Time to get more women playing, coaching and volunteering in bowls!
The Bowls Development Alliance (BDA), are delighted to offer the following offical WOMEN CAN products now available to purchase:
Women Can Jute Bag
Women Can Polo Shirt
100% Cotton White Polo Shirt with the Women Can Logo on the Left Hand Breast. Machine Washable at 30deg. Sizes S - XL
Price £5.50 each including postage
To order a Jute Bag please click here
Price £9.95 each including postageTo order a Polo Shirt please click here
PA WALKER, 41 FROM LEICESTERSHIRE
It was approximately 10 years ago when I went down to my local Bowls Club with my husband, John who was meeting a friend to have a roll up. Unfortunately, the friend wasn’t able to make it, so I reluctantly agreed to give it a try and have a practice with John. In truth, having played badminton and volleyball in my native country of Thailand, playing sport has always appealed to me and having watched John play, I had been interested in what it was all about. According to John, it was immediately obvious that the hours I had spent watching had not been waisted!
People at the club said that I was a ‘natural’ and it wasn’t long before the ladies in the club approached me to start to play properly. It was Di Hurst and Jan Everitt, two of the clubs committee members who took me under their wings and encouraged me to join them playing in competitive games. We started to win county competitions, we qualified through to the national championships, and one year, we won the National Fours! Our success at the nationals attracted interest, and I was over the moon when the England selectors asked me to go to an England trial. In Glasgow in 2013, my dream came true, I played in the British Isles Fours Championships with my club mates and also got my first international for England playing lead in a rink against Jersey.
My experience at international level was cut short, as following some time spent back in Thailand, for family reasons, we decided to move back there for a while. When back in my native country, bowls took a bit of a side step as there are very few greens around where my family is from, with the nearest being in Bangkok, some 4 hours away. However, when we moved back to the UK recently, bowling, again became my number one recreation. I re-joined my original club, Birstall Ladies, who had made me a life member for both my achievements and contributions to the club and who I feel, is my second family. I feel very much at home there and I get heavily involved in club activities, both on and off the green. In the past, I have performed various duties on the committee i.e. league captain and selector and I also do a lot of catering at the club, including Thai food nights which seem to go down well! This year, I intend to play as many competitive games as possible and hopefully do well. It is very much my ambition to represent England again and give back something to the sport that has given me so much.
I think bowls has a lot to offer women. As well as providing competitive opportunities, more importantly it is an extended family that you can belong to and feel part of whether you are in your native home or adopted country.
SUE ALEXANDER, 63 FROM CAMBS/SUFFOLK
I have always played sport from the age of 11, playing hockey and tennis for Spalding High School until leaving. On leaving school, I then started to play Table Tennis in local leagues which I did for several years before I discovered Badminton which then became my sport. I played for several years for the Ely Badminton club.
I stumbled into bowls a bit by accident. My husband John, who had also played Table Tennis, was struggling to play at a standard that he enjoyed thanks to his knees. He was trying to decide between golf and bowls when our next-door neighbour, Ian, said that he was a member of the local village club and to go down with him to give it a go. He did and was hooked! When he first started, every now and then I would go down to watch and take our children with me and on one occasion, I was asked to play in a competition as they were one short. The long and short of it, was, I played, enjoyed it and started bowling the following season. This was thirty years ago now!
Bowls really has been a focal part of our family life for the last 25 years. Not long after I started, both my daughters decided to try the game. Ellen carried on, whilst Sara decided it wasn’t for her. Both my parents then began playing before they retired and bowls then became a big part of their retirement, keeping them busy, fit and active. One of the things that I love most about bowls is that I have been able to play with both my mother and daughter. The icing on the cake being winning both national and British Isles titles.
As well as enjoying the competitive side of the game, I enjoy the social side too. Through bowls, I have met and made friends with people from lots of other clubs, counties and countries. That’s the great thing about bowls, it has no boundaries and brings people together from different places and backgrounds.
Alongside playing, I have always been active in the administration of the sport, holding roles within both club and county including Secretary, Chairperson and President. I have also sat on national committees too. As well as being an active administrator, I have also recently ventured into coaching as I felt it was time to give something back to the sport to enable others to participate and enjoy the sport I love.
