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Everyday Hero: Lois Emrich

Coach draws from experience to teach bowling to children of all abilities

Lois Emrich of Woodstock sits inside her Woodstock home next to memorabilia from her 1999-2000 bowling team that qualified for the state finals. Emrich now coaches with Challenger Bowling, a program that provides special needs children an opportunity to learn a new sport.
Lois Emrich of Woodstock sits inside her Woodstock home next to memorabilia from her 1999-2000 bowling team that qualified for the state finals. Emrich now coaches with Challenger Bowling, a program that provides special needs children an opportunity to learn a new sport.

Lois Emrich has the knack for getting the most of her bowling students, whether they are high schoolers or grade schoolers; whether they have special needs or not.

Emrich, through her vast years of teaching and coaching experience, just knows how to get through to young bowlers.

So, when Marengo resident Shana Krenzelok wanted someone to coach her autistic daughter, Kellie, a few years ago, Emrich was the ideal person for the job.

“Even though Kellie would be difficult to coach, Lois was undeterred,” Krenzelok said. “Lois gravitated toward Kellie. She really started to do quite well.”

Emrich, with no specific training for a special-needs child, just figured out things on her own. When Kellie Krenzelok didn’t listen, Emrich would talk to Shana, with Kellie within earshot, saying, “Now, Mom, if Kellie was listening to me, this is what I’d tell her to do.’ ”

Under Emrich’s guidance, Krenzelok enjoyed three years on Marengo’s high school bowling team. She recently rolled a 735 series, and her father, Danny, promised her a horse if she rolled a perfect game.

Krenzelok, 20, is one of many who have benefited from Emrich’s tutelage through her years at Jacobs High School and coaching young players. Shana Krenzelok was so moved by Emrich’s help with her daughter that she nominated Emrich as a Northwest Herald Everyday Hero.

“I’ve seen coaches whose teams are successful, but their teams aren’t having any fun,” said Emrich, 72, who lives in Woodstock. “You can go to state every year, but they’re not having any fun. I’ve gotten so much more out of coaching that I put in it. Yeah, it’s work sometimes. Sometimes, you have to deal with a goofy kid or parent. All that aside, I can count those instances on one hand. The rest of it’s pure fun.”

Emrich’s immersion into bowling did not happen until later in her life. She grew up in Elgin and attended North Central College in Naperville, where she was a music major, playing clarinet. After graduation, she was married and raised three children with her husband, John. She taught grade school for a while, then later got her dream job teaching middle school band.

In 1988, while teaching elementary school, she took the job as Jacobs’ girls bowling coach. Her sales pitch to Dick Hartley, Jacobs athletic director at the time, was straightforward: “I told him I don’t know everything about bowling, but I can tell you this: I will have the kids have fun. I will have the kids represent the school and themselves in a positive way. I will see that they improve from the beginning to the end and feel good about themselves, and I will do my best to get wins. In that order.”

Hartley hired her, and Emrich began a learning process with the girls. Now, she plays in leagues on Mondays and Tuesdays, and teaches youth programs at Kingston Lanes in Woodstock and Glo-Bowl Fun Center in Marengo. Some classes are for children without special needs, some are for special needs children and some combine both.

“I treat all kids the same until I find out that’s not working,” Emrich said. “I’ll mess with special needs kids the same as with my grandkids. I’ll tease them, ‘Your ball’s not working, let me talk to it.’ I will make up any story to something else if it gets the point across.”

Like with Kellie Krenzelok. She shared her coaching tip on getting through to Kellie with Marengo High School bowling coach Dwain Nance.

“I told the coaches, ‘If you want Kellie to do something, go stand next to her and tell somebody else what you want her to do,’” Emrich said. “It had to have worked.”

There are numerous parents who saw the positive effect Emrich had on their children’s lives through bowling. Shana Krenzelok’s daughter just took a little more work.

“Kellie’s come a long way,” Shana said. “It’s hard for Kellie to take coaching, one of her best defense mechanisms is make them extremely uncomfortable and nervous. It does not work on Lois. There’s a lot of really good coaches there, but Kellie scares them. Lois is like, ‘Whatever.’ If Kellie’s not listening to Lois, she’d talk to me. It’s been really neat.”

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