Drive four hours north of Perth in Western Australia and you’ll arrive at the picturesque coastal town of Geraldton.
With two clubs based there, the town has a great history in the sport of bowls exhibiting strong membership and proactivity.
More recently, led by President Kevin Exten, the Wonthella Bowls Club launched a project to involve high schools in bowls programs at the club with great results.
The initial program, which was seen as a pilot for the area, involved three schools in Strathalbyn Christian College, Nagle Catholic College and Geraldton Grammar School.
Exten engaged the surrounding clubs, Geraldton Bowling Club and Mullewa Bowling Club, as well as Bowls Australia’s Regional Bowls Manager for the area Clive Adams, to develop a program which would, in the club president’s words, “find the next state bowls champion”.
It was initially planned to have all the sessions at Wonthella, however with many sessions scheduled for similar times or to overlap, it was soon realised that one of the schools should head to the Geraldton Club instead for logistical purposes and to provide adequate green space.
The co-operation of both clubs in this instance was crucial to the success of the program.
“We are looking to engage with the local community to demonstrate what a great club we have, and what a great sport bowls can be for everyone”, said Exten.
“Bowls offers great opportunities to younger people, but also for family involvement. It’s a fun, challenging sport that anyone can play, but that also teaches discipline and respect for others along the way.”
The program initially involved showing the students techniques to deliver the bowl, but quickly turned to scroungers (4,3,2,1 scoring) type formats and more recently into short pairs matches, involving the more traditional scoring methods.
The club was able to use its Jr. Jack Attack equipment to set up mini-activities like Bowls Footy and so forth.
“During any sessions, it is very important to keep the students engaged”, said Adams.
“The Club did a great job of this by varying games, and keeping the students challenged, either using different scoring formats, or playing target games that maintain focus.”
As a thank you to the students for their involvement and to encourage them to return, Wonthella presented the students from Strathalbyn and Geraldton Grammar with complimentary memberships for the club while they remain a student.
“We have certainly seen plenty of potential amongst the groups we have coached for the last six or seven weeks,” said Exten.
“Now we want them to keep coming back, bring their friends and families, and keep enjoying the sport we all love.
“Our club members have been brilliant… Not only have they loaned us coloured bowls to use rather than tired old black ones, many of them have stepped out onto the green to assist with the sessions. It really has been fantastic, and I thank them all.”
Adams praised the club for their membership initiative, which shapes as a crucial tool in a bid to lure the students back to the club and continuing with the sport.
“The free membership offer is a fantastic initiative from the club”, he said.
“Running school programs is a brilliant way to bring people into the sport, but encouraging ongoing club involvement is the next crucial step. Rather than waiting to see what happens from the program, the club is on the front foot showing that they want these great young people involved in the club.”
As they approach the end of 2017, the club certainly has great plans for the future, and they now know they can run a successful program, providing enjoyment and involvement for all.
For more information on school programs, or for anything else your club might like to get involved in, please contact your local BA Regional Bowls Manager.
Contribution by Clive Adams – Regional Bowls Manager (WA – North/East)