Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Lawn Bowls: A 21 year-old’s Perspective

Posted on 19 October 2021 by Ewan Lury
Photo taken by Giles Lury

Most 21 year-olds spent their lockdown binging Netflix, refusing to go on their daily family walk and doing an inordinate number of Zoom quizzes.

I spent my lockdown playing Lawn Bowls.

 

When I stumbled across an open day for Strawberry Hill Bowls club whilst on a dog-walk with my girlfriend, I couldn’t stop talking about how interested I was.

The passion that hit me was sudden. I’d seen clips of bowls before, the most famous of which is a must watch for any sport fan out there:

 

My girlfriend lives in Twickenham, so I’d seen the bowls club in Strawberry Hill a few times, but I’d never actually seen bowls played there.

Usually, you had kids smoking on the green, drinking and kicking a football around, something that is unbelievably detrimental to the grass.

I decided in the end that with lockdown hindering my ability to play my true passion, football, there would be no harm in me learning about a new sport and giving it a go.

At the time, I was living with my girlfriend and so the commute wasn’t going to be far, just a few minutes down the road.

What I didn’t really expect was to fall in love with it as much as I did.

Photo taken by Giles Lury

Having gone home as things started to open up in the Summer, I even commuted an hour and a half every week to go play at Strawberry Hill when there was one round the corner at my house in Harrow.

As I headed over and had a chat with Carolyn Smith, the Club Captain, I felt everyone’s eyes get drawn onto me as I asked if I could sign up.

I’m sure the bowls club has had interest from young people before, but they probably hadn’t stuck around.

Nevertheless, I showed my enthusiasm and signed up to some training sessions with Carolyn herself.

The stereotypes with Bowls are that it’s an old person’s game, it’s extremely boring and doesn’t take a lot of skill. I very quickly learned that none of these things were true.

The people who play Bowls have been playing for years, honing their craft week-on-week. Many also attend an Indoor Bowls Club during the Winter months.

 

My Best Two Woods of The Year

But it isn’t just difficult, bowls involves detailed tactics, exceptional focus and some intense bits of gamesmanship.

Moving up the mat a couple of inches might mean nothing to you, but to the people on the rink, you are making a statement and trying to throw off the performance of your opposition.

My personal favourite bit of sledging involved people calling out ‘ditcher’ if you rolled the ball too far into the ditch at the other side of the rink.

I asked Carolyn what she thought of me after the first couple of training sessions:

“I thought you were so enthusiastic and also quite naturally skilled at it. Personality wise you fit in with everybody and then with people passing by, it was good to have young people on the green.”

Sadly, I can’t have impressed that much, as I was the last pick for the first Intramural tournament of the season. My Captain, Mike Chaffe told me he wasn’t too worried about the opposition which contained the club’s strongest player:

“You play what’s in front of you on the day. It didn’t faze me that you were a newbie! With the right guidance you’d be in. It’s just if you took notice of directions!”

Photo of Mike Chaffe taken by Giles Lury

Mike never put pressure on you that you had to win the game. His words of ‘three ends at a time’ are something I’ve taken away from bowls and have implemented in my day-to-day life.

I focus on a few things at a time when I myself get overwhelmed and am worried about the overall outcome.

I must have taken the directions as we won the match emphatically and there were many other great moments in the season.

The club entered into its centenary year in 2020 and because of lockdown they weren’t able to play any matches that year. They postponed their centenary celebrations to 2021 and that allowed me to compete in a variety of different competitions.

This included the Club Fours competition, which my team won, and the Club Centenary Competition, a variation of Bowls that Mike invented himself (think the T20 equivalent of Bowls).

With the Trophy after my Team Won the Club Fours Competition
With The Trophy After My Team Won The Club Fours Competition

But the best moment for me was when I beat my former PE teacher in the opening round of the Newcomer’s Cup. Let’s just say he wasn’t too happy about it!

There is no doubt that I will be back down in April when the season begins with a new set of woods that my girlfriend’s grandparents handed down to me, and I can’t wait to get back out on the green.

 

Not one person at the club looked down on me at Strawberry Hill when I joined, but instead welcomed me with open arms and were willing to share some stories about their lives.

Ben Walsh, the Club President, joined the club in 2011 when he was in his early 40s. He echoed everything I said about the welcome he received and he is now heavily involved in the club himself and wishes he could play even more than he does.

Ben spoke about the necessity for young people to get involved in Bowls.

He explained how Australia and New Zealand have strong teams at the Commonwealth games because Bowls is an inter-generational sport there and agreed that if we don’t get more young people involved, Bowls will die out.

Photo taken by Giles Lury

Bowls is a game that is crying out for young people to take part and get involved. There’s plenty of opportunities to show off your ability and work in a game that is engaging, entertaining and is full of people who want to teach you.

Perhaps the most important part of it is the opportunity to give something back to those a few generations above us and to hear some quite amazing stories.

If you would like to learn more about Strawberry Hill Bowls Club, you can find them here.