both the school and Coach Grygiel she was thrilled by the opportunity. “I have never been more ready than I am now to move on to the next step in my bowling career. Bowling for Monmouth University is going to be an amazing experience and I am ecstatic to be able to be a part of a team that is going to do great things. The coach has a heart of gold and wants to win and many of the girls who will be on my team are ready to put up some numbers and earn a national championship. I am so excited to continue to develop as a bowler, a teammate, and a student and I believe that Monmouth is the perfect place for me to do so.” Varin remarked.
Rebekah’s story is one of hard work and dedication with an equal measure of success and frustration. In 2009, Varin decided to pursue the sport’s competitive side. She was a member of the RI Flyers travel team who won the state title in dramatic fashion and was among the first Junior Bowlers from Rhode Island to participate in the USBC Jr. Open in Indianapolis. Varin was the recipient of the Ron Giguere Memorial scholarship offered annually by the RI USBC Youth board. The scholarship provides a paid tuition to the Dick Ritger Bowling camp. There she met Kelly Kulick and Don White and forged a lasting friendship which is sustained to this day. Both Kulick and White would continued working with Rebekah in the years following assisting in advancing her game. To augment her rigorous practice regimen, she also competed exclusively in the RI Flyers Sport Scratch Division which offers a challenging competitive environment.
The 2010-2011 season was a breakout year where all of the hard work came to fruition. Varin earned her first bid to the USBC Jr. Gold tournament. She also ran the table by winning RI Singles (217 avg.), Doubles, Team and All-Events (205 avg.). In addition, she also was crowned the 2011 RI State Pepsi Scratch champion (222 avg. qualifying, 218 avg. in match play). According to Rebekah, “Winning Pepsi was the spark I needed to believe in myself as a bowler. That tournament is what really made me a competitor. I have never wanted a title more than in those last few shots of the championship match.”
At the end of her Junior year of High School, recruiting packages were sent to perspective colleges and many showed significant interest in her. However, one week before the National Jr. Gold tournament, Rebekah strained a tendon in her Bowling hand making it very painful to grip a bowling ball. She competed in the tournament and fought through the pain but, turned in a disappointing effort. “When I injured my hand 3 days before Junior Gold I panicked a bit. I had prepared myself for the tournament for months and couldn’t believe the injury happened. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to make it through all 18 games of competition. I just hoped that the coaches would see that I was obviously fighting an injury and that they would focus on my mechanics and interactions with coaches and other competitors.” recalls Varin.
Some of the colleges who had expressed interest dismissed her. But, several schools continued to track her likely suspecting an injury of some kind. Ice packs being applied to her hand and wrist after each block may have been a dead giveaway. One of those coaches was Karen Grygiel who had inquired about the injury when Rebekah visited Monmouth University. She was impressed with Varin’s gutty performance. This combined with her outstanding academic record, and leadership qualities made Rebekah the ideal recruit Grygiel was looking for.
Through all of her experiences, Rebekah never forgets her roots and other younger Bowlers within the RI Flyers organization look to her as an example. In terms of helpful advice Rebekah offers the following: “Bowl for you. Don’t bowl for a coach, a parent, or a teammate. Do it for you and because you love doing it. Everyone has bad days and tournaments. Turn those experiences into reasons to fight harder and do better next time. Be the best you can be on any given day. If it’s not your day, then it’s not your day. Don’t let anyone stand in your way. Remember that anyone can win on any given day. Just because you’re bowling against someone who is “better” than you are doesn’t mean they cannot be defeated. Believe in yourself and find the will to win.”
The Flyers will miss her spunky personality off the lanes and her fierce competitive nature on the lanes but, with the knowledge that Karen Grygiel has an eye for talent we know she will be getting one of the most coachable athletes around with a high potential for further growth in the sport. We are also confident that Rebekah will have an immediate positive impact on the Monmouth University team.
Rebekah, the Flyers’ coaching staff is very proud of your accomplishment and your example to all of the bowlers in the program and to those that read this article.