NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Amelia Kiefer has figured something out that most haven’t: You don’t have to be the headliner to make headlines.
On a Vanderbilt team with a roster chock full of junior phenoms, Kiefer has steadily carved out an important role for herself that’s virtually invisible to outsiders, while insiders insist she is a primary reason for the team’s incredible success.
Mel, as she prefers to be called, has a key leadership role on Vanderbilt’s No. 2-ranked bowling team. Her teammates say that if they are to hoist major trophies in the post-season, Kiefer will be a big factor.
“I like to think of myself as a point of stability on the team,” said the senior from Jasper, Indiana. “I’m a person that pushes, motivates and encourages my teammates, while also picking up the slack in areas—taking care of things behind the scenes so others don’t have to or keeping it from becoming an issue.”
The sport of bowling is fickle. It’s easy to soar with momentum, but even the very best teams have to develop ways to work through tricky oil patterns, poor technique, mental downers and plain old bad luck. Kiefer embodies much of that at Vanderbilt, and her toolkit is needed at every tournament—sometimes multiple times a day.
“Amelia has developed into an overall leader,” said head coach John Williamson, who is in his 19th season and has seen his share of leaders. “Whatever needs to be done, she is going to be the one who does it. Whether it’s bowling, getting a ball from the back or picking up a struggling teammate—she’s figured out a way to make herself invaluable in all she does. She has the common sense, the awareness and the feel to say what needs to be said—and then do it.”
Such exceptional internal leadership on a team, Williamson says, makes it possible to win at a high level.
“Coaches can steer in the right direction,” he said, “but players lead the charge. The clout Mel has is the result of what she does on a daily basis and the respect her teammates give her. Once in a while she’ll have a conversation with us about what she needs to do, but more times than not she’s savvy enough to know what the situation dictates.”
Kiefer’s teammates realize what she brings to the lanes. Just ask All-American Mabel Cummins, the team’s only other senior.
“In the settee area, Mel brings a ton of energy and a calming presence,” Cummins said, especially at stressful points in the match. “She is…
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