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.