By Lisa R. RhodesJanuary 16, 2009
Dean Ryan can't stop smiling.
The two gold medals earned by members of the All-Army bowling teams for their overall performance in last month's Armed Forces Bowling Championship are a source of pride and joy for Ryan, the team's coach.
"This is the best year we've had in my seven years as coach," said Ryan, manager of The Lanes Fort Meade. Of the 11 events in the annual bowling championship, the Army team won 10 first-place standings.
The event, held Dec. 6 to 9 at Fort Bliss in Texas, showcased the talents of bowlers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines worldwide. The top four overall bowlers from the Armed Forces Bowling Championship have moved on to the Team USA Bowling Tournament, which allows amateur and professional bowlers from the military and civilian sectors to compete in bowling contests all over the world.
Soldiers who want to compete in the Armed Forces Bowling Championship must first apply for a place on the All-Army bowling team.
Ryan and Elissa Weaver, Army sports specialist at the Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command in Alexandria, Va., reviewed the applications for this year's team in November and were pleased to find so many talented bowlers.
Ryan said many of the Soldiers who applied were new faces with superior bowling scores. Weaver agreed. "There was a gold mine of outstanding athletes with a tremendous amount of talent," she said, noting that the top-notch pool of talent matched with Ryan's exceptional coaching abilities -- he is a certified silver level coach with the Professional Bowlers Association -- were the formula for success.
Ten men and six women were chosen from the more than 50 applicants as finalist and competed in a four-day trial bowling camp at Fort Bliss in early December. From the trial camp, four men and four women were selected for the All-Army team to compete in the Armed Forces Bowling Championship.
In addition to the overall gold-winning performances of the men's and women's teams, the men's team won a gold and a silver medal for their overall singles performance and the women won a silver medal for their overall singles performance.
Although the Army is not represented in this year's Team USA Bowling Tournament, Ryan said the competition is "taking bowling to the next level." Eventually, he said, bowling may become an Olympic sport.
"It's a great sport," said Ryan, who has managed The Lanes for 13 years and has been a bowler for most of his life.
He said bowling is a popular family sport and one of the few physical activities that seniors can enjoy.
Weaver called Ryan a "tremendous asset" to the Army's bowling program. "He's been in the business for 20 plus years," she said, noting that bowlers from all of the service branches often rely on Ryan for advice and bowling tips.
Ryan said there isn't anything else he would rather do than coach bowlers. "I'm happy with where I'm at," he said. "It's gives me a lot of pleasure."