Lee bowler poised to strike at All-Army trial camp
March 27, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (March 27, 2013) -- The old sports adage, "There's no shame in his game," is totally appropriate when describing Sgt. 1st Joseph Stevenson's efforts to qualify for the All-Army Bowling Team.
That's considering the fact that he was sent packing during last year's trial camp but remained undeterred and hopeful. So much so that he applied again to this year's event scheduled April 16-19 at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Apparently, the organizers too thought there was "no shame in his game" and invited him back. Stevenson said he can't wait to seize the opportunity.
"It's pretty exciting for me," said the Romeo Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade Soldier. "It is one of the goals I made for myself when I started bowling -- I wanted to at least make the All-Army team."
The 42-year-old Stevenson said last year's pink slip pushed him into a prolonged effort to improve his game.
"Last year, I didn't have the knowledge and skill set that I have now," said the Fayetteville, N.C., native who started bowling only eight years ago. "I've spent the year practicing on my game -- spare shooting, throwing a better ball and just learning more about the sport of bowling."
Chip Wikan, manager of the Fort Lee Bowling Center, has been working with Stevenson over the past year. He said they assessed and dissected everything in his game including his timing, which was typically late, and worked to improve it.
"Now he has the knowledge to be able to jump in late timing, in time or early timing," said Wikan. "He's got a lot better control over his speeds, he runs through the entire lane a lot easier than he did before, and that's what it takes: it has to be automatic, and he's gotten automatic."
While Wikan has raved about the Soldier's timing, Stevenson said his shot consistency has been the biggest factor in polishing his game.
"If I get good results by throwing a strike on a particular shot," he said, "I've been able to repeat that shot several times over. I had to learn over the last year that when that shot is gone or when I can no longer throw it at the same ball speed and same angle, I had to change something. I learned how to transition into the next shot."
That development has helped his spare game, critical to making the team and something that suffered from his own frusration and lack of knowledge.
"I wasn't as strong in that last year because I didn't have the knowledge that I have as far as sport patterns go," he said, referring to how the ball travels due to conditions on the lane, "so I was leaving a lot of open frames due to splits -- pins being too far apart -- and getting upset and not controlling my emotions.
"So I've learned to control myself in the last year," he continued. "I've learned to shoot better on sport patterns or make small adjustments in my mechanics so that I can perform at a higher level."
Stevenson said he has cut up his game over the past year to such an extent that he is brimming with confidence. Ask him whether he'll make the team, and he'll respond as if he's played out a positive scenario in his head.
"In my mind, I already have (made the team)," he said. "I'm that confident in my skills and my ability to make adjustments now. There were a lot of guys on the team last year who will be back this year. If I didn't think I was going to make the team this year, I wouldn't have applied."
Stevenson's confidence seems to have grown as his game has improved. He'll need it. The water treatment specialist will face off against 15-20 of the best bowlers in the military during the trial camp. Wikan said Stevenson's progress has been dramatic and indicated that he needed to buy into the notion that he could be as good as anyone, given the proper tools. He used an analogy of jumping into the ocean for the first time to make his point.
"You jump into the ocean and you realize you're swimming," he said, "but all of a sudden, you see a fin and you go, 'Oh my gosh! What've I gotten myself into.' And it takes a little while to realize that you've got a fin on your back, too. That's the phase that he's getting into right now -- that he's a shark in the water along with every one else."
With dorsal fin intact, Stevenson will take a new toolbox of skills to the trial camp. The ideal scenario, he said, would be to make the team, compete in the interservice competition and try his hand at the big one -- the U.S. Bowling Congress Open tournament scheduled shortly thereafter in Reno, Nev. He plans to add a little matrimonial spice to the mix as well.
"My fianceé and I are getting married one day and then I'll bowl the next day," he said. "My ultimate goal right now, after making the All-Army team, is to win the USBC open."
No shame in his game.