Getting serious about youth bowls: the Auckland Youth Academy

Club News, News, Our People

(Left to right) Neve Sutherland, Adam Baillie, Brian Feng, Maisie Cavanagh

Like many bowling clubs up and down the country, the Remuera Bowling Club in Auckland encourages schools to use their greens for students wanting to try their hand at bowls.

Dilworth Senior School started using the Remuera greens 15 years ago, and that has now expanded to include neighbouring Dilworth Junior; Diocesan Senior and Junior; Kings Junior; St Kentigern’s; Mt Hobson and Kadimah. The greens are now being used by schools four days a week all year round.

But Remuera has been determined to do more to encourage young people to play the sport, and last year a Youth Academy was formed at the club so that all the students in the greater Auckland region could participate and gain experience.

“Giving local schools the use of the greens provides a great introduction for young people to the sport of bowls,” observes former Club President Rosemary Ellyett, “But if they want to take up the game, they need an environment that provides more structured coaching and a more competitive regime. That’s where the Youth Academy comes in.”

Howard Sandler, an accredited Bowls New Zealand High-Performance Coach, has moved to Remuera where he has not only created, but is running a programme that gives students the opportunity to learn and play bowls competitively.

“One of the strategies we’ve found to be effective,” explains Sandler, “is to integrate Academy players with Club Players, so they’re not only getting individual coaching, but getting green-time with and against experienced club members in club and inter-club competitions.”

“Playing in the Remuera Club Championship Triples this year, four of the teams were asked to include an Academy member as their lead,” says Ellyett. “The 4 teams came 1st and 2nd in the men’s and women’s club championship! And Brian Feng was runner-up in our recent 1-5 year Mixed Singles Tournament.”

The Academy is designed to develop confidence in the students, by organising competition not only against older bowlers, but against their student peers.

“Dilworth Boys and Diocesan Girls will contest a School Challenge Trophy on 15th March,” says Sandler. “And then it will be the National Secondary Schools Comp in Auckland on the 26th and 27th March. All 16 members enrolled in the Academy this year are entered to play.”

In June, the Academy will be the benefit from a weekend with international gold medal winning coach, Lachlan Tighe, who will not only be providing technical tips about playing better, but practising better to play better as well.

Word is obviously getting around about Remuera’s Youth Academy, the only one in the greater Auckland region. And Sandler is expecting interest in the Academy to ramp up even further next year, with numbers expected to double to over 30.

“We even have plans for a ‘Battle of the Bridge’”, says Sandler, “where schools from the North Shore will play schools from Auckland area.”

For Ellyett, the Youth Academy is the future of bowls. “Like many sports, we’re struggling to get new players into the game. We’re all trying to woo the young people while they are still at schools, but we’ve got to do more than just give them a taste of the game … we’ve got to provide a pathway for those who want to not only take up the game competitively, but who aspire to be Blackjacks and one day represent New Zealand at the international level.”

  • Rob Davis