When an athlete is the best at his or her sport it’s hard to duplicate the success or keep the motivation to remain at the top of their game.
After the 2016-17 high school boys bowling season, there was a question of what La Salle-Peru state champion Nate Stubler was going to do next.
Instead of slacking or becoming comfortable with his game, he has continued to improve as he has helped St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa qualify for the Intercollegiate National Championships as a freshman and a sophomore, was an Elite Eight finalist as an individual at nationals this past season and made Junior Team USA.
“I just got back from Junior Team USA camp, which was June 26 to July 2 in Arlington, Texas,” Stubler said. “It was a week long of a lot of mental game work and a lot of (tinkering with) our physical games. They told us when we got there, ‘What got you here was your bowling talent but there is so much more to it than that.’ We worked a lot on the mental side of it.
“We had a lot of fun as well. We played a lot of team building games. It was really about learning how to trust your teammates and having a different view of the game than we do. It’s about the mental game. When it comes to mechanics or the physical side to bowling, everybody has their own way of doing it because there is no perfect, cookie cutter form. But, there are better ways to go about it mentally.”
The camp was at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, which has the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame connected.
Stubler was able to get some time away from bowling in his red, white and blue polo shirt to check out the hall of fame and was even able to zip line.
But, he did a lot of learning in Texas as well.
“A lot of it was how we interacted with each other and how well we listened to the coaches,” Stubler said. “I feel like that has a big part with the coach’s selection. They have all of the answers, but it’s one of those things where sometimes the players don’t buy into it all of the way. That’s the one thing I’ve always learned, always listen to coaching and always be appreciative of it. That’s what they look for.
“The one thing they really taught us at camp was to be in the moment, be present for everything and be ready to make every shot. They stressed how important a routine is. From personal experience, that’s been a huge thing for me. I’ve concentrated on following the same routine. Bowling is all repetition.
“I don’t get nervous anymore. My mentality is either, you’re going to do it or you’re not going to do it. It’s helped me for a long time. You’re going to win or you’re going to lose. You might as well win. There is no reason to be nervous.”
St. Ambrose coach Eric Littig saw Stubler’s mentality in action on an everyday basis the past two years.
Before Stubler arrived, the Fighting Bees hadn’t qualified for nationals since 2012.
“He made varsity right away and has been one of our top players in both of his first two seasons,” said Littig, who has been at St. Ambrose for the last seven of his 29 years of coaching. “He has two years left and we look forward to two more years with him. This past year we were ranked No. 4 in the country and he’s a big part of that.
“I love coaching and people like Nate make it easier on me. He’s a great person, a hard worker and very coachable. He’s just a natural team leader. I knew he had a lot of schools looking at him and we were very fortunate to get him.”
Littig isn’t the only one Stubler has proven his worth to at St. Ambrose.
Maybe not everyone on the team looks up to the former Cavalier, but there are some who know Stubler is the guy to go to in any situation.
“He’s a class act. He’s one of the most humble, yet most dominate players I’ve ever seen with my own eyes,” said St. Ambrose soon-to-be sophomore and 2018 Fulton graduate Seth Sikkema. “He’s a great person and a great guy, but most of all he’s a great teammate.
“His mental game is phenomenal. He is always on an even keel and doesn’t really show emotions. When you need a tough shot, you can expect him to give his 100 percent effort. I’d say 99 percent of the time, I’ve seen him come through. A great bowler is ready to step up in a high-pressure situation. Nate is 100 percent someone I’d trust doing that. In Tennessee, I watched him make a huge split to make it to the individual Intercollegiate National Championships. It was an amazing feat to watch how he composed himself.”
Next on Stubler’s radar is the Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships, which will take place in the Dominican Republic.
Stubler is aware the Dominican has been in the news a ton lately, but he is still impatiently waiting to see if he will be one of the four boys and four girls to represent Junior Team USA in the foreign country.
“I want to go, but with everything going on it’s tough,” Stubler said. “It’s 10 days in the Dominican, so it would be a nice little vacation right before going back to school. I think it would be a great experience to say, ‘Hey, I’m representing my country doing what I love to do.’ It would be an amazing experience.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.