Article 10 - Participation
Participation or Attracting More Bowlers
Article published in Todays Bowler Feb 2002 - revised
When I asked the editor for suggestions about what might be of
interest to the readers, after being asked to write a piece for the
magazine, he was not slow in coming forward with some suggested
topics and I was then left feeling rather like choosing the
question in an examination to try and give good value.
So the choice came down to the controversial subject of bias
with what constitutes a legal set of bowls and the other hot topic
at bowls meetings which is 'a question of how to attract more
players to this great sport'. As I have some fairly strong opinions
on more participants, I thought that's the subject and I can share
my thoughts with readers to see what reaction it will provoke.
The question with regards to attracting more players does seem
to be high on the agenda of all the bowls associations throughout
the World. I hear from my colleagues in Australia that they are
concerned about less people taking part in their Pennant
competitions and falling numbers of registered bowlers. Similar
comments are also heard from New Zealand. Canada and the U.S.A.
Those last two countries where the game is less well recognised but
they also have a continuing problem with attracting new
Generally the solution that most come up with is to concentrate
on attracting junior members. This certainly seems to be true in
the U.K. for example the Scottish Bowls Association has a scheme,
which has run for a number of years, to introducing school children
to the sport, other associations and counties have similar schemes
as do some clubs. The promotion of such schemes has been very
strong in the last few years and this is particularly evident by
the number of approaches that Drakes Pride has had for small size
bowls for junior coaching schemes. Whilst support of these schemes
is important junior coaching must be considered as a long term
project. Also it could be said that the, albeit restricted,
televised tournaments have shown that the game is no longer an old
person's sport. Mind you some adverts on TV do play on the 'ageism'
My thoughts however are more to do with encouraging and
attracting people from other sports which might be classified as
more physical, such as rugby, soccer, hockey, net‑ball etc. Get
them when they are at the end of their quality team play at around
35‑40. They have a proven record of enjoying sports and a proven
record of playing in a team. Bowls has the great advantage of being
a sport that people of that age group can still play at a high
level and can continue to do so for may years. So as well as
attracting the youth, let's get them at that lower middle aged
group before we lose them to golf and show them how enjoyable the
game of bowls is.
The other point in aiming at this sort of age group is that this
is where the population growth is shown to be, they are also the
section of the population which has the disposable income and are
people that have been used to club membership and know the basic
requirements of same.
Therefore, my suggestion would be to bowls clubs who are
concerned about losing members, and here is the major question. Is
it solely the officials that are worried, or is it the clubs
themselves that are concerned?
There is the old saying "you can take a horse to water but can't
make it drink". So for all the good efforts of the officials, if
the club members are not won over to the promotion of their sport,
then the reduction in numbers will continue. .
So perhaps not only do we need to encourage people to
think about playing bowls, but also to encourage the clubs
themselves to be more open to new members; in fact perhaps we
should be encouraging them to twin with their local rugby club, for
example. Why not invite some of the players down to try out the
sport. Just as long as there is no insistence on them wearing
whites, and if the shoes are a problem speak to your local bowls
stockists and ask them to contact Drakes Pride who offer a very
reasonably priced bowls overshoe ‑ which allows the person to wear
their ordinary outdoor shoes whilst still giving protection to the
'green'. It should be possible for each club to have a few pairs in
various sizes so that interested persons can "have a go".
Although it is easier for crown green bowls than perhaps it is
for lawn bowls, something that is done by the Thurston company in
Liverpool might be considered:
Some businesses have "fun nights" for their staff which could be
a night of crown green bowling, a meal and a few drinks in the
club. The clubs are delighted to host the night as it gives them
some additional income, and the groups just hire the crown green
bowls from Thurston for the night.
It is quite interesting to note that new members for the bowls
clubs have been picked up from such events. Perhaps therefore, lawn
bowls clubs could look through their old selection of bowls hidden
in the lockers, get a few sets together, and then contact their
local Chamber of Commerce offering their facilities to host such
events, have the bowls overshoes available and perhaps a couple of
members to offer some basic coaching advice. The club funds will be
improved and some new members might also be found.
Some say that the dress code puts off new recruits but is that
really true. Yes, there are some rather strange regulations
particularly for the ladies, but in all other team sports a team
kit is expected and in those other team sports, if you were to
change your club, then the team kit would also change. Perhaps the
advantage in playing in white, which will be common to all the
clubs is not such a handicap. Most sports require specialist
footwear and therefore bowls is not that different.
Perhaps therefore the excuse with regard to the dress code is
somewhat lame. Yes, styles could be improved to accommodate the
views of the modern day and age and that may well be helpful in
attracting new bowlers.
Do the umpires cause too much strife? I hardly think so, just
think of the abuse that is hurtled at the referees in some sports
by both players and spectators and yet they are considered to be
So in reality it probably comes back to all of us who are
involved with this great sport of bowls to "sell it", and if
changing the play format and using coloured bowls gets more TV.
coverage for the great game then its all for the good.
- In Australia in recent years, certainly since 2000 the clubs
have found a means of encouraging the use of their club, with the
benefits that this brings of bar and food sales,by allowing 'social
bowls' sometimes call 'bare foot bowls' other times 'night owls'.
They have used a simple games format and have no dress code other
than shoes or 'bare foot'. The events have been quite successful
and some participants have enjoyed themselves and the sport that
they have become 'bona fide' members of the club.
- Drakes Pride has, since 2008, been supporting Bowls England in
encouraging Clubs to prompt membership their Clubs by sponsoring
the 'Bowls Club of the Year' award.
© Peter N Clare 2002/2009. © E.A. Clare & Son Ltd
This article can only be reproduced in part or whole with the
permission of E. A. Clare & Son Ltd.