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Celebrating bowling success and those who enable it

As I travel meeting bowlers and administrators, some have been brave enough to let me know at times they feel like bowls is just a world of administration, meetings and e-mails. I am sure many of you reading this will have had that same feeling and not just in bowls (writes Deepak Tanna, Bowls England president). So, I hope like me you will enjoy this time of the year to join in with the wider bowls family to recognise and celebrate the success of this year’s bowling champions whether at club, county or national level.
Being at Leamington for the Aviva National Finals, I was fortunate to witness the incredible passion of bowlers, supporters, county and club officers and families within the game of bowls, as bowlers sought for the glory that is to become an Aviva Bowls England national champion. I for one am extremely excited to have celebrated this success at the Aviva Champions Dinner, as well as the awards night, in February, where we can raise a glass to all those who work so hard to keep our game running.
As part of my reflection on 2023, it strikes me we have so many ‘enablers’ working to allow us all to play bowls. The amazing worldwide suppliers and retailers who invest in the sport to provide a wide diversity of style and colours of bowls or clothing and shoes via shops, clubs, road shows or a simple mouse click. Green maintenance equipment manufacturers and green chemical suppliers who keep innovating to improve what we have available to maintain our greens, who also provide free advice and courses to support clubs through Bowls England affiliation. Coach Bowls who train and support many bowls coaches who have coaching skills transferable to other sports. Insurers who enable club officials and coaches to do their roles knowing they are not personally liable if something goes wrong whilst performing their club roles (for example injuries (mental or physical)) whilst on club premises. Local press who promote what we do. Clubs, caterers and their hardworking volunteers. The list goes on…
I was fortunate to recently meet some enablers. Firstly, I dropped in at Kingsthorpe BC (Northampton) on my way to the ‘Moonrakers’ county luncheon to meet Mark Royal at one of his Jack and Bowl roadshows. I was impressed by Mark who is not only a great bowler but very knowledgeable about the game and was able to communicate some of that knowledge to me as a customer to help me chose which bowls were best.
I left having seen first-hand the ‘legend that is Mick Sharpe’ and the passion within Kingsthorpe Bowling Club to play a more active part in their local community. The club, through ‘Kev’, has taken on board ‘water Harvesting’, where significant amounts of water is saved by capturing rainwater from the large indoor bowls club roof and storing that to use to water the outdoor green – saving money and being environmentally friendly.
I was also able to meet a club enabler, Lisa Graham, from the government funded BDA. The BDA and Bowls England work to enable clubs and club officials to learn new skills, keep updated with legal requirements, develop plans to increase membership, play a bigger part in their local communities and look to obtain external funding.
In today’s world, a new type of enabler has appeared called ‘influencers.’ Like many others and due to my own ignorance, I initially dismissed the relevance of influencers to bowls but then the penny dropped and I realised bowls has benefitted from influencers from the start, Henry the VIII, Sir Francis Drake, Dr WG Grace, David Bryant, Tony Allcock, Alex Marshall who have the ability to connect with the public in a way that presents bowls as something for everyone and not just when you reach a certain age, whatever that is.
The challenge for bowls is, can we let go some of the control to engage with influencers, and seek help to develop our digital footprint on social media, to change peoples’ perceptions and attitudes? I wonder amongst our many younger bowlers how many of them could lead the charge? Do we as a sport have the vision and desire to learn and innovate, and do things that take us out of our comfort zone?

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