I AM #2hands…
AND I AM all about my Family, Friends, Fans and Career
I was born into bowling. When I was just a few weeks old, my parents built and took ownership of a bowling center in Orange, New South Wales, Australia. My earliest memories are of my home and the bowling center – it’s like I was raised in both places.
By Jason Belmonte - Before I was even two, I wanted to bowl. But the lightest bowling balls at my parents’ lanes were ten pounds. They were way too heavy for me to swing with just one hand. So I’d pick up the ball, waddle up to the approach and roll the ball with two hands. As I got older, I never found myself comfortable with the traditional style of putting your fingers into the bowling ball and rolling it with one hand. So I developed a two-handed style.
Thankfully, bowling was a business more than a passion for my mom and dad. They never were offended by my two-handed approach, never tried to talk me out of it just because it was so off and non-traditional. As long as I was on the lanes having fun and out of their hair while they were busy working at the center, they were content to let me do my thing. So thanks, Mum and Dad, for having no knowledge of bowling whatsoever! If they did, there’s probably no way I’d be on the Professional Bowlers Association tour right now.
As for the reactions of everyone else, I was told from the first day I can remember that I was bowling the wrong way, that I’d never be successful doing it, or that I was downright crazy.
When I was twelve years old and getting high scores, the coaches in Australia still tried to insist that I convert to one-handed bowling. (I never listened!). And then when I was making strides towards the Pro Bowling tour, there were so many haters who chirped at me about my awkward style and how I’d never win a thing. Every step of the way, there were people constantly telling me I couldn’t do it.
When I was young, it hurt my feelings. As I got older, the insults became motivation. The harsh words actually gave me an air of confidence, a feeling that I could do anything and would quiet the haters.
This was my attitude:
“Tell me one more time that I can’t do it – and let’s see what record I break this time.”
ABOUT #TWOHANDS, “REVOLUTION,” BELMO, THE LOGO AND ATHLETE ORIGINALS
When I partnered with Athlete Originals on an apparel line, utilizing the hashtag #2Hands was natural. I’ve always tried to promote the two-handed style of bowling, and I’ve always tried to keep a sense of humor in everything I do. So I’m not going to lie: promoting #TwoHands and having the silhouette of me bowling over the words “Revolution” is not boasting – it’s more of my gentle, playful little dig to all the haters out there who never thought I’d win a match on tour, let alone several majors and possibly three PBA Player of the Year awards.
I’ve made a point of not connecting my nickname “Belmo” directly to the #2Hands hashtag because I didn’t invent two-handed bowling and no one owns “Two Hands” as a saying. I didn’t want the apparel to come off self-serving, but rather inspiring to bowlers and anyone out there. I hope that I serve as a strong ambassador for the sport of bowling – two hands or not – and hope my career and my Athlete Originals apparel line serve as inspirations to aspiring two-handed bowlers out there, or anyone chasing a dream while others doubt them.
As for my logo, it was inspired in a way by Michael Jordan. Years ago, I never imagined I would be asked to partner on an apparel line or have my own logo. But my first thought was not about having “Jason Belmonte” over all of my clothing, but about the sports marketing masters of my younger days: what Nike and Michael Jordan did with the iconic Air Jordan brand. Now, not for a second am I comparing myself to Michael Jordan, but what I loved about that logo – the silhouette of him flying through the air – was that it was instantly synonymous with Jordan. I set out to do the same with my logo, so having two hands on a bowling ball was an obvious choice. I’m extremely proud of how my logo came out and how I was able to implement that logo into the ‘A’ in my #2hands designed apparel created with Athlete Originals. When I see someone in the stands at our tournaments or a fan on the street wearing it, it really makes me feel good. I hope it does the same for you. Athlete Originals has given me the freedom to create apparel that I’m proud of.
