There’s no shortage of prognosticators predicting that bowls is going to have to change to survive the future.
Bowls is not alone. Seers are predicting a grim future for seemingly all sports that fail to bend to the whims of the future. And sport aren’t alone. No soothsayer would be worthy of saying sooths if they didn’t contemplate major change in all aspects of our lives if we are to do better than the dinosaurs.
We have been seduced by the idea of change.
And as a result, those ‘conservatives’ defying change have become the new mockables. Only the climate seems to have attracted any admiration for trying to remain entrenched in the status quo.
Bowling clubs have felt the pressure to change. To amalgamate, to rationalise, to diversify, and even to close altogether. And while that has been received well by many in the bowling community, it has also alienated many who want to enjoy the same bowling lifestyle and the same bowls club as and when they joined it. Not some future incarnation of their club which may or may not appeal to future johnny-come-latelies wanting to crash their greens.
And why should there be anything wrong with that?
After all, the concept of bowling clubs is like any club … birds of a feather enjoying the camaraderie of flocking together. Not worrying about whether they can migrate to Siberia,
It needs to be remembered that bowling clubs offer the opportunity to become immersed in a new social community … a bowlcentric one. One that complements the other social communities many of us enjoy: our family, our work colleagues, our friends; our other clubs, and more. We join a bowling club because it is about enjoying the here and now of bowls. Not about saving the bowling world.
It’s about playing a game to our own drumbeat … either casually or competitively. It’s about the thrill of beating the bowling elite on our day … and embellishing the story with every retelling. It’s about the banter and beers with our fellow club bowlers. It’s about rolling up our sleeves and mucking in with green and clubroom working bees. It’s about being reluctantly manhandled (or womanhandled!) to an office of the club, like a newly elected speaker to the House.
It’s about a unique way that bowling clubs make a great contribution to assuring our health and wellbeing. And in particular assuring the health and well-being of an older community neglected by successive governments and agencies fixating on catering for the sporting and leisure needs of the young.
Just that alone is worth its weight in gold. And something the bureaucrats in government, in local bodies, in qangos, and other those-who-would-tell-us-how-to-behave organisations would rightly be envious of.
It’s about something that shouldn’t be threatened, just for the sake of change.
“The challenge for bowls,” observes Mark Cameron, CEO of Bowls New Zealand, “is in fact not to put clubs under a quantitative fiscal microscope. But to harness what our clubs do so well … creating a close fraternity of mates, who being bound by bowls, come to have each other’s back.”
“That will be how bowls survives the future. As a proven facilitator of health and wellbeing. Not as just another game that is being played shorter, faster, and quicker to an ear-popping Spotify shuffle.”