Billy Slater was introduced to bowling by his cousin at age 21 at Wheaton Triangle Lanes in 1973 after his passion to play professional football ended that year due to a devastating back injury. His first two leagues were at Fair Lanes University, where his averages were 163 (tenpins) and 113 (duckpins). He gave up duckpins after one year, and after two years of bowling with no formal coaching, he averaged in the 170s. Billy has become a very proficient bowler, consistently averaging over 200 and is well respected for his bowling, knowledge of the game, coaching, mentoring, and continuous passion and dedication to helping all bowlers, young and old, to promote the game. In addition, he incorporates real life experiences needed to help youth survive in life.
During his coaching sessions at the age of 22, Billy became interested in drilling bowling balls. He asked Wayne Shoemaker’s dad (the owner of Bowlers General Pro Shop) to teach him the art of drilling, and Billy has been drilling balls for over 41 years. He employed his art major skills towards fitting and created an offset thumb grip that allowed him to release the ball easier and cleaner. His knowledge and understanding of the human hand has allowed him to custom-fit the grip of many bowlers, including those with arthritic and deformed hands, especially when working with elderly clients. His clients range from beginners to PBA members.
Billy currently volunteers his time at the Ft. Meade Pro Shop, where he drills balls for a number of youths and adults, while continuing to mentor and coach others in an effort to enhance their knowledge and enable them to have free and proper training. Ironically, he was denied help from many when he inquired about the game, which forced him to read and watch pro players to pick up the game and learn adjustments. Then, future Hall of Famers Willie Jelks and Elmer Breeden thought well of Billy’s game, and Earl Anthony’s books also helped enhance his bowling knowledge.
Billy owned and operated the Twelve In a Row Pro Shop for 21 years with Tony Walton, Chris Ward, and Tom Washington. He has promoted Roto Grip since 1975 and received national awards as a “Top 5 Salesman” two straight years.
Billy is also a certified USBC coach, and he has worked with collegiate players from Howard, Morgan State, and UMBC. While he has fulfilled and accomplished many goals during his career as a coach and mentor, a few deserve special mention:
- He coached his daughter to a 183 average at the age of 13.
- Verra Diggs, a student at Bowie State, bowled her first 300 in a collegiate tournament.
- Billy is extremely proud of his most recent protégé, 12-year-old Tavera Johnson of Glen Burnie, Md., who won her U12 division scratch championship last April in the Pepsi Challenge at Forest Hills, Md., and competed in the Junior Gold event in Chicago.
On the lanes, Billy has rolled 10 perfect games, a dozen 299 games, and three 800 series, in addition to winning over 25 league championships, numerous tournament titles, and he’s cashed in PBA regional competition.
For more than four decades, Billy Slater, through his coaching and mentoring of bowlers of all ages and skill levels, including those with disabilities, his ball drilling skills, his equipment donations for bowlers in need, his volunteerism, and his genuine concern and care for human beings, has made bowling better for so many in this area. He is a welcome addition to the NCAUSBCA Hall of Fame.