David Corkill | “Bowls is a lifetime sport!”
Occasionally, I am reminded of what a great sport we enjoy.
Over the period of 50-plus years, I have been fortunate to have experienced travelling around the world as a player, official and commentator and yet it is the buzz of any match that brings me back to the basics of bowls.
Yes, it is brilliant to enjoy other countries and yes, I do feel privileged to have had that opportunity, but an ordinary club match still brings the potential of an adrenaline rush.
I recently took my mum, who has just turned 90, to her local short mat club. It is in fact very local; we can see the clubhouse and outdoor green from her kitchen window. It was also where I started to play bowls back in 1969.
All the members there that day are retired, and I thought to myself what a great sport bowls is. Friends meet up and enjoy the company of each other and for many that has stretched over many decades.
I suppose I do the same at my club as I have known many of the members there for 30-40 years. There is a comfort in being able to do that, just turn up at your club and enjoy the criac and banter.
It comes home to all of us as we get older that we are travelling a similar path to others. I look at the afternoon leagues and the veteran teams and I see my future, I hope. Of course, there many people around to say it’s not too far off and that is probably true, but that inevitability is incredibly comforting.
I see the pleasure that a 90-year-old enjoys when tootling off to play a match or two and I think what a great place to be. Bowls has been more than just a pastime for so many people. It has been said it has contributed to and helped in so many ways to people’s lives that it may well have added years to them.
I totally agree with this. It is a lifetime sport. One that can be enjoyed for many decades and bring so much to individuals lives that we often don’t appreciate or recognise the benefits to our life balance.
During my time of playing, I have also held different official capacities throughout the bowls spectrum of the professional side of the sport but also within the hallowed ranks of World Bowls (outdoor) as it was then as one of their directors and an international manager at one point, I have witnessed a lot and how our sport has impacted on people’s lives.
THE IMPACT ON LIVES
As a sports writer and television commentator, I have enjoyed the professional side of broadcasting and the pleasure bowls has brought to those who actually work on it.
Many of the people I work with in production companies are involved in the coverage of what many describe as the ‘golden’ sports such as premiership football, international rugby, international cricket, horse racing, golf and F1 motor racing. Without exception, they all say how much they enjoy bowls as a sport and sign up, when possible, for every event.
So, across the spectrum of age, experience and professional broadcasting we have a sport that gives so much not only to the lucky few individuals who have the opportunity to travel worldwide plying their trade and undoubted talent but also to the many thousands that play every week, maybe even every day.
Bowls as a sport is extremely under rated. It rarely gets the recognition that it deserves from the business community and government as a participative sport. We have hundreds of thousands playing bowls and whilst, at the moment, it is decreasing in numbers conversely it is also a potential area for growth.
Bowls is and will continue to be a lifetime sport and we should be proud of that.
BBC commentator and former British Isles champion David Corkill provides a regular insight into the sport as a regular columnist of Bowls International.
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Photograph: David’s mother Elizabeth is pictured with fellow short mat bowlers at Gilnahirk BC