At the tender age of fifteen, I took up lawn bowls. Yip, there were sniggers, puzzled looks, and the big question, why?
Some co-workers from my afterschool job were putting a team together for the community bowls at the Rangiora Bowling Club, so my brother Daniel and I signed up. It sounded like a bit of fun. Not long after I was the South Island Secondary Schools singles champion, and also won the pairs title with Daniel. The Canterbury Junior Colts title followed, and last year I was the National U18 runner up.
A few people still laugh when I say I play bowls, but most people think it’s pretty cool, especially when I started winning competitions, and prizemoney! In my last few years at high school a few friends started to play too and being able to compete in a sport with my twin brother, on an even playing field, has been great.
The general conception of course, is that bowls is for older people, retirees and those that can’t play ‘real’ sport anymore. And while statistically people older than me do make up the majority of my competitors, it is an environment I enjoy. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging, which makes it a pleasure to play and pushes you to keep getting better. There are more youthful players on the greens these days. With more age group events, even primary school events, plus shorter versions of the game, such as Bowls3Five, the popularity of bowls with younger people is increasing. So, the banter, and style of bowls can be a little different depending on the age of the bowlers, but generally it is a great mix.
I love the social side of bowls that exists alongside the highly competitive nature of the game. The people are so diverse, not only in age, but also life experiences. I have met so many interesting people from all walks of life. It’s definitely not all ‘cups of tea and knitting’. Everyone is there to have fun, and the generation gap does not diminish the enjoyment factor.
Initially I was attracted to the technical side of bowls. Being able to deliver the perfect bowl, with the right weight and bias was tantalising. But the more I played, the more I understood the real challenge was to be able to do that consistently. That mental side of the game was a huge factor in getting me hooked on bowls too. Being able to stay calm under pressure is a fantastic skill I am slowly mastering. And, of course the tactical aspect of bowls is important now too, especially as I climb the ranks. I have learned a lot about this from the more experienced players around the greens and being part of the Canterbury Women’s Development team.
The summer bowls season is over for now, and I take a bit of a break over winter to play hockey but will keep my hand in with some winter bowls. Then I will begin my preparation for the 2020 NZ National Bowls Championships in Christchurch in January. Ultimately, I want to make the National squad, and play for the New Zealand Blackjacks.