It seems strange now, but the first time I was taken bowling I didn’t really know what it was.
It was 1999 and I was six, and Poland’s first bowling center had just opened. Niku Bowling was in Poznan, in the area’s top fitness center. My dad, a health addict and retired bodybuilder, decided to take me and my mom there and tried to explain bowling to me during the hour’s drive.
It didn’t make sense in my head, but I got really excited about this new, strange sport. When I stood and threw my first ball down the lane, I was hooked. It was new and exciting, like no other sport. It stole my heart.
At first, of course, I could only throw the ball two-handed between my legs, but before long I got the hang of throwing one-handed. When I was nine, my dad gave me a very special present — my own ball. It was an 11lb house ball, the heaviest I could hold, but it had been drilled specially to fit my hand.
My first youth event wasn’t a great success. I threw it 'back up', hitting the second arrow from the left - why didn’t all the pins fall? But that didn’t matter. Bowling had gotten hold of me, even though there were not too many coaches or drillers, if any, especially in my area, and no-one really knew anything but we were enjoying the game, competing, trying to get better, it was a great time that I could spend with my Dad, Mom and my sister. My parents still actively compete in Poland and also, internationally in senior tournaments.
By 2004, I’d won my first Youth National Championship, I still remember the last shot where I needed to spare to win, I remember not comprehending the fact that I had just became the best youth bowler in the country. All that helped me get into the national team, and the same year I went to Augsburg for the European Youth Championships. That wasn’t a great success, and I barely avoided finishing last, with an average of 148 in 24 games.
The experience really opened my eyes, though, and lifted my sights higher. I really wanted to, one day, become the girl with the high back-swing and lots of revs, the girl everyone watched in silence. I wanted that adrenaline.
By this time, I had a bowling center just ten minutes from home, and I was practicing hard. Marek Charęzinski was my first coach who taught me the basics. I have always had that desire to generate rev rate so I was doing many drills, trying to figure out what my hands needed to do to make the ball rev up and hook, I was determined.
By the time I was sixteen, I’d won every major championship in Poland, Youth and Adult, but I was finding it harder internationally. I had five bronze medals at Youth events, but I didn’t seem to be improving. I was stuck in one place for too long, I was losing heart - and then I met Costas Mitsingas.
He was a USBC gold-certified coach, and it was Costas who taught me the modern game. He saw me as the power player that I was, he made videos, showed me how I compared with pro bowlers and what I needed to work on. He showed me my direction and rekindled hope in me.
I was with Costas till 2012, when I enrolled at Webber International University. Webber changed me, taking my challenges to a whole new level. The bowling was highly structured, rigorous and tough mentally, from learning to bowl in a team to all the new information and massive cultural differences. And I was no longer the best.
Webber International bowling program practices in the best bowling facility in the Nation - Kegel training center. Throughout my 4 years in Webber I had ups and downs but thanks to all the coaches who put all their heart into making us better players that's exactly what I became, a better player.
In my four years at Webber, I was part of a team that was twice NAIA champions, and in 2016 we won the Intercollegiate Team Championships, the biggest title in college bowling, making us the best team in the nation at the time - the best graduation present I could have asked for.
When I finished at Webber, I decided to take it a little easier, getting a work visa and concentrating on working and practicing. As it turned out, though, 2016 was a great year for me. Against expectations, I qualified 2nd for USBC Queens, made the top 24 at the US Open and finished in the top eight at the Cheetah World Series of Bowling, competing against men.
2016 was the year I was noticed, the year I signed my first contracts with the companies I’m still with.
All this encouraged me to apply for my Pro card and try my chances on the tour. After all, I had nothing to lose. If it had all fallen apart, I could still have gone home, worked on my major and bowled as an amateur.
It didn’t go well at first, and I was really beating myself up mentally. I hated being mediocre, failing at the first cut, never getting the chance to go further. Then I shot my first 300 on the tour, and everything changed. I won my first professional title, The PWBA Greater Detroit Open, even more important, I learnt to believe in myself again. A couple of tournaments later, it was the US Open. I led the field, adding two more perfect games to my record, and only lost in the final to Liz Johnson.
And, at the end of the season, I got the reward of my dreams — ROOKIE OF THE YEAR.
My story’s being written every day, my achievements are the result of hard work, a very positive attitude, competitiveness and great help from the coaches at Kegel training center who I practice with to this day.
2017 was the year that came with a gentle tap on the shoulder, reminding me who I was and what I could be. I’m keeping my heart open and my dreams big. I’ll do whatever I need to get the adrenaline rush, bowl to be the best, show that where there’s passion, hard work and determination, miracles do happen.
Bowling is not about luck, and it’s not even really much to do with talent — it’s about hard work and an understanding of the game. I’ve achieved what I have because one day I decided to give up everything for something bigger and better and I hope to compete at the highest level for many years to come.
It's my supporters that inspire me to improve each and every day and I am truly grateful for all the messages and encouragement I receive.