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Vanderbilt Athletics | December 6, 2013

Split allegiances


Natalie Goodman always had her sights on bowling for Junior Team USA.

She wanted to follow in the footsteps of former Vanderbilt teammate Jessica Earnest and lead her country to gold as Earnest did at the 2012 World Youth Championships in Thailand.

But before she qualified for the team last year, Goodman pondered another option -- just for a moment.

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What about qualifying for the German national team?

For Goodman it was a legitimate possibility as she holds dual nationality in Germany and the U.S.

“It is kind of a unique thing that not a lot of people get,” she said. “The cool thing is I have the opportunity. If I wanted to I could go bowl for the Germany team or the USA team. Then my dreams came true with the USA team. So I’m riding that train right now.”

Twenty years ago Goodman earned dual citizenship when she was born in Prüm, Germany, in the hometown of her mother, Lydia. Her father, Bill, originally from Michigan and now retired from the Air Force, met Lydia while stationed in Prüm -- a rural town in western Germany that sits within two hours of Belgium and Luxembourg.

Eleven months after Natalie was born, Bill was relocated to South Carolina and then moved to O’Fallon, Ill., in 2001.

“People are always fascinated when I tell them I’m from Germany and my whole family is over there and my mom is full German,” Natalie said. “They think it is the coolest thing. ... It is a different change-of-pace lifestyle than what I live here. If I could go back there every year I would. I love 
it there.”

Lydia’s family—her mother, two brothers, sister and nieces and nephews -- remain in Germany. Natalie has visited Germany at least five times but her last visit came in 2007. When her dad was still in the Air Force, Natalie recalls sleeping on the floor of spacious military cargo planes during the long flight.

“The real noisy planes,” she remembers before laughing. “There are seats on the side. But it was nice. We just laid out, put a blanket down.”

While she longs to be closer to her family -- her dad’s side is spread out in Michigan, Florida, Texas and Washington -- she credits technology for allowing her to stay in touch.

An app on her phone provides free international text messaging. But she admits her German is rusty. Three years in high school and two semesters at Vanderbilt have helped her pick up words, but she remains puzzled with language sentence structure.

“[Her cousins] text me in German and it takes me a while to respond because I have to think about what is being said,” she said. “We talk on a regular basis, share pictures and videos. ... My mom will talk on the phone with her mom and sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh, I heard that.’ I pick up on little things.”

Her passion for bowling has also led to international endeavors for Goodman, a left-handed junior, who helped lead the Commodores to the national championship match in April.

The summer before her sophomore year at Vanderbilt in 2012, Natalie and the rest of the women’s bowling team ventured overseas to bowl the Italian National Team. During the 10-day trip the team also visited Paris, Rome and Florence.

“I did not know I was signing up for that,” Natalie said with a smile. “Paris, Rome and Florence -- what a cool experience that was. Vandy brought me that side of the international aspect, which I thought was really cool and fun.”

That same summer Natalie qualified for Junior Team USA. In July, she was one of four U.S. bowlers to compete in the Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships in Ponce, Puerto Rico and bowled against representatives of Columbia, Mexico, Curaçao and the Virgin Islands.

She once again qualified for the national team this summer after finishing third at the North Pointe Junior Gold Tournament in Michigan. She aims to make the final lineup for the World Youth Championships next year in Hong Kong.

“If I got there I have intentions of meeting and introducing myself to the German team,” she said. “It would just be cool to see and get to know them while we are there."

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