Dalgety Bay BC Club Story

Dalgety Bay Bowling Club is a relatively new club in bowling terms, formed in 1996. The founding members did a lot of fundraising to build their own green and clubhouse after having initially used other local clubs to get green-time for their members. We caught up with Club Coach, Arlene Forbes and Secretary, Sarah McCluskey to find out how this club has developed further in recent years utilising Try Bowls and a structured coaching system to boost membership.

Registered as a Try Bowls Club during the 2022 season, Arlene told us more about the annual try bowls event that the club runs at the start of each season, which was what originally got her involved in the club…

“We have a come and try day every year around about the end of April, we put flyers through doors and we advertise with emails and Facebook, we talk to the schools and local organisations – local radio has picked us up a couple of times and helped promote the event. Club members and the coaches really support the day and from there we usually do well and pick up some new members at the start of the season.”

This years’ Try Bowls event and other activities throughout the season have boosted the club’s membership, Sarah was able to fill us in on the numbers…

“This year we have 37 new full members. 14 of these came from our Try Bowls day, but we also have a local fete, Dalgety Bay Gala just up the road so when that’s on we have another wee try bowls day and encourage people to have a go. Of the 37, 14 were not new to bowls, they’d either dropped out due to Covid, played previously or moved from another club. We also had 10 new junior members this year which is amazing, considering last year we really only had 2 that played regularly. All credit to Arlene and the rest of the coaching team because they’ve come on amazingly well.

“All of our new full members play competitively in hats and friendlies, our Match Secretary also ran a competition especially for the new members, sort of a knock-out competition to introduce them to format of how tournaments can work, arranging matches and so on, as well as a one day competition, played in a round robin format.

“We hold lots of social events throughout the year, our Wednesday coffee morning and Friday night socials are always open to anybody from the community. We usually promote our other events such as quizzes and bingo nights to members first before we open these up to anyone from the community and we put these on the local Facebook page for Dalgety Bay.”

The club is keen to introduce newcomers to the sport of bowls and has established good relationships with two local primary schools over the years, delivering coaching sessions and inviting them to their Try Bowls events. Sarah only joined the club a few years ago in 2019, as a social member, but praised the work Arlene and Jim Smith (Coaching Convenor) have done to develop the coaching setup in that time. 2022 saw a huge uptake in engagement from one of the local primary schools with the coaching team from the bowling club introducing an amazing number of young people to our ‘sport for all’ as Arlene explained…

“We had every class from Primary 4 upwards, it was 300 pupils over two days! Our coaches took indoor mats, junior ace bowls and coaching equipment to deliver sessions in the school hall – they were exhausted at the end of it! But we introduced so many children to our sport and we hope to visit the school again towards the start of the 2023 season.

“It’s great to see our junior section growing, one of our junior members has been encouraging his friends to come along which is growing the numbers. A lot of the new members have also brought their grandchildren along, so we’ve been picking new members organically. We hope that by being at the Gala and involved with the schools, even if it’s just two or three per year, we will pick up juniors who are interested in playing and want to learn. We have a five-step coaching programme at the club which we take them through up until what we call ‘advanced seniors’ at which point we match them up with a mentor from within the club. So, as they progress through our coaching set-up, we pair them up with a more experienced player who will partner them in the friendlies or hats and spend time with them to encourage them and develop their gameplay.

“We start them off just playing games, with targets or score wedges, not to the jack – what they don’t realise is that they’re actually learning their backhand and forehand, they think they’re just playing games! We give them the basics, but we’re not trying to throw lots of information at them when they’re young. So as members move up these levels, we gradually introduce more information and technique to them and get them into match play as they progress.  We also hold a Junior Championship each season, with 2 trophies to be won.  The Junior Ace Cup is played for by the under 10s and the over 10s play for the Walker Trophy, and the title of junior Champion.”

The 2022 season also saw competitive success at the club, during Bowls Scotland’s National Championships we had spoken to the Ladies Triples from Dalgety Bay, a team skipped by Arlene and made up of three generations of women Arlene, Rachel Hunter and Margaret Dominy, highlighting the intergenerational aspect of bowls. Hannah McGrory and Rachel Hunter played in the Ladies Junior Singles and Ladies Triples Championships respectively at Ayr in July, and both went on to play in the final of the county under 25s single hand this year which Rachel won. Rachel also won the ladies club championships at Dalgety Bay, ending a brilliant season of bowls on a high. We asked Arlene about the relationships and camaraderie amongst the competitive bowlers at the club and her Triples team in particular…

“At the start of the season we put together teams from the ladies who come forward to play in the external competitions, so this was the first year that Rachel, Margaret and I played together as a team and we just gelled, you know something clicked and it just worked! Rachel says that she’s got her bowling mum and her bowling gran with her! So we started playing together in the league and we ended up playing together in the Nationals. We just knew that if someone had a bad end the others would support them, it was brilliant. The rule was ‘we never say the S word, sorry is not allowed, never apologise’ – we just bolstered each other and kept each other going, it was just lovely and good to play with them. Although we were competitive, we made it to the Nationals and we were in the final of the West Fife Ladies league, we had that underlying attitude of just trying our best, not getting stressed and supporting one another.”

Both Arlene and Sarah’s enthusiasm for bowls is infectious, and it is no surprise that the membership is growing at a club with such dedication to community events and well structured coaching. Bowls Scotland look forward to seeing what comes next for the ladies, their club and their growing juniors section. To finish we asked them both what they love most about the sport.

“It gets you, it’s addictive, it’s more difficult than you think but it’s so enjoyable. You can play at whatever level you want to play at; you can come down everyday for a little roll up with your friends or you can try and get to the Nationals, it’s your choice. It’s a sport that can be played at all levels by all ages at all abilities and it’s fun!”

“I joined in 2019 as a social member and then there was come and try day so myself and my husband decided we should have a go. One come and try and we were both hooked completely! We’re now playing competitively and also indoors over the winter.  I’ve always considered myself not competitive, but I’ve realised actually I am, especially against my husband! It’s outdoors as well which is nice, if you get a nice day people are sitting out. This year we actually had a scheme called adopt a planter, members adopted them and filled them, and the club was looking gorgeous. It’s just been glorious playing outside on a sunny day, your friends are there and it’s all ages you know, 17 right up to 90 as our oldest playing member. It’s such a lovely mix of people from all walks of life, there’s no snobbery in bowls, it’s just lovely.”

Thanks to Sarah and Arlene for sharing news from Dalgety Bay's brilliant 2022 season, we look forward to hearing what comes next.

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