Bowls can give women independence, confidence and improves their social life by allowing them to meet others in a relaxed and social environment. It is something that women can do independently, with their friends, partner, children or grandchildren; it is something all generations of the family can do together which I think is both unique and special.
PEGGY COLE, 86 FROM CAMBRIDGESHIRE
Sport didn’t really interest me as a younger person. There was always too many other things to do, so it really didn’t feature in my life until later on. The only thing that I did do was cycle and walk my dog. Both of which got me out in the fresh air and kept me reasonably fit. The cycling, in part, was out of necessity, as we didn’t all have cars back in the day, let alone two per family!
I took early retirement at the age of 57 due to my husband’s sight failing so that I could be at home to support and care for him. It was important to both of us that being an active man all of his life, that he was still able to get out and about, do things and meet and engage with people.
I was looking for things that he could do when someone in the village mentioned that there was an indoor bowls club around 5 miles away from where we lived, who ran a weekly session for blind bowlers. So, we went along and he loved it. It gave him confidence, helped him come to terms with his sight loss and introduced us to a whole new group of people. He enjoyed the competitiveness of it, both against others and testing himself, and for me, it was about the social side, getting to meet and talk to other partners who were doing the same as me, trying to support their other half with their disability. From indoor bowling, he then tried outdoors, which he took to well, which meant that bowls was something that we could do all year round together.
It actually wasn’t until he passed away that I began playing myself. I was 60 at the time, and I’m now 86! Over the past 25 years, bowls has been there for me, through both good and bad times. I battled cancer and bowls was without doubt, an important part of my recovery. Initially, when I wasn’t well enough to go out, friends from the bowls club would come around to see me, which gave me comfort and company. And then when I started to feel better, the bowls club was the place where I would go to get out of the house. Even though I wasn’t well enough to play at that point, there were always games to watch or people to talk to, so it gave me much needed lifeline.
I play bowls because I love it! The social side is really important to me as it means that I am in company instead of being at home by myself. I also like to play competitive team games. I hope to continue playing as long as possible but even when I can’t, the bowls club is still somewhere I can go and feel like I belong.
I think bowls can offer women many things. When you are older it makes sure you get some exercise, meet people and keeps you feeling young at heart.
NICOLA BOWE, 43 FROM WIGTON, CUMBRIA
I have always thoroughly enjoyed sport and gained a great deal from participating. I played hockey, netball, rounders and tennis for my school and was lucky enough to play for my county at hockey the North of England in hockey. I enjoy team sports and gain most from the team banter and camaraderie during competitive sport. I actually started bowling when I was 10 years old - it was just something “I did”. I was lucky that for us as a family it was a hobby that we could all do together at nights and on weekends. My dad played first, then my mam and brother and I soon followed! Now I have the delight of playing with my 18 year old niece. Luckily for me at Wigton Bowls Club there was a generation of young bowlers all of a similar age and we all grew up together; socialised together and remained tight friends - we were known as “the bowlers” in the town and we stuck together and still do today!
People often ask me why I bowl, well its quite simple, I just love it! It is a great game of skill combined with strategy and sports psychology. I thrive on team games rather than singles as I enjoy that team spirit, support and banter. For anyone who hasn’t played it must seem easy when watching but it is a great game of touch and skill. I also love being outside, so for me outdoor bowling is a great pleasure. I’m lucky living where I do that I can play on the most picturesque bowling greens, get some exercise while breathing in some good old fashioned fresh air. There is nothing better than getting on a bowling green on a summer evening! Now I am in a demanding job, I find in particular that it improves my mental health. Alongside bowling, I now visit the gym two to three times a week and find as I get older that both playing bowls and going to the gym has improved my mental well being through helping me to switch off and de-stress after a busy day working as a Deputy Headteacher in a large Junior school.
Having bowled for over 30 years now, moving into coaching seemed like a natural progression. I have always coached sport at a variety of levels - whilst doing my A Level PE I helped out in the school’s PE department coaching a variety of sports to 11 to 16 year olds. I then qualified as a primary teacher and have taught PE for two hours a week as well as providing many extra-curricular sports activities. Getting into coaching bowls has now enabled me to give a bit back to the real game I love and combine the skills I have from my profession.
