Nigel Dixon-General Manager of Bowls Wellington
Nigel Dixon’s not the sort of guy you’d expect to find in bowls administration. Yet here he is … General Manager of Bowls Wellington, having been in the job for just over a year.
For starters, he’s not an experienced bowler (having only been playing for three years) … and more often than not, sports organisations are tempted to appoint people who have had a background in their sport.
He’s not old (he only recently turned 37) … so he’s hardly reflective of the demographic that plays the gentile game. Many bowlers would have kids older than Dixon.
Instead, Dixon’s forte is about listening and communicating … and as a result, getting the best out the people he engages with.
He doesn’t come from the old school - where people had to do what they were told to do. He comes from the school where people want to do what they’re inspired to do. When you’re working with an organisation of volunteers and participants-by-choice, that’s critical.
Dixon spent 10 years in Japan. Firstly, up north in a place called Sendai where he taught English, ”I went with no Japanese language skills. They spoke limited English in the city. But people are people … and you learn how to engage and work with each other.”
“I then moved to Tokyo and worked for Japan Cricket as National Development Manager. Cricket is a growing sport in Japan and is gaining some wins in a baseball-mad country”.
Eventually Dixon came back to New Zealand, much more skilled in Japanese, and now tries to keep up the language at home with his Japanese partner and two small children.
He took up a position as Director of Sport at Wellington’s renowned Rongotai College. “It’s a fabulous school with great students,” says Dixon. “We had a massive portfolio of sports and a lot of depth.”
“But when the position of General Manager of Bowls Wellington came up, I decided to throw my hat in the ring as I thought here is an opportunity to make a contribution and effect change in community sport.”
It’s been a baptism of fire. The balance sheet and subsequent COVID lockdown has prevented Dixon from replacing a recently departed staff member so, for now, he is it.
I’ve quickly become a jack of all trades,” he laughs. “There’s heaps to do ... from wrangling sponsorship and funding for the centre (to keep fees low) … to organising centre events ... to doing the books and everything in between.”
That’s where Dixon’s skills as a listener and a communicator have come in.
The taskload would have sunk many other people. But Dixon knows that he’s there to also inspire others to help. “That’s what I’ve found great about the lawn bowls community,” he says. “People are passionate and more than willing to help … I just need to channel that passion and willingness in the right direction … and towards the right opportunities.”
The board of Bowls Wellington is also providing him plenty of support. “Most days I talk to someone on the board,” he says. “There’s years of bowls experience between them which I’m still trying to catch up on! I’m also appreciating regular communication with other centre managers. And with Mark Cameron (Chief Executive of Bowls New Zealand). There’s so many directions bowls could go in, and it’s great to bounce ideas around.”
“And in the end, we’re here to support and drive the growth of bowls in whatever shape that takes. So people can continue to enjoy the sport today, tomorrow and in the future.”