TWO EARLY HIGHLIGHTS (HELPING ME OVERCOME THE HATERS)
1. Travelling to Malaysia at just 16 years of age, shooting a perfect 300 game and taking home $16,000. That gave me the confidence that I could make a living as a professional bowler – and maybe make considerable amounts of money. Knowing that it was possible for me to make large amounts of money bowling, it made me want to work harder to win more. It was also the end of my parents’ days of supporting me. I got home and they said, “It’s time to start investing wisely and planning for your future.” No more throwing my money into partying!
2. Winning my first PBA tournament. It was the 2008-09 tour, and I was brought in to make my debut because the PBA wanted to expose my style. That was met with some hardship from some of my competitors and bowling fans. Some viewed me as a “circus act” that might attract some eyeballs to television screens for a short period of time, fail and then be on my way back home. But when I won the event – just my eighth pro tournament, the Bowling Foundation Long Island Open – the joy, relief and exaltation were immense. When they interviewed me on ESPN, I so badly wanted to look at the camera and wink at all my haters and naysayers.
A MESSAGE TO YOUNG PEOPLE
I was self-taught, never having worked with a personal coach. My mechanics, the curve on the bowling ball, how I generate ball speed with my legs, is completely of my own creation. Makes me proud to see up-and-coming bowlers mimic my style or borrow parts of it. There’s so much access now for young bowlers to capitalize on by watching YouTube and learning from social media, not to mention all the recourses out there from coaching staff and courses teaching about the style that I never had growing up. There are tens of thousands of two-handed bowlers now, including a few on the tour. I’m excited to see the next generation. Just entering my 30s, I’m far from ready to hang it up, but I know there will be a day when the next generation of two-handed bowlers wipes the floor with me.
My advice to young people is to just be who you are. If you want something, you’ve got to make it happen. Living in Australia, I took a gamble to seek out a career as a professional bowler. I had to make a lot of sacrifices when I was 16 years old – save a lot of money, leave my own country – but I stayed true to myself and my goals. If I was scared or allowed others to negatively influence my decision, I don’t know where I’d be today. I hope others can learn from my experience.
FAMILY, FRIENDS AND FANS
When I say that I’m all about my family, friends, fans and career, please allow me to explain. I come from a large family of Italian descent and I’m also proud to be an Aussie. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my family. My wife Kimberly and I have a son, Hugo, a daughter, Aria, and we are expecting our third child.
When my career is over, what I’ll have left is my family and friends. Some of my friends have been with me since way before my career started. It’s always been important to me to be as good a friend to them as they deserve.
As for my career, let me put it this way: I’m one of the lucky ones with the good fortune to make a living doing something they love. If I wasn’t a good professional bowler, it would be emotionally heartbreaking – that’s how passionate I am about the sport. I wouldn’t want to be in another industry because it’s not who I am. I’m very, very much in love with bowling. Asking me, “When did you first love bowling”? is like asking me “When did you first love your mother”? As I’ve said, I was born into bowling, and it was love at first sight.
I leave my family and friends on a regular basis – it could be more than a total of six months out of a year – to achieve my dreams and try to be successful at the sport I love. I cannot thank all of them enough for making this possible. Kimberly is the air in my lungs. We’ve known each other since we were teenagers. She saw my career develop and has been with me through all the ups and downs – and there have been plenty of both. I only hope someday that I can meet her half-way and be there for her as she has been there for me and our children.
And what can I say to my fans and supporters? Let’s start with, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I love what I do, but it’s much more fun to do it with fans watching, yelling and backing me. Where would any professional athlete be without the fans? No one would be watching and we wouldn’t have careers!
I encourage my fans to be interactive with me. I utilize social media to connect with bowling fans. I reply to messages and questions, I’m open to their opinions, share family photos and images of my life on the road. I want the fans to feel part of this rollercoaster life of mine, because they are a big part of it. It may be a digital friendship, but it’s a friendship. Extending that offer of friendship is the least I can do for my supporters.
