By Spc. Latoya Dallas, U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt Public Affairs OfficeJuly 20, 2012
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- By first appearances, Staff Sgt. Allan Smith seems stern and serious. However, the non-commissioned officer, who remarkably resembles the comedian Dave Chapelle when he smiles, immediately lights up with laughter and passion when pressed about his bowling career and the sport's mechanics.
The Houston native finally felt a sense of relief when he was chosen to play for the All Army Bowling Team during the 2011-2012 season. Last year was his third time trying out for the team and he qualified by bowling a 259.
"A lot of people don't make it the first time because the conditions that you bowl on are a lot tougher than normal conditions," said Smith. "You have to be very talented and willing to adjust."
This season's Armed Forces Bowling Championship tournament took place in San Antonio June 11-12 and was hosted by the Air Force.
During the tournament he bowled a 218 average, placing him fifth overall the participants and helped the Army earn the All Service Gold Medal.
Having served in the Army for 14 years, Smith is the 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion Unit Prevention Leader. He also works as a training and operations personnel. For the past five years, Smith has functioned as a Master Resilience Trainer for the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 72nd ESB, 7th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, and for the Heidelberg Garrison Command.
"It has been a challenge to keep up with bowling in general," said Smith, a certified bowling coach. "It's not just something you can put down and be good at every time you pick it up. It requires a lot of practice. But I am in the military and the military comes first. I try to balance it the best I can. In addition to being married to a very supportive wife."
His performances over the years has earned him the title of International Champion, winner of the Luxemburg Opening 2001, fifth ranked bowler out of 900 within his division in the German Bowling Association and a spot on a Hawaiian television circuit during a bowling competition.
Check out what he has to say about his bowling experiences and making it to the top of his game.
What is your background in bowling?
I come from a bowling family. My mother was the 2008 Bowler of the Year for the state of Texas. In 2003, my brother finished 14th out of about 73,000 bowlers in a national tournament called the United States Bowling Congress championship. I never thought I was that good because I'm the youngest. My dad, he bowls (Smith chuckles), he's pretty decent. My dad brought bowling to the family when he and my mom were dating. She didn't even know what bowling was when my dad took her on a date. Afterwards she joined a league, and excelled from there.
When was your talent for bowling realized?
When I was six years old, I had a birthday party at the bowling alley with a couple members of my family. My mother tries to teach me to first roll the ball between my legs. I was like "Naw, I want to kick my leg up like y'all do," and she said, "Okay. Go up there and fall on your butt." I got up there and made sure I kicked my leg up like everybody else did. The first ball I ever threw for real was a strike. I didn't throw anymore strikes after that time (Smith laughs), but my very first one was a strike. I was hooked.
What is the process for joining the All Army Bowling League?
One of the main requirements that they look for is to have a current United States Bowling Congress average from a sanction sports league. The Army takes your tournaments into consideration. So, keep your records when you finish bowling in a local or city tournament. The records might state the oil conditions (lane conditions), how many individuals were in the tournament, and all the statistics of the tournaments. Then, the Army looks for your bowling knowledge. Online you can take the Level One Bowling Certification to be a Level One Certificated Coach. It will show the Army that you have taken an initiative, that you're trying to make yourself better and that you're a bowler. Everything is online now. So, after you've completed the online form, your commander and the garrison sports director will sign-off on it, and then it is passed on to the sports officials. The Army only sends 20 Soldiers to be on the team.
What more would you like to accomplish with bowling?
My goal is to bowl on national TV against the best bowlers in the world and see what happens. (Smith jokes). I don't know if that will ever happen. I might be in the stands waving, but we'll see. I'm not done yet.
Who inspires you?
Number one is my mom because she has never given me anything. She has made me work for everything and that has made me try that much harder. Number two is my brother because when I left to the Army, he gave me bowling advice. Most people get a 'be safe' or 'keep your head down.' My brother told me "everywhere you bowl, make sure they remember who you are" and "whenever you get in trouble and you don't know what to do, just throw it harder." The third person would be my dad, who let me be me despite the disorder that I have. Next, is everyone who beat up on me when I was growing up. Then of course there are professional bowlers Brian Voss and Johnny Petraglia who inspire me. Petraglia is a Bowling Hall-of-Famer and a Vietnam Veteran.
Smith indulges in the disorder he has.
My dad and I have a birth condition that affects 2% of the world's population. It's an overgrowth and undergrowth of bones and ligaments. The disorder doesn't allow me to extend my arm all the way or roll my hand completely straight. The radius is bigger than the ulna and is therefore causing a blockage. Growing up I always wanted to bowl like the pros did--nice long arm swing and follow-through, but I can't do that. My dad always let me know that it's okay to be who we are and that we are like this for a reason.
What is your philosophy on bowling?
Don't be afraid to try something different, which means do not stand in the same place each bowl. The people who are good are consistent, but to become a great bowler you need to do a lot of different things consistently.
What is your advice for any Soldiers who would like to be play for the Army?
Put in your application. Some people downplay themselves. They give other people more credit because they know how good that person is and they don't think they are as good as everyone else. You never know how good you are until you try. A lot of times in the right situation, they perform above what they expected.
What was the most difficult thing about playing for the Army?
The Army has won the All Service Award the past couple of years. I didn't want to be 'that guy'--the guy that makes us loose our strike. I finally make the team and we don't win (Smith shakes his head in shame).