'Oh yes! Glad to be back!'; Bowling league for people of all abilities returns

Striking Smiles bowling league
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 06:57:53-05

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — For years, a Middle Tennessee bowling league has believed that every person of every ability should be able to enjoy the game.

Two years ago, that league had to put away their bowling shoes for reasons beyond their control. It's a new day. It's a story about inclusion, about obstacles, and above all, family.

"Peek a boo. I miss you," Monte Hayes of Smyrna said, speaking to some good friends on Zoom.

When people in your life become family, you try to never lose touch, no matter what.

"You know what I really miss? Our high fives," Monte said on the Zoom.

Monte runs the Striking Smiles bowling league, pairing bowlers of all abilities with bowling buddies.

"Individuals with Down Syndrome, autism, anxiety, PTSD, you name it," said Monte. "We say 'yes'. Yes, you're part of our family now."

When we talked with Monte at his home last summer, Zoom was the only way he'd been able to see his bowlers for more than a year.

In 2020, COVID abruptly ended the league's fifth year, leading to the months of waiting to get the bowlers back with their buddies.

"I couldn't do nothing because of COVID," said Monte. "It literally shut me down."

Then, other things also just slowed the return of Striking Smiles. When NewsChannel 5 talked to Monte in the summer, he was getting ready for extensive deep brain stimulation surgeries to try to stop the tremors in his body.

"I have a bowling league I need to get back to," Monte said.

Nearly two years passed without Striking Smiles getting to bowl. Now, the wait is over. Striking Smiles is back at Murfreesboro's Lanes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Being back means there are new pairings like Sayde Hammonds and buddy Joshua Beene.

"We're gonna get you a strike soon," Joshua told Sayde.

The league is a chance to bowl in a league for Richard Mason who's legally blind.

"I got a 97 first game, a 94 in the second game," Richard said. "Oh yes, glad to be back."

In the middle of it all was Monte, glad to be there after a successful surgery.

Last summer, NewsChannel 5 asked Monte what he thought he would do when Striking Smiles could finally come back. This is what he said;

"It's going to be very emotional for me, but I'm looking forward to my fist bumps, my high fives, my hugs. 'I missed you Coach Monte.' 'Hi Coach Monte.' I'm so looking forward to seeing all my bowlers. They're my kids. They've been my kids for six years."

If you know someone who would like to take part in Striking Smiles, you can reach Monte Hayes at or visit their Facebook page here.