When Ivan Nelson said “it’s all about the kids,” he meant it. Born in Picton on June 6, 1943, the former athlete of the year at Prince Edward Collegiate made coaching children a priority in his life. A high school star in football, basketball, track and field, gymnastics, badminton and volleyball, Nelson later turned his attention to bowling. For more than 30 years, he taught children the finer points of the game, encouraged them and served as an administrator for their programs. From 1981 to 1997, Nelson coached several Ontario 10-pin youth teams at international and national championship tournaments, including the prestigious World Zone finals in Florida in 1992 and 1997. For a dozen years, from 1985-1997, Nelson was a fixture as head coach of the Southern Ontario team at the annual 10-pin youth championships held at various locations across Canada.
For 10 years, he served as president of the Ontario Junior 10-pin Bowling Alliance, responsible for more than 7,000 youth bowlers in the province. Nelson was instrumental in the formation of the popular Southern Ontario and provincial “family twosome” tournaments. During his busy coaching and administrative bowling career, the gregarious Nelson still found time to roll a few frames himself. When he did, the results were often spectacular.
Nelson bowled for more than 30 years, winning the city high average four times and scoring a perfect 300 game in 1996. He was the first Belleville bowler to post a 200 average (201) and still holds the city record for high series (783) in three games. Beginning in 1961 and continuing through 1986, Nelson refereed basketball and football at both the university and high school levels and helped form the Bay of Quinte referees association in 1965. Ivan Delbert Nelson died in 2002 at the age of 59. The popularity of bowling in Belleville and then continued success of Ontario youth programs at tournaments in Canada and the U.S. are tributes to Nelson’s dedication to a sport he loved and the children for whom he cared so much.