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Reaching the head

John Rednall talks to the headteacher of Boreham Primary School, Ian Bowyer, about junior bowls initiatives that are benefitting his pupils and its link club, Falcon Indoor Bowling Club.

An out of school trip, to watch an international bowls match, followed by a bespoke coaching session was the educational treat for pupils from nine Essex primary schools.
The idea, created by the Falcon Bowling Club, in conjunction with the Chelmsford School Sports Partnership and the English Indoor Bowling Association, came to fruition as around 40 children took to the green in two sessions. There, along with their accompanying teachers, teaching assistants and one headteacher, they were taught the basics of the sport, including warm ups, coordination exercises, mechanics of delivery, (stance on the mat, position of leading leg, backswing, follow-through, weight control and mastery of line) and even played short singles matches against one another.
The level of mastery in just 50 minutes was clear for all to see. And that was part of the plan: to show those who had come to watch the women’s and men’s international series how to coach primary school aged children how to play bowls. Those watching with a keen interest would have noticed immense concentration on the faces of the youngsters, sheer enjoyment and competitive nouse as young newcomers to our sport urged their bowls close to the cones and jacks.
The message I like to convey when I coach beginners is that bowls is a game in which significant progress can be made very quickly, and that progress is inspiring in itself as it fuels our enthusiasm; it gives us self-belief, boosts our confidence and informs us as newcomers that we might just be good at this new interest, hobby, pastime.
Learning a new sport, whatever it is, is a challenge and a gamble. We might be no good; we may fail; we could look silly in front of our friends and the rest of the world. It’s a big step to walk onto that bowling green for the first time, particularly as a ten-year-old, to watch, listen and try. Our coordination might be clumsy initially and at first we can get the right weight but wrong line, or vice versa. Our pessimistic first instinct is to give up before we have given it a fair crack of the whip. Yet, as beginners, we are spurred on by our early successes. In this case each of our bowls that gets near the jack and by the encouragement that teachers, coaches and onlookers communicate to us. Then to our glee or sheer surprise, we realise we have an aptitude, and potential to be better than we ever thought possible. It is then, crucially, up to our parent club, its members, coaches and experienced players to guide us further and to help us on our way.
For me in the role of English Indoor Bowling Association director of junior recruitment and youth development, being on the green with the children is a joy. It’s the best part of the role and it’s something I’m doing more and more of as our governing body rolls out exciting new initiatives to get hundreds if not thousands of children in schools, community centres and bowls clubs playing bowls. If bowls gives them something new, something to engage them, raises their curiosity in sport and boosts their interaction across generations, everyone, including the sport itself, is a winner.
One of the participating schools in the venture was Boreham Primary whose children attended with Ian Bowyer, their very sport-minded headteacher. who is also subject leader for physical education.
I asked Ian what physical education and sporting opportunities are like in his school, the impact sport has on his pupils and how bowls has fitted into the broader curriculum.
He said: “We are a small village school in Chelmsford and extremely proud of our sporting provision and facilities. As a result, we have gained local and national accreditations. All our children receive the government recommendation of two hours of physical education a week. This is taught by class teachers and by a sports coach who comes into school daily to set up sporting activities for our children to take part in in their lunch break. We teach a range of sports on our curriculum including gymnastics, dance, rugby, football, benchball, basketball, hockey. Endball, tennis, tri-golf, cricket, athletics, dodgeball and archery. Our PE curriculum is designed so that it contributes to the teaching of personal social health education and citizenship. Therefore, children learn about the benefits of exercise and healthy eating, teamwork and sportsmanship. We support the social development of our children through the way we expect them to work with each other. They develop a respect for each other’s ability and encourages them to co-operate across a range of activities and experiences. We also offer a full range of out of hours inclusive extra-curricular sporting clubs which enhance and extend our school curriculum.
“The opportunity to watch England take on Ireland in the women’s international at Falcon and to be coached by yourself, John and your daughter Katherine, highlighted to all of the children who attended that indoor bowls is not a sport just for the older generation. Each of our home nations had extremely young teams and some players were representing their country for the first time, aged just 15. Our primary aged school children have been able to learn all about the art of indoor bowling and the skills involved to aim and bowl successfully in partnership with the older generation has been an absolute privilege. It was great for them to meet Katherine, the current world ladies’ champion and to have their photos taken with her.
“Our exterior school premises include an all-weather daily mile track, an outdoor gymnasium, outdoor table tennis and reaction walls to support our children’s hand-eye coordination. As a school, we are now wanting to further improve our sporting facilities and our latest project will see anew outdoor non-contact sport area which will enable children of all abilities to play outdoor bowls,
mini-golf and archery in a safe and calm location.
“Through Chelmsford School Sports Partnership, our school has been linked with Falcon Indoor Bowls Club since 2017. Through the partnership, our school at Boreham can send children aged 7-11 to participate in a range of activities led by Falcon members. I have had the pleasure of attending the majority of these events.”
In addition to the two sessions mentioned above, the Falcon Junior Academy also put on a demonstration of bowling skills. These youngsters attend regular junior sessions organised by Greg Moss and the club is very well resourced in equipment and sets of bowls for smaller hands.
The Essex Bowls Coaches Association, an extremely well organised, proficient and hard-working recently held their open meeting and I was truly amazed at the sheer number of active coaches and well organised structuring of programmes of coaching, talks and roadshows. The group numbers 60 or so members, who after the meeting stayed on to enjoy my afternoon practical workshop entitled ‘How to teach children to play bowls’. Several of the members of this worthy group conduct road shows and coaching clinics. Information is well set out on their website and they really are effective. Any counties wishing to set up their own county coaching society could learn a lot from the Essex Bowls Coaching Association and their officers.
The Series
I thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the women’s and men’s Home International Series.
As a spectacle, there’s nothing like it: six rinks of fours with the aggregate score all important.
The event was extremely well staged and a credit to all involved.
Congratulations to Scotland for winning the women’s series and to England for extending their winning tally in the men’s event.

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