I wonder what the age profile is of your club membership? If it is anything like my own club, then the average will be well over retirement age. Nothing wrong with that I hear you cry, and of course you are quite right. Bowls is a great pastime for retired people, it offers physical activity, social contact, new challenges, and it gets you out of the house. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that whilst our players are enjoying longevity, our sport may not be. The only way to be sure that our clubs do not literally die out, is to encourage new players to join us.
My club, Cotswold Bowls Club in Gloucestershire, is one of the largest and best equipped in the County. We have indoor and outdoor facilities and are able to offer competitive bowls all the year round. We have contact with all the bowls clubs in our area and many beyond, so it is fairly easy to monitor any obvious decline in the number of people playing bowls across the County.
Social contact with players from other clubs strongly suggests that many of our local clubs are struggling to maintain their numbers. Matches are being cancelled and teams being lost as the decline takes effect. Are you worried yet – well you should be, because there does not seem to be any significant coordinated action being taken to address this issue at a local or national level.
My own club is beginning to look at establishing Junior membership through contact with local schools and youth organisations, however, the issue will require a more organised response through the County Association and the participation of all the clubs if we are to have any kind of meaningful impact.
The image of bowls is that of a nice, gentle activity for older people with time on their hands. That image will not change until we are able to engage and recruit younger people into the sport. We must collectively demonstrate to the wider community what all bowls players already know, that we enjoy a sport that does not discriminate on age, gender or ability.
A sport that offers competition, social contact, and the opportunity to enjoy an activity with family and friends. If you recognize any part of this article to be true, you should start to ask what your club and your County are doing to tackle this problem.
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