Updated Oct 29, 2005 22:16:59
Tech Bowling Looking for Respect
LaKeya Smith is one of Louisiana Tech's top bowlers.
by Amber Miles
LaKeya Smith and her teammates want respect just like any other team. In their second year, the Tech bowling team is still fighting to earn recognition.
“There are people on campus who are still surprised that we have a bowling team,” the Baton Rouge native said. “One of our goals is to get respect from all of the athletes, faculty and student body. Hopefully that will come in time.”
And Smith’s score of 256 Oct. 23 against Texas Southern should me more than enough to warrant that respect.
“Every bowler’s goal is a perfect 300 game, so I’ll just keep striving to get there,” she said.
Smith has been bowling since she was 8, thanks in large part to her father.
“My father bowls, and the group he bowled with started a junior league. Every Saturday we practiced,” she said.
But by the time she was 14, Smith was burned out on bowling. That’s when she took a year off, but soon found herself back into it.
“The scholarships brought me back. The junior league offered a certain amount of scholarship for every tournament I bowled in,” she said.
But scholarship is not what initially brought Smith to Tech. Her freshman year, Tech did not have a bowling team. And although she was offered bowling scholarships else where, Tech became her home.
“I could’ve gone to Southern University (in Baton Rouge), but I didn’t want to be that close to home. And I could’ve gone to Florida A&M, but that was too far,” Smith said. “I just decided to come to Tech and continue playing in the junior league.”
But when the athletic department added bowling as another women’s sport, Smith jumped at the opportunity.
“Last year was a trial year, like Coach (Shawn) Jackson says, ‘We were just trying to get a feel for things.’ We lost courage a lot when we faced better competition,” she said. “This year I’m hoping we win more games because we have the right team to get it done. We just try to bowl our best.”
And bowling their best consists of hard workouts, contrary to what many think.
“Everybody asks why we work out, but we do it to build stamina and strength,” Smith said. “We’re running more this year to build up what we didn’t have last year. In my opinion, if you’re going to call yourself an athlete, you have to work out.”
Personally, Smith would like to maintain a 190 average and better her game all around. She knows she can do better, and so does the man who got her interested in bowling.
“When I reached my game high of 256, I was so happy, and my father told me I could do better,” she said. “But he’s the driving force that keeps me going, because he put a lot of effort into me.”
Smith said bowling has taught her never to quit.
“There were times when I really wanted to give up, but just like in life, there’s the commitment that keeps you from giving up,” she said. “There are obstacles that you have in bowling and in life that you have to get through because someone is always depending on you.”
Jackson has seen Smith’s relentless attitude first hand.
“What makes LaKeya stand out is her urgency to win. That’s what drives her to be as good as she is,” he said.
Jackson said Smith’s attitude is contagious.
“It’s hard to be around a person as competitive and as good as she is and it not rub off,” he said. “The team feeds off of her.”
Smith hopes to one day bowl at the professional level.
“For me, the chances are real slim,” she said. “I’ve only known one black female to make it, but I want to make it as far as I can.”
Jackson has confidence in her.
“She has a chance to achieve that goal of becoming a professional bowler if she keeps going the way she’s going,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of professional women bowlers, and there aren’t as many opportunities, but I think she has a shot.”
Until then, Smith continues to bowl for Tech and still tries to find time to bowl for recreation.
“When I go home to bowl it’s for fun,” she says with a sly smile. “But I still compete a little.”