There’s something VERY special about champion bowlers. And for that matter champions in any sport. Or champions in business. Or even champions in life.
They’re resilient. Despite appearing to be very successful, they often see themselves as having lost more often that they’ve won. They’re mindful of losing. They’ve learnt from it. They’ve learnt to cope with it, and developed the capacity to move on. Somehow they don’t seem to get rattled when they’re losing … unlike us mere mortals. They can pick themselves up … and move on from setbacks. And get themselves in to winning mode.
Jo Edwards is a prime example of that resilience. After suffering losses in the early rounds of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast last year, she managed to tough out the rest of her must-win games – and emerge as the gold medallist. It was gutsy stuff.
Bowls New Zealand’s Womens’ Development Player of the Year, Debbie White, is also like that.
In the final of the Summerset National Women’s Singles in January this year at Carlton Cornwall Bowling Club, Debbie found herself down 11-20 against Selina Goddard in the first to 21 game. Yet she managed to drag herself back and win 21-20. We mere mortals couldn’t have done that. Our brains would have been addled, knowing we HAD to win the next 10 points without conceding any to our opponent. We would’ve walked off the green, and tried something easier – like solving climate change.
(It’s also why Selina Goddard is a champion. She’s back. And just the other weekend beat Debbie in the final of the Auckland Women’s Premier Open Singles.)
Debbie’s been brought up understanding how to win. Her mother is Jenny Simpson, a New Zealand lawn bowls representative at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in1986 and Brisbane in 1982 (where she won Silver in the Triples).
She started playing in bowls in 1988/1989 at the Matamata Club – in an area where the women also understood how to win. She found herself in ‘the deep’, not only playing tournament bowls against the likes of locals Mille Khan, Rhoda Ryan, Adrienne Lambert, Annette Bell, Betty Fitzell and others, but playing them in casual roll-ups.
After taking a break to have her daughter Emily, Debbie returned to bowls in 2012/2013. At the Hinuera Club just down the road from Matamata, Debbie found herself often teaming up with the redoubtable Bev Corbett. Bev taught her a lot about winning too. The two winners have become long-term bowls mates.
It’s all made Debbie as hard as nails when it comes to bowls. She has implicit faith in her ability to draw. When she won the final at the Nationals in January, it was a miracle draw that gave her the 21-20 win. That’s her modus operandi … draw, draw, draw and draw, Most of us wouldn’t be able to hold our cool.
Although Debbie’s still learning (champions never stop learning), she’s now teaching others how to be champions. Nothing formal like coaching, though. But quite happily being teamed up with players with much less experience, and teaching by showing.
“I skipped a great team at the National Fours in Wellington this year,” she recalls, “I think we won 5 out of our 6 qualifying games. I told the team that all I expected of them was three things. Firstly, enjoy yourself. Secondly, when you put your foot on the mat, give it your best. And thirdly, learn something from the tournament.”
Debbie’s mentoring must’ve worked. The modestly fancied team of Debbie, Carol Cox, Angela Stephen and Jocelyn Holten got to the semi-finals – only getting knocked out 15-19 by the eventual winners Mandy Boyd, Kirsten Edwards, Leigh Griffin and Angela Boyd.
With that understanding of winning, has come Debbie’s own bespoke but rigid routine for every tournament she plays. “I’m pretty OCD when it comes to game day. I like to get up at the same time, leave for the green at the same time, sit in the same seat of the car, pick up coffee at the same place, fill up the car with petrol at the same place .. the list goes on.”
That can sound silly. But then Kiwis used to mock Jonny Wilkinson for all his place-kick antics, until he kicked England to glory in the 2011 World Cup. It’s now accepted that elite sportspeople gain confidence from all sorts of confidence-building routines. Debbie is no different.
Debbie does everything she can to do well at bowls. And her husband Mark and daughter Emily are super-supportive of that.
She’s even had a gastric bypass. “I lost 45kg!” she confides. It’s unbelievable because Debbie’s only a wisp of a person now. When Debbie puts her mind to something, there’s no holding her back.
And we don’t want her to hold back. She’s going to be skipping the New Zealand Women’s Development Triples and Fours in a test against Australia on the Gold Coast in November, and will be representing New Zealand in Adelaide at the World Champion of Champion Singles later this month.
So in fact, we want Debbie to be at her unholdy-back best!!!
Good luck Debbie.
by Rob Davis