REDDERS’ REVIEW | The role of a county president in the modern era
For those of us who have experienced the immense satisfaction in winning county titles, or being runners-up, the reward of a trip to Leamington or Skegness to compete against similarly competitive and equally as determined rivals from near and far is the competitive bowler’s annual ambition.
Bowls England’s most-capped international, John Rednall, speaks to former Suffolk president Chris Leake on the importance and role of a county president in the modern era.
To take on the best in the nation and compete on an equal footing is just reward for all of those rounds within the county, in various meteorological conditions and greens of varying quality.
Once at Leamington, many of the traditions of the past complement the much-needed modernisations of the sport. It is always great to see the line of flags of each county and to see the bands of supporters following their respective representatives.
The ice creams drip in the hands of the spectators as they always have and inevitably we meet familiar faces whom we only see once a year.
Another timeless institution is the sight of the various county presidents, male and female, in their regalia with chains of office, there to vocally encourage their county, to congratulate or commiserate with them afterwards and to meet their counterparts for hearty conversation and socialising.
As a player, I realise that in addition to support from family, friends and members of my own county’s
executive, I have truly valued the time and efforts of the club and county presidents who make a very
significant financial sacrifice to be at the championships as figureheads.
Many of them travel thousands of miles each year, first in a junior vice-president capacity, then during their presidential year and then as immediate past. So their term of office truly is a three year stint.
Suffolk’s most popular president, who absolutely revelled in the role was my friend Chris Leake who inspired the county to its most successful year in the EBA centenary year of 2003.
Chris was ever-present at all rounds and disciplines, making sure his players were happy, hydrated and well turned out.
Anyone who knows Chris will tell you that he is innovative, full of great ideas for the positive image of the sport and one of the most genial, generous and well intentioned: a thoroughly good egg.
I met Chris recently to discuss what makes the perfect president and he replied with his trademark wisdom: “In India, they say Buddha is the only perfection. As humans, and certainly as bowls presidents we don’t ever attain perfection, but to be as good as we can, we have to give as much as we can. We have to do everything in our powers for the good of the county and to support the players in everything they set out to achieve.
“A president has to work hard and there are no half measures. You have to be prepared to learn which takes time and energy. I tried as Suffolk president to learn about my players, what drove them, what image we wanted for the county.
“When I visited the various clubs in my presidential year, I carefully researched their histories and successes so that I could pay tribute to them in my speeches. I was never a ‘just a bottle of wine and notepad president’. I had gifts made that were suited to those I presented them to.
“Things like especially inscribed pens, a special tossing coin and framed photos. We had a ‘You are the weakest rink’ coaster made.”
Bowls International journalist David Rhys Jones once described Chris as ‘the animated, chain-smoking president of Suffolk’ and the ‘players’ president’ and noted that Chris was always sartorially well turned out!
“I used to wear various blazers and jackets, even striped ones,” Chris added.
“I had a Henley Regatta-style one! It is part of the discipline of the sport. I don’t like shorts; I still prefer players to wear blazers and ties. It’s only my view but we should have codes of discipline.
“Players need to be comfortable in what they wear on the green but before and afterwards they should be more formal. I used to be there when all the competitors were called out, clapping our boys as they received their national championship badges.
“I watched every end of the matches and used to get back to the hotel with swollen feet and wet flannels.”
In an attempt to further enhance Suffolk’s status, Chris sponsored an event at his home club of Hopton in which the Commonwealth Games squad played in a competitive format. It attracted large gatherings of interested supporters and generated real enthusiasm for the sport in his club.
Bowls International is the world’s most respected bowling magazine, available monthly in both digital and print formats. A comprehensive round-up of the Bowls England National Finals will be included in the November issue of the magazine.
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