I think bowls is a non-contact sport that can offer women low impact exercise as there is quite a lot of bending and walking in the game. As well as the physical benefits, there are many benefits of being part of great community spirit with strong team values. Plus you can play at whatever level you feel comfortable with. I don’t think there is any other sport where an 8 year old can play on the same equal playing field to an 80 year old and both compete equally! And bowls has a fantastic social side too - there is always a social event going on in a bowling club to get involved in.
JULIE LEAKE, 55 FROM POOLE, DORSET
I have participated in many different sports over the years including netball, hockey and badminton and have always enjoyed the camaraderie and competitiveness of being part of a team whether it was representing my club, county or country. I have also played more individualised sports including golf and tennis which I really enjoyed as it was really about me, my performance and being my personal best. In addition, I have run several half marathons and two full marathons between the age of 18-25. As well as the social and team side, sport has also provided a form of escapism from every day life and has always been there for me through both good and bad times.
I was first introduced to bowls back in 1994. I was thrashing a tennis ball around a tennis court at our local club in Ringwood when I hit a stray shot (one of many) which found itself in the middle of the adjacent bowling green where a match was being played. Upon retrieving the guilty object, I happened to mention how interesting the game looked and was invited to have a go! So, I went to try bowls and it actually proved to be perfect timing. I was struggling to continue to play high impact sports owing to a problematic knee but I still wanted to be involved in a competitive sport and bowls became my solution. Little did I know that it would play such a big part of mine and my husband Roy’s life together. We have shared an amazing journey together and he has undoubtedly been my number one supporter.
As well as playing sports, after landing a dream job at a local private school 30 years ago, they noted on my CV that I played various sports and asked if I would be interested in getting involved in the girl’s sports teams (14-18 years old) as they were looking for more support staff. A year later with a few coaching courses under my belt, I was running Netball/Tennis and Hockey teams and have been in that dedicated role until very recently. There is nothing more rewarding as a coach than watching your teams/individuals perform successfully knowing that hopefully I contributed in some way towards the positive outcome. As I have recently taken early retirement and have a little more time I feel that now is the right time for me to be able to put something back into bowls. Bowls has given me so much enjoyment over the years and I feel that with my coaching background, coaching bowls is an obvious avenue to peruse and I am already actively involved at my local indoor club with both the Junior section and our Adult Development groups.
I think more women should get involved in bowls as it is one of the few sports that can be played competitively no matter what you age. Women of 80 + can compete with teenage girls and what other sport could you take up after the kids have left home and still have the opportunity to represent your country. My lifetime ambition was to represent England in a sport and my dream came true when I took up bowls! From a 33 year old beginner to a 45 year old World Champion! So, no matter what age you start a bowls career anything is possible! The camaraderie that exists within the sport and the friendships you form are particularly invaluable later on in life. You will never be lonely if you take up this sport as everyone within your club becomes your extended family and members tend to look out for each other.
HELEN WOOD, 51 FROM YORKSHIRE
I was able bodied as a child and played all sports. Team sports were my main love - hockey tennis, badminton and rounders. Once I left school, I played basketball to a decent standard. It was then, in my late teens that I started to have problems health wise. I was in and out of hospital for over three years. Regardless of what was going on with me medically, the thought of having to give up playing basketball was devastating. Eventually I was diagnosed with Hemi-Dystonia, which is a neurological condition which affects my left side. I became a wheelchair user age 21.
From hospital, I went into rehab to try to learn how to live with my disability and it was there that I met Phil. I told him all about my love of sport and in particular Basketball and he suggested I tried Wheelchair Basketball. I did and loved it. I joined a club, played and trained regularly and actually went on to represent Great Britain from 1986 to 1992.
Sadly, my health then deteriorated further and I could no longer play due to the amount of contact involved. It was heart breaking. I went back into rehab and it was there that I met my now husband, Barry. On our first weekend away together, we went to a Hotel complex where they happened to have an indoor bowls green. I loved it and was immediately hooked. It was exactly what I needed. So, when we got back home, we found out where our local indoor club was and went down to play. From here, I haven’t looked back. I was the first wheel chair user to reach the EIBA national finals and have now got my England Cap for Disability Bowls England. I have also trialled with the women’s indoor team.
