As a readiness officer with First Army Division West, Capt. Deon Buchanan takes his Army training mindset and applies it to something right down his alley — bowling.
Buchanan’s worst day at the lanes is probably better than most bowlers’ best day; and he will spare no effort to strike at his competition.
Later this month, he will go to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to attempt to secure a position on the All-Army bowling team.
The captain will have to be one of the top four competitors to make the team and represent the Army in the Armed Forces Bowling Championship, to be held April 22-28 at Camp LeJeune.
“To make the top four, I predict it will take 24 games on average,” Buchanan said. “One never knows with the talent I see on the roster. I am excited to get it on and see how the pins fall.”
The process to make the team includes an initial four days of trial camp during which 15 to 20 bowlers from the three Army components — active-duty, National Guard and Reserve — compete for the top four spots. Bowlers from the other branches of service will determine their teams in the same manner.
“This year we have a very talented field showing up for the trials to include a handful of past winners,” Buchanan said. “I expect it to be a great four-day competition, coming down to the last day to determine the final four to make the team.”
To test the skill, versatility and ability of the athletes, different oil patterns are put on the bowling lanes each day of competition. The patterns make bowling more difficult than traditional recreational bowling games.
“Understanding the equipment, lanes, oil and environment is a part of the scientific game of bowling,” Buchanan said. “There is also the physical and mental game that competitors must learn and develop.”
Buchanan has a broad range of experience, including as a member of the Professional Bowling Association and a previous member of the All-Army bowling team.
“I have competed in several national tournaments,” he said. “It is a whole new game competing with and against those guys ... they are incredibly talented and just plain good!”
Extensive training goes into preparing for competitions of this magnitude. The athletes spend a great deal of time practicing and allowing themselves to be coached.
“I bowl between 20 and 30 games per week and close to 50 in preparation for a competition,” Buchanan said. “I practice in facilities that have technology to analyze speed control, axis tilt, angles and other scientific aspects of the game.
“The game has two very distinct versions,” Buchanan said. “There is the recreation, or fun, side and the actual sport. There is a large and unknown gap between the two.”
Buchanan said that, while he started bowling just for fun, the love of the game has grown to become something much more.
“I started at a very young age, maybe 6 or 7,” he said. “I went with my family and friends and fell in love with the challenge of the game. I developed a strong desire to learn the competitive side of it.”
In addition to competing, Buchanan plans to start a nonprofit company that develops and fosters amateur bowling competitions in the United States.
“I like it when I can do something well for others that understand and appreciate the sport of competition and what it takes to do well,” Buchanan said. “I urge anyone interested in learning the sport side to dive in and go for it. It is a very rewarding experience when you begin to see what it is all about.”