Long-time assistant bowling coach Paul Klempa said he hopes to maintain the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Women’s Bowling Team’s success as he begins his first season as head coach.
Nebraska has a long-standing tradition of success. It is the only team to qualify for all the NCAA Championships since its beginning in 2004. The Huskers have either won or been runner-ups in nine of the 16 tournaments. Klempa understands what it takes to achieve this.
“We have a system of teaching here that a lot of other schools don’t have,” Klempa said. “No one else could have stepped in and kept that system running.”
Klempa has been coaching at UNL under former head coach Bill Straub since 1996.
“He was easily the most qualified to assist me,” Straub said. “He spent the next 22 years learning as best as possible the coaching side as well as the administration side.”
Klempa understands the coaching side, administration side and also recognizes the pressure from fans to perform well.
“This place is special and the fan support is immense, but there’s more pressure and demand to win,” Klempa said. “I’ve been through it. I understand the culture and what the fans want.”
Husker bowlers, Seniors Estafanía Prieto and Raquel Orozco said they are happy to have someone who understands their program in charge.
“He knows what our roots are but has introduced new ideas to our program,” Prieto said. “This has helped us build on our former skills and prepare us for a new chapter in Husker Bowling.”
Orozco couldn’t imagine anyone better to help them continue their success.
“He is the most qualified for this position. He was working with Coach Straub for so many years, so he learned from the best,” Orozco said.
Klempa said that despite his knowledge of the program, it’s going to be harder to maintain the tradition of success than in previous years.
Up until 2017, the top eight teams in the country would qualify for the NCAA Championship, but now only half can qualify.
“Now you have to win your region to qualify,” Klempa said. “It’s decidedly harder now than it ever was before.”
There are four regions, thus only four will qualify for the tournament. The regions are based on geographic location rather than skill set. Klempa said the majority of the talented teams are in Nebraska’s Midwest region.
“Nebraska’s run has been wonderful,” Klempa said. “I hope I can sustain it.”
Orozco is confident he will lead them to success.
“I think he is qualified for this position by a long run,” Orozco said. “He knows us very well.”
Orozco was confident in Klempa, but he still worried he would not be offered the job.
“I knew Bill (Straub) was retiring, and I hoped they were going to hire me, but I could never be certain,” Klempa said.
Straub said he was not directly involved in the decision-making process, but he was asked for his opinion.
“I conversed about it and obviously Coach Klempa was the best decision,” Straub said.
After his promotion, Klempa felt alone. When Straub retired, his wife, Kim Straub, also left her position as secretary.
“It’s been a big change. It felt as though I was alone wearing three hats,” Klempa said.
He was taking on the roles of head coach, assistant coach and secretary. However, he said he managed to keep his head afloat by thinking of his team’s greater interests.
“If I’m working 17 hour days, I’m not going to be a very good coach if I’m sick,” Klempa said. “I haven’t gone crazy trying to get everything done in two weeks.”
As the season is getting into full swing, Klempa is still establishing a balance. He is taking his time and focusing his attention on the tasks he deems most pertinent. He focuses on where his athletes can improve.
“Apart from focusing on the physical game, we are adding more emphasis to our mental and competitive game,” Prieto said. “It’s impossible to create a perfect bowler, and we are trying to let that thought fade away.”
Klempa will have more time to hone these skills as he now has help from assistant coach Shannon Plowski.
For now, Klempa wants to get through this transition period smoothly. He said he will listen to what his bowlers want and continue making adjustments where necessary.
Despite all the changes, the goal remains the same.
“Obviously a goal every year is to win the national championship,” Klempa said.