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‘Bowls is Bowls’ - Positively Promoting the Sport of Bowls

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Northamptonshire-based 'Bowls is Bowls' is an organisation that has been established to encourage all bowls organisations, clubs and bowlers of all ages, creeds, colour and abilities to work together to promote all formats of bowls equally, in order to increase participation in the sport and membership of clubs and associations.

It is the brainchild of 'Boul Trader Limited' Chief Executive, Mark Courtney, himself a keen bowler since childhood and a Level 1 Coach Bowls Coach, member of Bowls Northamptonshire and Bowls England.

'Bowls is Bowls' was officially launched in September 2019 at one of bowl's many "hidden gems", Daventry Indoor Bowls Club in the heart of the Shires and the birthplace of "Daventry Calling", by the award-winning presenter Simon Ricketts, the English Indoor Bowling Association (EIBA) Chief Executive Peter Thompson and President Alison Welsted, along with three top International bowlers:

  • Scottish bowling world-record breaking legend, Alex 'Tattie' Marshall MBE
  • Legendary medal-winning member of England's Commonwealth Games bowls team, David Bolt ('Bolty', "BOLT BOWLS")
  • Ed Sawbridge, the No 1. ranked player on the Short Mat Players Tour

The 'Bowls is Bowls' launch provided a clear emphasis about its intention to bring all forms of Bowls at all levels and formats together to help promote the sport, demonstrating the openness and limitless opportunities for the sport to reach out into communities, via hospitals, care home facilities, youth clubs and other related areas.

The launch was also supported by local Conservative Party MP for Daventry, Chris Heaton-Harris Daventry District Councillor Alan Hills, Community, Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder and Councillor Chris Millar, the leader of Daventry District Council.

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Times are a Changing

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In 1988 I bowled my first wood on a bowling green aged 10 years old. I use the word "wood" in the true context as the only bowls small enough for me were the old lignum vitae bowls found collecting dust in many a club around the country. This was my first experience of the sport I have now loved for over 30 years but also an indication of the lack of support for young bowlers taking up the game at the time.

It was very tough to get involved in any teams at my first club due to there being a blatant disregard for young players being allowed on the green mixing with senior gentleman. This unwritten rule has come back to bite a lot of clubs on the backside as I now see the once strong clubs disappearing due to having no young blood progressing through the ranks to keep the legacy of decades of history alive. 

Unfortunately this is becoming an ever increasing occurrence and I sometimes wonder whether any of the jobsworth characters who seem to litter many a club ever feel any guilt when they see their club close its doors for the final time.

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Role Models

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In all sports there are players that excel at what they do and are not only gifted but have that special something that make them winners. I am lucky to have lived through an era where I have watched the likes of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry (snooker), Tiger Woods (golf), Phil Taylor (darts), Roger Federer (tennis) and Michael Schumacher (F1) to name a select few. All are prolific winners in their sport and will have provided many a young competitor something to aspire too over the years. Personally I have great admiration for not only their will to win but also the sheer determination to keep coming back for more.

The importance of having a target to aim for and also learning from players who have played at the highest level is crucial to the development of your own game but so much can also be taken from those players who may not be world beaters but give you the basics of how you will start to model your future.

There are 6 people who I believe have shaped my own career in bowls and each and every one of them still to this day play a part in every game I play.

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The Australian Experience

England and Australia Test Teams April 2017

In 2018 the Commonwealth games were to be held at Broadbeach Bowling Club, Brisbane, Australia and England took the opportunity to send 7 men and 7 women across to the venue in 2017 to play in a series of matches against primarily the Australian team but also state and club teams. 

This would give the English selectors an opportunity to see how the players coped not only on the Australian playing surface but also in the climate in what was a jam packed program over a 12 day period from 21st April to 5th May against strong opposition.

I had the privilege to represent England down under on the tour and wanted to share with you some of the experiences I had whilst there.

I also received questions from friends and players on my return wanting to know what it was like and my answer to most at the time was "a different world". Hopefully I can do justice in this blog as to what I mean and have also included a section on the Test Series against the Australian International team.

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Daventry Visit

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Over the last week I have had the pleasure of following up some previous development work that I was involved in last year down in Daventry, Northampton.

My first visit will always be a special one as it enabled me to learn how effective club visits can be and how I could help with information based on my own experience to potentially aid recruitment and identify pitfalls that could hinder the progress of the club.

I also started to understand my own value as I was not always comfortable with attention from not only current players but also from visitors who had attended the event just to talk to me about my experiences and success within the sport. The interaction and positive response opened my eyes to how important my role is not just in the competitive element but also in giving something back to bowls which could be as simple as a little bit of my time.

I will always be thankful for the opportunity I had to do this as it certainly helped me to achieve what is now my current role of Northern Bowls Development Officer for the Bowls Development Alliance. There is nothing more rewarding than helping a club who are currently struggling to increase membership and to see the benefits I can bring throughout the program. I would highly recommend any club who have lost more than 3% membership over the last 2 years to visit www.playbowls.org for advice and funding assistance. So on to my activities during the week commencing 9th Sept 2019:

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