Jun. 11—CHAMBERLAIN — For 30 years, bowling has been a big part of Danita Allen's life.
But for the Chamberlain woman, nothing is more rewarding than passing on that passion for bowling to young people. That includes coaching the opponents, as well, if she sees something she can pass along to help a young bowler.
"I am a very social person," Allen said. "I will help them and their opponents. If they ask, I am going to help them."
Allen, who has coached bowling for 25 years, has been named the U.S. Bowling Congress South Dakota youth service coach of the year for 2021, which is just the latest in a long line of accomplishments in her bowling career.
Allen was honored by the state association in 2018 as youth promoter of the year, and has been inducted into the South Dakota USBC Hall of Fame twice, once in 2014 for superior performance as a bowler and again in 2020 for meritorious service to the organization. She's also been inducted in the local Chamberlain bowling hall of fame in 2017.
She recently completed her fifth season coaching in the Eastern South Dakota youth travel league, which consists of youth bowling teams from Aberdeen, Chamberlain, Huron, Madison, Mitchell and Pierre competing each Sunday around the region during the fall. She said the program is looking for more participants, and those interested can contact their local bowling alley for more information.
"I love kids, it's just rewarding seeing the little things that they get out of it. Just seeing them learn and be successful," she said.
Allen said her first experience bowling and working with kids was in 1992, when her and her family bought the Bowling Dome, the community's longtime bowling alley. She started working over the counter, bowling and assisting kids in her spare time.
While still helping young bowlers, her career was just getting started. Allen joked that when she first started, she was "horrible" in her own words.
"I think I drank more adult beverages then I knocked pins down," she said.
Allen would soon get better and begin testing her luck in local and state tournaments, and even nationals.
Five years after she started playing, Allen bowled her first perfect game at a tournament at the Village Bowl in Mitchell.
"I was pregnant with my first daughter when I shot my first 300," she said.
Today, she has four 300 games, six 299 games, and an 812 series on her record. She is a mother of three daughters and her oldest, Brooke, was a collegiate bowler at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, who qualified for the USBC Intercollegiate Singles Championship earlier this year.
In her coaching, Allen said she tries to mix teaching the game with being a good sport and providing a positive environment for children to improve their skills.
"I really preach to kids about sportsmanship and team," she said.
The last year has been challenging for Allen, who was diagnosed with a brain injury in November, which required her to be on bed rest for three months.
"I didn't know if I was going to be able to bowl. It was really hard to watch the game of bowling when you're just sitting there wanting to bowl and you can't," she said.
While being a successful bowler and mom, Allen still has an impact in the community in other ways. She is a part of a Thanksgiving community dinner that provides meals to those in need around the holiday. She also is on the Friends of Performing Arts Board, teaches religion classes at a local church, and works at Chamberlain Elementary School as a peer professional, working one-on-one with students that need extra help. Allen also is an advocate of mental health, selling shirts to raise awareness to suicide.
"People don't realize what other people are going through so I always tell my kids to just be kind. If you can't be anything else, just be kind," she said.
Allen said she's seen first-hand the impact that bowling can have in making friendships and being a rewarding, lifelong activity.
"Bowling isn't just about knocking down pins, it's about socializing, getting out with people, and meeting new people. Just go out and have fun," she said.