It’s the age-old question, how do you attract more people to your club and then turn them into ongoing bowling members?
It’s a tough challenge for most club administrators and an issue that attracts much debate, especially in today’s trends of sports consumption, where most newcomers to the sport of bowls are more inclined to socially bowl than become an invested member.
This along with the concern of losing current members at a greater rate than new arrivals into the club, Mitcham Bowling Club head coach Stephen Milstead sought a positive way forward.
Stephen reported that close to 10 members had moved on from the previous season, so something had to happen to replenish the stocks.
Having been involved with the Melbourne Roys and Fitzroy Victoria BC in the first year of the Bowls Premier League (BPL) at Pine Rivers, Stephen was aware of the Jack Attack program which is a fun, social and some-what competitive modification to the sport.
He subsequently ordered and paid for the Jack Attack program online and then went about convincing the club this was the way forward.
Stephen then recruited a core group of four members who together held a shared passion and knew this was the start of an important evolution towards the future development of the club.
Identifying their target audience (neighbours, work colleagues, families, local businesses), they rolled out a plan to muster up teams of three people.
All club members were assigned the task of recruiting teams through their networks and by the time January 24, 2018, arrived, they had two full greens committed with 24 registered teams ready to play over four weeks each Wednesday night.
Existing club members all pitched in making the process of running each night not so cumbersome on the same four people.
Prior to the first Wednesday night, Stephen offered an introductory coaching evening for those who hadn’t bowled before allowing those people to be better prepared once the four-week triples competition commenced.
Such was the popularity of the first four weeks, the club offered a second four week season with a further 24 teams coming on board just to try out the much talked about Jack Attack program. Some signed up for a second crack at the major prize.
The club used Team App to better assist in communicating with the players.
This had a ladder and results section, resulting in an amazing hit rate and no doubt lifting the overall profile of the program.
So with some 48 teams and 100 plus people competing, the challenge for Mitcham was to convert these into regular bowlers, and ultimately, club members.
Fortunately, Mitcham came up with the idea to conduct a two-week series, entitled the ‘Masters and Apprentices’, matching 28 Jack Attackers (who showed considerable raw talent along with having expressed an interest in going further with bowls) and 28 club members allowing for better integration into the club.
The club secured sponsorship for this event and along with prize money, offered a terrific perpetual and winners trophies.
Apart from the 10 plus new members already signed, increased finances, more sponsors, better community engagement and a recently announced $3000 Vic Health Active Club grant to purchase much needed small colourful bowls for the ladies and younger participants, the main success has been the injection of some fresh air within the club.
There is now a wave of expectation around the club that they can grow and move forward with a much brighter future as the club now has a community-minded vision.
Contribution by Paul Holtschke – Regional Bowls Manager (Metropolitan Melbourne/Geelong)