Phillip Smith Jr. Chats with USADSF about USA Deaf Bowling’s Bronze Medal at the 2019 World Deaf Bowling Championships


Jeff Wolfe, USADSF Director of Development: Hi, I’m looking forward to interviewing you so we can find out more about who you are. First, tell me your name, who are you and where are you from?

Phillip Smith, Jr.: Okay, hey, my name is Phillip Smith Jr. I’m from Oakland, California in the northern region. I grew up there, and that’s pretty much who I am.

Wolfe: Awesome, so you just recently came back from the World Championships, where exactly was that hosted?

Smith: The World Championship was actually hosted in Taiwan. It was my first time there and also the longest flight I ever experienced. It was amazing. What I want to do, my goal– oh, right, I forgot to show you something!

Wolfe: That’s amazing! Congratulations.

Smith: Okay, now before we get started, I got to look pretty here! Because you know I’ve got my USA brothers watching me now!

Wolfe: And so you flew all the way there, and it was your first long distance flight.
After you had arrived, from there was your overall experience exceptional?

Smith: The team, wow, our vibes. I had been spending time with people I already knew, but then two new people later joined. We immediately bonded. We stuck together, ate together and talked together. We all understood the reason why we were there. That’s why we got one of these.

Wolfe: You played 6 games altogether, right?

Smith: Yes.

Wolfe: So then by maybe the 4th or 5th game, I don’t remember, how did you guys rally for 3rd place?

Smith: Well, these 4th and 5th games, it was really, some of us were having struggles, you know. We saw our positioning, where we stood, we really felt like, “We can do this!” We can do this! Because we just got together and talked about how to keep our faith, stay strong and talked about how to keep our mentality strong.

I know we got 3rd place. But I admit what we really wanted was that gold. So, that’s why it’s going to be our goal for the next four years. But now we have the Deaflympics coming up so that’s what I want to do.

Wolfe: Now you’ve won your medal and stood up on that podium. Standing there, representing the United States, how did you feel about that?

Smith: Man! Want me to show you how I felt then? Getting this flag! Just seeing our flag being hung up when I was there! That was, it didn’t matter if we got 1st or 2nd place,
our flag was up there!

Wolfe: That’s awesome, and how did you get involved in the first place?
Did you bowl growing up, or did you pick up bowling later in life?

Smith: When I was growing up into my teenage years, we moved to another city. That was where I saw a bowling alley. I was curious so I went inside myself without my mom. When I saw the inside, I was very excited. I felt like going up the table there. There was one man, he was cool and he knew how to sign. His name was Mike Richards. He was hearing. He knew how to sign, though it was mostly fingerspelling. So when he saw me,
he tried to communicate with me by gesturing. He gave me all the information I needed about bowling. That really helped me get my bowling league started. He trained me.

Wolfe: So do you pay out of pocket for everything yourself, or do you try to find support and collect funds for your trip?

Smith: It’s really both. It was very… difficult really, because of the limited time we have. And we need to make sure we get what we need. So the time frame was what seemed to make it hard, you know.

Wolfe: It’s tough to raise the money, right? For these events you’re competing in.

Smith: Oh yes. Since you’re working full-time and practicing on the side too. Yes. You must practice, but you don’t have the time to ask everyone for funds to support you.

Wolfe: Exactly! But with that kind of funding we have to raise,
I know that’s really hard.

Smith: Sometimes it was last minute too. I don’t know.

Wolfe: You’re not the only one! I’ve talked with many athletes who have experienced this
same situation and it’s tough. Our goal here at USADSF is to support you, the athletes, with your future goals in raising funds. My job is to raise money for you.

Smith: Good!

Wolfe: So our athletes can focus full-time on their training and bring home that gold!

Smith: I will love you for that!

Wolfe: I know it’s not easy, but we will arrive there at some point. Keep going with your fundraising and we’ll try to meet you where you are.

Any other hobbies you like doing?

Smith: Really everyone knows who I am, maybe not everyone, but the new faces will know me as “Chef Smith”. That doesn’t mean I’m just a chef. I love to barbecue. I also have membership to the Raiders organization, you know the football team? I can get in early at the gate where there’s a sign with the title that reads “Bad Boys of BBQ” right there. It’s very famous. A lot of people show up, a lot, maybe over 300-400 people, let’s say.

Wolfe: I know you’re a working man and you have a busy day tomorrow too,
so thank you for your time. I’m sure there are a lot of fans that are really looking forward to seeing you and enjoying your comments. I really appreciate you working so hard for the USA in bringing home a medal. I know the goal is going to be a gold medal in 4 years, right? — Oh, I mean 2 years. Thank you for everything!

Smith: Really, thank you for inviting me for this interview. I’m all about representing my Deaf brothers in the USA. We’re representing you guys and you represent us. We’re representing our country, our individual states and our life of bowling. I really love you all and, actually let me show you something.

Wolfe: That’s great! That’s cool! I like that!

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