International bowling legend 'Paeng' joins forces with USBC as certified coach, ambassador By Patrick Brettingen


    USBC Coaching

    USBC Coaching goes global

    In the music world, there's Madonna. In soccer, it's Pele. In bowling, there's Paeng.

    Legendary international bowler Rafael Nepomuceno of the Philippines – known simply as Paeng – fits in with the many celebrities and sports stars who are recognized by one name only.

    A six-time world bowling champion who is widely regarded as the greatest international bowler in the sport's history, Paeng is teaming up with the United States Bowling Congress to grow and promote the sport around the world as a USBC certified coach and USBC Ambassador.

    Paeng was at USBC Headquarters in Greendale, Wis., in April to receive training and earn certification as a USBC Level I and Bronze Instructor. As a USBC Coaching Instructor, Paeng will teach Level I and Bronze classes in the Philippines and Asia. The coaches Paeng trains and certifies through the USBC program will develop bowlers in the region, some of whom could become top level competitors.

    USBCPaengNepomuceno.jpg International bowling legend Rafael "Paeng" Nepomuceno, left, works with student and USBC Coaching Program Operations Administrator Janet Huss during his training program to become certified as a USBC Coaching Level I and Bronze Instructor.

    "It's a big honor to be invited by the United States Bowling Congress to teach the program and certify coaches in the Philippines and Asia," said the 50-year-old Paeng. "I'm very excited for this. I'll do my best to promote bowling.

    "With more coaches, we can develop more bowlers; that's good for our sport," Paeng continued. "It will revive the sport in our region in the Philippines and Asia. We can teach bowling in schools, to youth bowling associations and others. I'd like to teach the youth and certify their coaches."

    Paeng's training is part of the USBC effort to create an international coach training program and bolster the strength of federations within bowling's world governing body, the Federation Internationale des Quilleurs. As part of that international strategy, USBC also plans to develop more online coach training with the overall goal to expand USBC's reach globally through information and education. The USBC Coaching program, which professionally trains and certifies coaches to teach the sport of bowling, currently has tremendous respect as it is the only coaching program for bowling recognized by the United States Olympic Committee.

    "We want to train and certify coaches within their countries to develop their athletes," said USBC Team USA High Performance Director David Garber, who was part USBC Coaching's first Level I and Bronze coach training at Metro Bowl in Guatemala City, Guatemala in February. USBC Coaching graduated 20 Level I and 18 Bronze certified coaches during the four-day camp, sponsored by the Federacion Guatemalteca de Boliche. "USBC wants more countries to train their players and take more pride in building a program that they own. I will be looking for countries and federations that want to be self-sufficient.

    "We have a program that will certify coaches to train their players, but also identify possible coaches and players who could become elite members of the federation. With this program we will spend time in those countries training and identifying those prospective talents through follow up visits and continued online training. Those countries will also be involved with learning the vast political realm of bowling."

    To help this international effort succeed, USBC is turning to the much-decorated Paeng, who has a long list of career bowling accomplishments. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound left-hander has won 117 bowling titles worldwide, including a record four World Cup championships in three different decades.

    Paeng was the youngest bowler to win a World Cup title when he captured his first at age 19 in 1976 in Tehran, Iran. Former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch personally awarded Paeng the prestigious IOC President's Trophy, a first for bowling.

    Paeng, named the FIQ Bowling Athlete of the Millennium in 1999, is a three-time World Bowling Writers World Bowler of the Year and was the first male bowler to be inducted in the World Bowling Hall of Fame in 1993.

    In his native Philippines, Paeng is considered a national sports hero. He was the first athlete to be enshrined in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame after that group five times named him Athlete of the Year. Paeng was the first Filipino athlete bestowed with both The Philippine Legion of Honor (1999) and Presidential Medal of Merit (1984), and incredibly, was named Filipino Athlete of the Century in 1999.

    "Bowling is a true sport (in the Philippines)," said Paeng, whose parents are heavily involved in bowling. Paeng's father, Angel Nepomuceno, is his coach and mentor who was named the Philippine Sportswriters Association Coach of the Year in 1992, while his mother, Teresita Villa-Real, once won the World Bowling Writers "Golden Quill" award. "It's different (than in the U.S.). We're considered athletes. The Filipino media supports bowling."

    As evidence of how bowling is respected as a sport in the Philippines, one need only look at the national bowling team.

    "We train all year round," said Paeng. "We are required to work out in the gym. It is almost a full-time job for us. You have to make sacrifices if you want to be on the national team."

    Paeng has made those sacrifices and more when it comes to his body. He maintains a healthy diet and keeps himself in incredible shape through cycling, swimming and visiting the gym four times a week.

    Paeng posed for a photo to accompany a 2006 article about him in the Philippine Star newspaper. The photo is of Paeng wearing only cycling shorts and posing holding a bowling ball on his shoulder, revealing his slender yet muscular physique that makes him appear like a man in his mid-30s rather than his true age of 50.

    "I wanted to prove that this is what a bowler looks like," Paeng said. "This is athletic. I'm a born athlete."

    While Paeng still remains somewhat active as a bowler, competing annually in six or seven international tournaments and a handful of Philippine events, his days of intense competition have given way to his new endeavors of coaching and promoting the sport he loves.

    When he's not leading coaching clinics, Paeng spends time in Manila with wife, Saira Puyat, managing director of the AMF-Puyat bowling center chain, and their three children, Rafael Jose Jr., Saira Margarita Paz and Isabel Angela.

    One goal of USBC's global effort is to get bowling in the Olympics. As a USBC Ambassador, Paeng will use his influence to try to open doors for bowling.

    The USBC Ambassador program is a speaker's bureau of bowling's influential figures who are hired as headliners for hall of fame banquets, awards dinners, youth programs, bowling center grand openings or other functions.

    Among USBC's Ambassadors are: top Professional Bowlers Association stars Walter Ray Williams Jr., Tommy Jones, Norm Duke and USBC Sport Bowling spokesperson Chris Barnes; top women bowlers USBC High School spokesperson Carolyn-Dorin Ballard, Kelly Kulick and USBC Youth spokesperson Diandra Asbaty; and USBC Chief Executive Officer Roger Dalkin.

    USBCPaengNepomucenoDaleNiemela.jpg Paeng, left, pictured with USBC Proprietor Relations Manager Dale Niemela, officially joined the USBC Ambassador team to promote the sport of bowling.

    "Now that I'm a USBC Ambassador, I can try to convince people to put bowling in the Olympics by talking to the right people," Paeng said. "I believe that bowling truly is an Olympic sport. It's a genuine sport. I don't see why it's not in the Olympics."

    Garber added, "USBC believes in this program of making other countries better, because it gives our athletes better competition. It could also ultimately help bowling get into the Olympics."

    Reflecting on his ongoing bowling career, Paeng is excited to start a new chapter, this time as coach, spokesman and goodwill ambassador for the sport that has always been such a major part of his life.

    "I'm fortunate," he said. "I want to give something back to the sport."