Gordon Vadakin Born: September 12, 1953 (Wichita, Kansas)
Graduated: Wichita Southeast High School, 1971 / Wichita State University, 1981.
Born and raised in Wichita, legendary bowling coach Gordon Vadakin started bowling in the fifth grade. As
he grew older and eventually enrolled at Wichita State, Vadakin didn’t join the bowling team until his
sophomore year in 1972, but he would go on to play for four years.
Vadakin was hired as an assistant manager for the Wichita State recreation center shortly after graduating.
Because the rec center was responsible for the bowling program, this also made him a de facto assistant
In 1976, Shocker head coach Paul Waliczek left the program, and Vadakin took the top job a year later.
Vadakin coached the women’s team to back-to-back national championships in 1977 and 1978. One of
Vadakin’s early goals included elevating both the women’s and men’s teams to national prominence. Just two years later, in 1980, he coached the men’s team to its first-ever ITC appearance and first national
championship. Vadakin had firmly planted Wichita State bowling in a position of national stature.
Over the next sixteen years, Vadakin led the program to seven more championships, three from the women
and four from the men. Along with coaching, Vadakin also bowled for the United States National Team in
1983 and 1989. In 1996, Vadakin considered leaving Wichita State for a new opportunity, but the Shockers
invested in him. Until then, Vadakin still had the responsibility of managing the recreation center along with
running the bowling program. But now Wichita State sweetened the pot by giving him the opportunity to
focus solely on the bowling program and form his own coaching staff.
From then until his retirement in 2019, Vadakin coached the Shockers to twelve more national titles–three
from the women and nine from the men. Vadakin proclaimed the 2015 men’s national title team one of his
most memorable moments–when his team made what he called “The Decision.” Despite having a talented team, Vadakin watched them struggle through the early portions of the season and fail to find their groove. After multiple heartfelt conversations throughout the season, the team made the choice to go all in and put every ounce of effort into winning. Although Vadakin saw many teams make “The Decision” to go all-in, the 2015 squad seemed to exemplify what it meant.
Vadakin finished his coaching career with eighteen team and nine individual championships. He coached 145 All-Americans, twenty-five Bowler of the Year selections and 239 Academic All-Americans.
Among the many things Vadakin preached to his players was his focus on three things that he expected of every bowler: a work-hard mindset, an intense desire to learn, and a willingness to listen while showing
loyalty to coaches, teammates, and the education process. By constructing this culture, Vadakin prepared bowlers not only for competition but for what comes after their last ball has been thrown.
Please welcome Gordon Vadakin to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Biography by: Nathan Swaffar
Photos Courtesy of Wichita State Bowling and the Vadakin Family.