Bowls New Zealand runs first ever online coaching clinic

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Graham Rees, Coach Development Lead

Every year, Bowls New Zealand runs a number of coach development clinics, where foundation and development coaches can learn how to pass lawn bowls skills on to budding bowlers.  They’re normally a day of theory and practice, in the clubhouse and on the green, where a teacher teaches teachers.

It’s all hands-on stuff.

If you’d said a year ago … even 6 months ago … that the next coach development course could be held ‘virtually’ … remotely through the computer screen … you’d probably have said that Bowls New Zealand was dreaming.

But the COVID lockdown changed everything.

So to keep the ball rolling (or at least the jacks and lawn bowls rolling), Coach Development Lead, Graeme Rees,  bravely mooted the concept of trying Bowls New Zealand’s first on-line coaching course.

“The roadblocks we all saw weren’t the fact that we could run a successful on-line course,” says Rees, “But that potential participants would never believe that they could get value out of such a course.  Nor believe they had the digital nous to be able to actually log in to the course from their home computers.”

“After all, no one had heard of ZOOM six months ago, let alone knew how to use it.”

Rees decided to roll the dice.

It started by putting together an attractive programme for a proposed ‘digital day’ on Sunday 3rd May during lockdown Level 3.  There would be 4 one-hour sessions, each facilitated by experts in their field.  “We even decided to have a break between each session so that participants could wander off and make a cup of tea or grab a bite of lunch.”

“It was an impressive line-up of ‘presenters’,” says Rees. “Well ... that’s what we thought.  It just came down to whether potential participants thought the same, and would and could participate.”

“We were overwhelmed with the response,” says Rees, “We could only have 100 participants at a time through ZOOM, and that number of registrations was quickly reached.  We were turning people away.”

“But we still worried about whether the participants could grapple with the technology on the day.”

As a little bit of insurance, Kaushik Patel and Ryan Williams from Bowls New Zealand and Emily Robbins from Bowls Canterbury were on standby ready to help anyone.

Rees could’ve rested easy.  People got into the swing of it as quickly as the Queen did in her recent video-conference first.

From all accounts, the day was extremely successful.  “So successful in fact, that we’ll be running more on-line clinics … we’re already planning the next one in July which will be headlined by Gary Lawson talking about bowls tactics and John Quinn talking about mental skills.”

“I think they’re here to stay, despite the reduction to Level 1 lockdown,” says Rees. “Whether they supercede actual face-to-face courses is a different question – after all, we still need to do the practical part of the courses out on the green.”

As Coach Development Lead, Rees heads a pyramid of three Coach Trainers in the North, Central and South and a dozen or so Coach Developers (those who coach the coaches).  He estimates there are about 500 or so accredited bowls coaches scattered throughout the clubs up and down the country.

“However, we’re always looking to train more coaches,” he says, “And even existing development coaches are required to take refresher courses every 2 years to maintain their accreditation.”