In an unexpected decision, Sharon Sims has retired as High Performance Coach for Bowls New Zealand.
Since 2014, Sharon has been providing coaching and mentoring to some of New Zealand’s elite lawn bowlers : the likes of Jo Edwards, Andrew Kelly, Katelyn Inch and Seamus Curtin. And prior to that was heavily involved in Bowls New Zealand’s Coach Development Programme.
“It was just time to retire,” explains Sharon. “Nothing in particular precipitated the decision. But a whole lot of small things have probably influenced the decision.”
First and foremost of those ‘small things’ is the fact that Sharon is enjoying playing bowls again!
That she might have ever been out-of-love with bowls is hard to believe coming from someone who has been at the top of her sport, and still plays a very, very handy bowl. But her commitments over the past years to development and coaching meant that actually playing the game had taken a back seat.
“I’ve discovered new enjoyment for the game,” she says. “Sure. My delivery isn’t as silky smooth as it used to be. And my drive is not as quick as it was. But I’m pretty happy with where my game is.”
“I get little glimpses of how the younger Sharon Sims used to play!” she laughs.
At the age of 68, Sharon is by no means over the hill. And by no means a spent lawn bowls force.
Whilst these days she is playing for the love of the game, Sharon is still highly-competitive at club level (Takaro) and centre level (Manawatu). In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sharon at the business end of the upcoming National Fours and Mixed Pairs in Alexandra.
“I love the Nationals,” she says. “The whole atmosphere of the tournament is fabulous … meeting people … re-meeting people … just simply soaking up the occasion!”
She’ll certainly provide dinner party conversation for any opponents she comes up against – win or lose.
They’ll have the opportunity to play against someone who has won a Commonwealth Games Gold Medal (in the Pairs in Manchester in 2002 with Jo Edwards); THREE World Outdoor Championships (in the Fours and Triples at Moama in 2000, and in the Pairs at Leamington Spa in 2004); and a bronze in the World Championships in the Triples in Christchurch in 2008.
Any opponent in the Nationals will also be playing someone who knows what it’s like to do the business in the tournament. Sharon won the Singles in 2002 and 2005 Nationals. She also won the Pairs in 1993, 2006, 2007 and 2009!
But although Sharon loves the Nationals, it’s another format of bowls that she attributes to reinvigorating her love of the game.
“I’ve really picked up on Bowls3Five,” she says. “I enjoy the short, sharp games. It’s a lot of fun.”
Sharon’s also been at a new club (Takaro in Palmerston North) for the past three seasons. “I’m enjoying the enthusiasm of the keen new players they are getting at the club. If they ask, I’m more than happy to give them a few tips about their game.”
“I guess I still enjoy the mentoring as well.”
Bowls New Zealand High Performance Manager Kaush Patel is certainly one who is hoping that Sharon is still going to be around to at least informally help with the Blackjacks’ international campaigns. “At this level, we aren’t coaching bowls. The players already know how to play. We’re helping them with their mental game. And the relationship that Sharon has with some of our players means that she can offer a lot.”
“We’ve got the Comm Games in Birmingham next year. Although with COVID, who knows what’s going to happen there.”
Fortunately, Sharon has only given away coaching at national level. Well, ‘formally’ at least. She will still be unassumingly offering her skills and experience to help at club and centre level.
It’s a job she does so well. Forget all the international gold medals for bowls … her membership of the New Zealand Order of Merit (Queen’s Birthday Honours 2007) … her inaugural induction into the Bowls New Zealand Hall of Fame (2013) … Sharon brings a quiet modesty to her involvement in the game.
Maybe that’s the way they make ‘em in her hometown of Te Kopuru on the Kaipara, how they raise them where she went to school in Paeroa, and how they set them off in life where she lived in Hamilton, and now Palmerston North with her husband Ken.
One thing for sure is that she’ll have more time to indulge one of those other ‘small things’ which lead to her retirement : grandkids.
Who knows, they may follow in their grandmother’s bowling shoes in years to come.