WSU Bowling legend Vadakin set to retire

WICHITA, Kan. (WSU) – Over the summer, the Shocker Bowling program will see some changes in their coaching staff as current head coach Gordon Vadakin is announcing his retirement. Vadakin’s last day with the program is June 13th, 2019.

Vadakin, who has been the head coach since 1978, said “It’s just time. I’m ready to spend time with my wife, Cindy, who has been retired for a few years now. My daughter Andrea and her husband Raja live in Seattle with our grandchildren, Ryan (2) and Elora (8 mos.). We want to go spend some extended time with them. My son Kenny married his best friend Cara in a beautiful ceremony last weekend and they will probably start a family here soon. I’m retiring for me, so I can spend time with my family.”

With Vadakin’s retirement, there will be significant changes in the Shocker Bowling Program. Current assistant coach Mark Lewis and current Marketing, Development and Operations Coordinator Holly Harris have both been promoted.

Lewis, who has been the assistant coach for more than 20 years, will be the new Director of the Bowling Program. Harris has been with the program for five years this July and has been elevated to the Women’s Head Bowling Coach.

Along with both of those promotions, Shocker alumni Rick Steelsmith has been hired as the Men’s Head Bowling Coach.

“I could not be more excited for the future of this program. Part of my philosophy has always been to change and evolve the program into something bigger and better. Even when we’ve won the entire thing or have had success, we’ve always tried to be better than we were before. I truly believe the program is taking a giant leap with the new coaching staff. Mark Lewis has been doing this with me for more than twenty years. There isn’t a better guy for this job. Holly Harris has spent the last three years under Coach Lewis working with our women’s team; she is going to be great. And Rick Steelsmith, he’s just one of the best out there. He’s a great bowler in his own right but even a better coach. I am thrilled for this new team. It makes stepping away from the program feel even better. They are going to be awesome.”

Vadakin’s career at Wichita State is nothing short of amazing. He became the first Gold level college bowling coach in 1985. Over his forty-plus years at Wichita State, he’s coached 18 national championship teams and nine individual national champions along with fifteen professional bowlers who have gone on to win 59 professional titles. He’s coached 145 All-Americans, 25 Bowlers of the Year and 239 Academic All-American’s (3.5 cumulative GPA or higher).

“I’ll miss watching kids come in and grow into young adults,” Vadakin said. “I’ve always believed that you have to coach the entire person, not just the athlete. Because of that, the coaching staff here gets very involved in their personal lives. I get to watch these student-athletes grow up and mature into adults, graduate with their degrees, and enter their careers. I’ll miss being a part of that, the most.”

By the Numbers: Gordon Vadakin’s career

18 – National championship teams under his direction

9 – National championship individuals

369 – Tournament wins

45% - Percentage of tournaments won

25 – Bowlers of the Year and MVPs

145 – NCBCA All-Americans

239 – Academic All-Americans

22 – Academic All-Americans in fall 2018

37 – USBC Eagles won by players he’s coached

59 – Professional titles won by players he’s coached

96 – Number of national team members the program has produced under his direction

“This career and experience has been nothing short of amazing. I’m lucky to have spent my life doing what I love. This could not have happened without some key people. I’ve worked with some of the best directors in the world – Bill Glenn, Bill Smith, Jim Herrman and currently Kevin Konda. I’ve had great leaders to work under and I’ve been extremely lucky to always have the support of my family. I truly can’t tell you how excited I am for the program to make this leap and how excited I am to spend some time with my family.”