Bowls has genuinely given me a life and helps me to focus on the things I can do rather than the things that I can’t. I have always been a competitive person, I find that competition gives me a purpose and it drives me. As I don’t work, bowls has also been important from a social interaction perspective as it means when I am at my club (York & District IBC), I am meeting and engaging with different types of people.
I think more women should play bowls because it’s a safe environment where every one is welcoming and you can choose what level you want to play at as well as play as much or as little as you want. It has a great social side and is not daunting even if like me, you are shy.
DIANE SIGGERY, 48 FROM LEICESTERSHIRE
I loved sport when I was at school. I played netball, tennis and hockey and was in the school team but didn’t take it any further after leaving school.
I got into bowls all thanks to my daughter who was 13 at the time, while taking her all over the country to play for ladies under 25s and under 31s matches. I really enjoyed watching her play and found it a distraction from my stressful job. I initially joined the club that my daughter was part of but it was a distance away so I subsequently joined the one in the village where I live. This was over 10 years ago now.
At first, I played bowls to destress from work but I then seemed to get the bug for it and started playing more and more. Bowls truly is the sport for all, regardless of sex, age or physical ability. It is also a great way to socialise and bring a community together. We now play as a family and all bowl from the same club. Even my grandson who is nearly 3 years old has the bug, bowling anything that is bowlable!
From bowling, I have begun my journey into coaching. I remember when I first started bowling, I didn’t really have any coaching at my old club. The club did have a coach but the coach only coached in the afternoons (which was no good for me as I was at work, as was other working people) so a lot of what I learnt was by watching others and playing in games. So, when I moved clubs a few years later I could see history repeating itself as a lot of clubs are similar - you join, you are shown the basics and then left to your own devices. Plus, it seemed to be that coaching tended to be male dominated as I hadn’t come across one female coach which can be off putting for women, so, I thought, it’s time for change! I enrolled on the Level 1 Coaching Course in 2016 after being advised of the courses by the under 31’s manager of Leicestershire. I then went onto do my Level 2 Coaching Course in 2017 and I am pleased to say I passed both with flying colours. Since then I have put what I have learnt into action in many areas coaching beginners and a mixed triples team who went from bottom of division 2 to top of division 1 within 2 years! I’m incredibly passionate about coaching and have numerous ideas and plans on how to help others to enjoy the sport and be the best they can be.
DI WILSON-ROGERS, OVER 60 FROM LINCOLNSHIRE
I have always enjoyed playing sport. Team sports in particular appealed to me. They taught me and gave me the experience of playing with others and building camaraderie and trust in fellow team members. Skills and experiences that have stood me in good stead for life as well as sport.
I started to play bowls when table tennis became a little too ‘quick’ for me! I am competitive so as soon as I couldn’t play how I wanted to, I decided it was time to give another sport a go. Bowls was my choice and I initially joined an outdoor bowls club. I quickly realised that bowls offered me the competition that I enjoy so much as well as the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. The club and its members were really welcoming. After an enjoyable outdoor season, I then decided to become a member of my local indoor club so that I could bowl all year round. I took the game seriously and my efforts paid off, with success at national level, and a place in the England team followed. Whilst I am not playing at international level now, I still compete in national competitions and enjoy playing across all levels of the sport.
Over the years, I have undertaken many roles within the clubs that I have belonged to including ladies secretary and ladies competition secretary. I am presently a club committee member and mixed league secretary which basically means I organise the fixtures and programme. I also send in a weekly bowls press report to our local newspaper, the Boston Standard. In addition, over the past four years, I have got heavily involved in selection, and am now a national selector for both indoor and outdoor codes as well as being a county indoor selector for the last seven years. Along with these positions, I am also a qualified coach and like to be active within the club helping both new and existing members to improve their game.
I decided to do all of these roles at various different points of my life so that I could put back into the game of bowls the opportunities the game has given me. It has been a constant in my life for last 35 years. When my first husband became ill, the bowls club was a place that I knew I could take him, safe in the knowledge that club members and friends would be there to talk to him while I played. After his passing, the bowls club became my extended family and it was through bowls that I found love again when I met David. We have now been married for 6 years.
I think that the game of bowls gives women the opportunity to play at club level and to aspire to play at county and international level. It also enables women to become part of an extended family and community. A community that will always be there to support them through both good times and bad.