It wasn’t that Anita Carlson didn’t enjoy coaching the bowling teams at Free State High, but she knew that she would need to resign this summer after seven seasons of leading the program.
The former coach’s career path took her elsewhere. Her long-term professional goal had always been to become an administrator, and once Carlson left the world-language department at Free State, where she taught Spanish for 15 years, she knew her coaching duties wouldn’t mesh with her new administrative position in the district as a curriculum specialist for social studies and world language.
Carlson worked on her degree in administration while teaching and coaching at FSHS, so she knew her days as a coach were numbered.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she said of her time instructing the boys and girls bowlers.
Bowling first became a KSHSAA sport in the 2005 winter season, and Carlson became the Firebirds’ coach the following year. In 2007, the Free State boys finished second at state, but those types of accomplishments aren’t what made her appreciate her time with the program.
“It’s not so much championships or regionals or the Sunflower League … but the opportunity it gave me to work with a diverse population was awesome,” Carlson said.
Bowling allowed her to coach an array of athletes, some very skilled. But Carlson always enjoyed coaching students who “maybe never would have participated in an athletic event” had bowling not been an option.
“As an educator, that was the highlight for me,” she said.
FSHS athletic director Mike Hill said Carlson made a positive impact in her seven seasons.
“She was a terrific coach,” Hill said, “and I think a lot of our athletes improved under her tutelage.”
Though Carlson won’t miss the logistics of some of her coaching responsibilities, such as scheduling and organizing tournaments, she said she will miss interacting with so many students outside of the classroom.
“I’m glad someone (else) will get the opportunity to experience what I got to experience,” she said.
Hill said candidates for the coaching vacancy will begin interviewing next week.