MY ROLE MODEL, ROGER FEDERER
I’ve idolized athletes that were brilliant but also had a particular identity. When they were on the playing surface, you knew instinctively it was them. The athlete I’ve looked up to the most has been Roger Federer. When Roger wins one of the majors, I’m delighted. When he loses at a major, I’m really upset. I love the way he plays, the way he competes. I love his attitude and the way he speaks to the media and the fans, and how good a family man he is. To me, he is an icon. He’s got two years on me, but I hope he continues his career as long as I do so I can always look to him as a role model.
WORKOUTS AND NUTRITION
Flexibility is crucial in the bowling world. Not just your legs and torso, but other parts you may not think about – like your shoulders, wrists and fingers. Flexibility helps your performance on the lanes, but can also extend your career by keeping you fit and healthy. In bowling, it is actually a hindrance to be too muscular. You want your body to be toned and elastic, more like a tennis player. Keep in mind that in a tournament we bowl for almost an entire week for 6-7 hours a day. You need to have stamina. My workouts are primarily about stretching and improving movement. My trainers have created programs for me to even work out in small hotel rooms because the gyms in the hotels are often closed when I get back after a long day of bowling. Each workout is about 50 minutes, just enough to have me ready for the next day of bowling.
My diet is more of a common-sense approach. I try to stay between 1800-2200 calories a day. I just can’t have 4,000-calorie blowouts when I’m on the road, or I’d never be successful on tour. When I’m home, Kimberly does a great job of taking care of me with delicious, healthy meals.
THE MENTAL GAME OF BOWLING ON THE PBA TOUR
On the long and often grueling PBA Tour, the mental and emotional side of the game is just as important as the physical part. I’ve sustained a lot of negativity through my career that I’ve persevered through – people putting up a wall about my two-handed style that I knocked down – and it’s only made me stronger. Until I’ve clinched first place, last place or any anywhere else in between in a tournament, I give my all until my shoes come off my feet. I also give credit for that to my upbringing; Australians, by nature, are underdogs, never-give-up people. It’s part of our culture.
Concentration is crucial when you bowl as much as we do in a tournament. There aren’t many individual sports where you must have your brain turned on for almost the entire week – anywhere from 4-7 hours for six days straight from the beginning until the end of a tournament. It can be exhausting. For example, when I finish a U.S. Open (one of the longest playing formats we have on the tour), I am completely drained when it’s over. When I get home to Australia after the tournament and a long flight, my family knows I’m usually checked out for a few days until I start to feel re-charged. I’m speechless, grumpy, tired – I’m not a joy to be around. After a day or two, I’m okay and relish spending time with my family and enjoying my hobbies: golf, soccer, tennis, cricket, watching my daughter dance with her class, and learning about dinosaurs from my son.
Within one game, you have to be able to rebound mentally after just a single delivery of the ball, or a single frame. I pride myself on pulling myself back up after a bad ball. You can really get off-track and lose confidence after a bad frame. One of my mantras is that I can’t change the past, so I need to make my next delivery my best. Look at the next set of pins and try to knock them down. I also don’t dwell when I’m hot and rolling strike after strike. All that matters is the next ball.
GOALS FOR THE FUTURE…NEAR AND FAR
1. Win the PBA’s Grand Slam, which is comprised of the USBC Masters, the Tournament of Champions, the PBA World Championship and the U.S. Open. I’ve come in second in the World Championship and U.S. Open, but have yet to win them, so I want to win those to have all four.
2. Be inducted into the Bowling Hall of Fame. It would be leaving a legacy, and I would join the people who have walked the lanes before me – the all-time greats.
3. When my playing career is over, I still want to have a presence in the sport. Whether it’s sponsoring young bowlers, keeping the “Belmo” and #TwoHands brands out there, I want my name to carry on.
Stop by and visit Jason’s shop to view some of his most popular clothing designs from both the Belmo and #2Hands brands. Jason’s Shop