IT'S THE WEEKEND: Why young people are being bowled over
3:54pm Monday 19th August 2013 in News
The traditional sport associated with the older generation has just got trendy. SOPHIE BROWNSON finds out why young people of today are taking up bowls.
Britain’s oldest sport, bowls, has become increasingly popular with the younger generation across Wales, as more bowls clubs take in the challenge of coaching young players to a professional level.
Ebbw Vale Welfare Bowls Club is just one of the clubs in Gwent that have seen new young members begin to take up the sport.
Club secretary and coach Jeff Short, has seen young players such as 16 year-olds Daniel Roberts and Lowri Powell take up the sport, and has launched initiatives with Balenau Gwent council to promote bowls among young people.
Daniel Roberts, 16, recently started playing the sport at the Ebbw Vale Welfare Bowls Club in April.
Starting out watching his grandad play the sport, Daniel is now a competent bowler.
"I started playing really because my grandad was playing bowls and so this April I decided to start playing myself.
"I started training with a coach on Saturday's and Wednesday's and this Saturday it will be my seventh game.
"I train with two or three coaches on a Monday and improved my skills by playing both short and long jacks.
"I really enjoy the sport and it has given me the opportunity to make new finds and have fun, so I would definitely like to see more young people play the sport."
The scheme, "Inspiration to participation" has seen new players come along to coaching sessions.
Starting in June this year it aims to get schools to bring around 36 pupils along to the green for each session where the club coaches will introduce them to the game and show them the basic's to start off.
Once they have mastered the basics the coaches can then take them a step further.
Since starting with this scheme youngsters have started coaching on Saturdays from 10am till 12pm and also in the evenings through the week.
Mr Short said: "Our aim through 'Inspiration to Participation' is to try and inspire people to come to the green.
"We stipulate that parents can come along with the kids and that provide all equipment.
"The ideal age range for coaching is ten plus, and we have them training with eight coaches who use target mats and rebound targets to practice."
Mostyn Lewis, the mayor of Blaenau Gwent and the Welsh Bowls Coaching Coordinator for the County of Monmouthshire, believes its important to get young players in to the sport.
His grand-daughter Lowri Powell, aged 12 plays for Ebbw Vale Ladies club , and managed to get to the finals of the Welsh Indoor Bowls under-18 trial on April 26.
Mr Lewis said: "I am proud to be one of eight coaches who coach under 16's in the sport.
"When you show the young bowlers the correct way of doing things they find the sport more enjoyable."
Newport City council leisure and culture department, believe the increasing popularity of the sport is that it can be enjoyed at both a competitive or friendly level.
Cabinet member for leisure and culture, councillor Debbie Wilcox, said: "The council has met with the Welsh Bowls Federation on a number of occasions regarding its Clubmark Scheme which has been developed to encourage more young people into the sport.
"This has been funded by Sport Wales along with a number of Development Officers who are designated to work with the Federation. "
The Welsh Bowling Federation has seen hundreds of young people across Wales take up the sport and believes that the number of young players is increasing all the time, with schools taking part in taster sessions.
The Welsh Bowling Association agrees and sat that it is down to the various coaching development programmes that run across Wales for under 25's.
The association aims to promote the sport, retain and recruit members, and update policy in order to offer new bowlers an opportunity to participate, and develop.
John Baggot, Junior Development Administrator for Wales, coaches young people in the sport from across nine counties.
Mr Baggot said: `"As the Junior Development Administrator for Wales, I run the development programme through the various counties in Wales to nominate players to go forward to join the Welsh under-21 academy.
"At the moment I have 50 under 21 boys on the coaching development programme, who are predominantly aged 18, and we coach the boys from the age of 14, between 12 and 15 times a year."
President of the Welsh Bowling Association, John Davies, praised Mr Baggot on his coaching programme and agrees that bowls is now aiming at youngsters to encourage them to play.
He added; "For the men's side of the game we particularly aimed at youngsters to encourage them to go along and play.
"Our development coach, John Baggot does a fine job, he takes the best bowlers through the system and teaches them the art of playing the game.
"What we would like to do is to dispel the fact that it is perceived to be an old man's game, as it is a young man's game, just old men can play it."
Other young bowlers include Cwmbran champion, Kelly Packwood, 26, who won the Hong Kong Classic Pairs title last year, and has been bowling out doors since the age of 13, She said: "I have been bowling indoors since I was 21, and outdoors since I was 13, and I think there is more young people coming in to the sport, but not many people know about it due to lack of advertising.
"It is not advertised as a young persons sport.
"I loved it from the moment I played it, but I think it should be advertised more and I would like to see more people try it."
Lyn Perkins, vice chairman of the Welsh Bowling Federation, said: "It is a lot more popular with the younger generation now.
"For so many years we have had contact with many schools who come out to the club for taster sessions.
"The youngsters have joined clubs from this and over the last seven or eight years youngsters have come and gone but many have stayed and proved themselves very capable bowlers, representing the county and competing internationally.
"We have a National Development Plan that started in April 2007 and from that we have had quite a large number of under 16's join clubs and stay with the sport.
"In Gwent we have had bowls champions such as Owain Dando, of Monmouth bowling club Brynmawr who has represented Wales at an international level in both junior and senior categories.
"We are encouraged by the up take of juniors in the sport, as bowls is a sport for all age groups, both genders, and both able bodied and disabled individuals.
"The good thing about bowls is that it is a real family sport and if people should wish to o to local clubs they will find them very welcoming."
For more information visit, www.welshbowlsfederation.org.uk
Or visit, www.welshbowlingassociation.co.uk
Enjoyable and relaxing
When I went to play bowls for the first time at The Newport Indoor Bowls Centre, I didn't know whether I would love it or hate it.
Stereotypically seen as an older persons sport that has become cool again, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.
As I arrived at The Newport Indoor Bowls Centre, built by Newport City Council, I was met by bowls development coach, John Llewellyn, who taught me the basics of playing the sport.
The centre with eight full size rinks, was intimidating but I followed the instructions and put on the special bowling shoes, put my right leg forwards, bent my left leg, placed my hand on my hip, and bowled.
The aim of the game was to get as close as possible to the small white ball, called the jack.
The technique was fairly difficult to grasp, as to bowl properly the ball had to be held a certain way depending on the direction you are aiming for.
Overall though the sport was enjoyable and relaxing, with plenty of opportunities to play both indoors and outdoors.
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