Youth on the lawn

School partnerships are key to Goodwood Bowling Club's transformation and development initiatives.

Thinking of a bowls green, it is difficult not to imagine gran and gramps on a Saturday afternoon, in their tidy white kit and cream jerseys, gently guiding their weighted bowls down the green before taking a short tea break.

There’s nothing wrong with that image, other than what bowls is trying to do as of late, to include youth development across the board in an effort to stop the sport from fading into obscurity with an ageing membership base.

To this end, Bowls SA and Western Province Bowls have mandated a new strategy of youth inclusion and what better month to get their initiative off the ground than Youth Month, with Youth Day activities planned at clubs across the province.

Doing their part for the initiative, Durbanville Bowls Club will host a Youth Day coaching clinic and friendly competitition for children over the age of 12, starting at 10am. Parents are encouraged to join in on the day. Club secretary, Kim Kiely, can be contacted on 082 864 3921 for details.

Down the road, Goodwood Bowling Club’s Glenda Pontes, who served her community as a dedicated teacher for more than 20 years, is at the forefront of the club’s youth drive, after she became involved with bowls only a year ago.

“I became involved in the sport by default, my first lesson given to me last year by my dear 98-year-old uncle, Pat Connolly. Initially, I never actually wanted to be associated with the sport as I thought it was for old people – a slow, boring, post-colonial sport best left in the past – not the hip and trendy sport I would have liked to be associated with.

“My husband, however, is an avid player and proud exco member at Goodwood Bowling Club. He would take our 5-year-old granddaughter to the greens and she loved playing bowls with gramps. That made me think that maybe I was missing something. Perhaps I just needed to change my attitude and I would see things differently. I did and I did,” she said.

With that in mind, Pontes took to the net to do some research and found that across the globe, the game of bowls was being played in innovative and exciting ways. She began to notice how the game evolved with the inclusion of a younger generation and even on local soil there was transformation in the ranks, happening slowly, but still happening.

“As a result of my efforts to change the stigma and ‘brickwall’ mindset surrounding the sport I now serve on the WP Bowls membership and marketing committee as well as represent Bowls SA, the main governing body for the sport in South Africa.

“Trevor Davis, of Bowls SA and Anina Black, of WP Bowls have walked the path of helping us save our club and were the driving forces to give us the platform to run our first joint initiative launch for youth bowls on Youth Day. Together with Bronwyn Smith, we have worked around the clock to achieve our aim.

“We have also appeared on Cape Town TV and the Sports Federation show to spread our initiative.

“Funds are tight and clubs need to be creative and use social media and free TV coverage to keep them going and attract sponsorship,” she said.

One of the primary aims of the youth development initiatives the club hopes to set up is to bring schools in the area on board, with the hope of adding bowls to the extramural activities offered by these schools.

The club will provide the facilities as well as coaching expertise. To this end they also hope to get teachers on board, who could undergo training to become coaches of the sport themselves.

Their first event, to be held at the club today, Thursday June 9, has these goals in mind and will be held in a workshop format, where schools in the area will be given a chance to try the game out first-hand.

“The ‘Let’s get the ball rolling’ initiative offers enormous benefits to the schools in our neighbourhood.

“We want to encourage pupils, teachers and even parents to be part of the first group of schools to join forces with us and introduce the sport to a new generation of players.

“On Youth Day, June 16, we will also have a camera crew on-site as we plan to roll out some media clips about the school partnerships.

“We are offering free group memberships to the schools when they sign up for our level A training courses and we hope to roll out the sport in a fun, lively and age-appropriate manner.

“Our club was founded in 1963 and is one of the oldest clubs in Cape Town. We intend to preserve this legacy by embracing youth transformation and development, offering workshops, a youth bowls academy and a canteen. We have also signed up neighbouring campus, Northlink College, as a partner for their staff and student team building,” she said.

For more information, contact Glenda Pontes on 082 371 2940.