International Women's Day Q&A: Megan Grantham

To mark International Women’s Day 2023 we caught up with Megan Grantham, Scotland Internationalist and co-owner of XX:20, who have recently come onboard as Bowls Scotland’s Official Kit Supplier. XX:20 pride themselves on providing comfortable, modern teamwear for bowling clubs a goal that is well aligned with Bowls Scotland’s mission of promoting a more modern image of our sport. Megan is passionate about making sure bowls is inclusive and accessible to everyone and believes that relaxing and modernising playing kit is also a way to get more young people interested in our sport.

We spoke with Megan for a Q&A to find out more about her family business and her love of bowls.

Q) When did you first get involved in the sport and why?

A) “My Papa and my Dad both played bowling from before I was born so it was just very familiar for me to be down the bowling club at the weekends with my whole family and the wider bowling community. When I was 6 years old, one of the guys from the bowling club asked me if I wanted to go on and try it one day and of course at 6 years old when I’d been spending all that time there I was like YES! I want a go I want to try it! And I’ve kind of just stuck to it ever since, I’ve had the support of my Papa, my Dad, my whole family, pushing me to get better.

“Growing up I was very much just a sporty kid, I played both football and bowling and it got to a point, around age 13, where I just had to pick one or the other and I picked bowling. When I was still at school, I was down at the bowling club almost every day. I was spending between 2-4hours pretty much every day and if I wasn’t competing in leagues or competing in Scottish competitions I was down practicing. And if I wasn’t practicing, I was down watching. I spent a lot of time watching other players, picking all my favourite things that I liked about them, then I’d go away and in my training I’d spend time mastering what it was I’d seen, so that I done it in a way that fitted me. So, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into the sport over all the years. Currently I still practice a good 3 or 4 times a week, if I’m not already competing in competitions and things.

“I first got recognised by the SYBA when I was about 12, just from playing county level for Mid-Lothian. At that point there were maybe 2 females in the team out of about 16 players. There’d only ever been 2 females and I’d managed to get myself selected at the age of 12 and I played my first game for Scotland when I was 13 and that’s when I started to realise that I could go somewhere, that I could do something with this.”

Q) What do you like most about bowls?

A) “I always say it’s a very sociable sport, it’s good to come along even if you don’t want to get involved to start with, even just to have a look. It’s fun and everybody would be surprised by the variety of people that are around about a bowling club and in the community. From all the experience I’ve had, everybody’s always very friendly, everybody’s welcoming and what’s great is you can do it as much or as little as you want.”

Q) What assumptions do you think people make about bowls?

A)People just assume that it’s all retired people that play, that it’s the older generation, so it’s a bit more of an old-fashioned sport and it can be a bit strict. What you wear is another massive one, for a long time it was grey trousers, white polo shirts, or men were still wearing shirts and ties. And at the end of the day in 2022, within sport you want to be wearing something a little more comfortable, something that gives you a little more flexibility and well, at any level really, when you play in comfort you perform better.

“You see a massive difference in the sport nowadays, even over the last few years there’s been big changes. There’s a lot more colour in t-shirts, you don’t have to wear grey trousers… we’re now allowed to wear joggers and even shorts which is massive. Especially when you’re playing in the height of summer, you don’t really want to be wearing grey trousers! Even the footwear, that’s also changed and is now much more comfortable and a bit more like trainers. So, there has been massive changes, but there’s still a lot to come yet and that’s where XX:20 are trying to push as best we can, we’re trying to bring out new designs, more colours, different styles. Just to suit anybody and everybody because there’s that many different people, at different age ranges that play the sport. You’re talking from the age of 6 up to the age of 70 and beyond – people play throughout their whole life. So there’s definitely still room for improvement, but the way that it’s going forward, there’s less and less restrictions. And it still looks like a sport, you still wear your teamwear, you still go out and look like a team, it’s just not going to be with a shirt and tie.”

Q) Tell us more about XX20, why you started the business and why modernising the image of bowls is important to you?

A) “We are a small business that are pushing to promote a modern change in clothing. Simple things like hoodies, comfortable shorts, comfortable joggers that still make you look like you’re playing a sport. We do club clothing and can tailor the designs according to club colours and their needs.

“We started in 2019, and we didn’t have much idea with what we were doing with this business, we just had a goal. It was very difficult around where I’m from to get new bowling equipment and things, there’s not really shops or anything like that. When we thought about it we said y’know we’re in the middle of all these warehouses, so why don’t we do it, and instead of people waiting 3 weeks for a pair of shoes or a set of bowls, we can go and get them on the same day and we can have them out for delivery the same day or the day after so that people are getting things a lot quicker. We’d basically seen this opportunity and we took it, and then we decided that we wanted to design our own stuff to make it look a bit better.

“My biggest goal is to have kids comfortable walking about the streets in their bowling kit. Without people going ‘Oh my God what are you wearing?’ I want people to be going instead ‘Oh my God that’s cool! Where did you get that?’

“We started off mostly with word of mouth, you know ‘Speak to Megan or speak to Peter and they’ll help with what you’re wanting…’ then to Facebook which was massive for us and got word out a lot further around Scotland and the rest of the UK. We went from there and built our website and then we’ve also been given massive opportunities from Bowls Scotland. We had a stall at the European Championships in 2022 and from there we’ve had people buying stuff from us from all around the world!

“When you change anything it can sometimes take people a little while to kind of adjust to it. We didn’t want anybody to just look and go ‘no, we don’t want this change’ so we’ve been making subtle changes and promoting different colours and not just being the white and grey. And we’ve had a great response from it. We’re still looking to do bigger and better things in the near future.

“I’ve always cared about how I look and to me how I look is really important because it helps with my confidence, and that even goes for when I’m bowling. We’d get bowling kits that were all the same for the whole squad and I’d still wear my kit different to everybody else! I’d wear it how I felt comfortable. A lot of people maybe look at that and say ‘you’re really different’ but I like to be different, I like to stand out. And that’s where my comfort and confidence comes from. So we just sat down in the kitchen one day and said we’re going to go for this, let’s see where this goes and the more we thought about it and talked about it, I felt if we’re doing this then I want to make a difference to the sport that I’ve played my whole life. If I have a passion in both these things, then surely I can make a difference.”

Q) What are your ambitions for the future of XX:20?

A) “Umm, I wanna go Worldwide! I want to be able to say that my business has made a massive difference in pushing forward and modernising the sport and how it looks. I want people to feel comfortable and look good, and still look smart in XX20 attire. Just take it from there, see how big we can get and how far we can go. And we’re always open to other peoples ideas as well, if somebody’s got ideas I am open to hear about it. Because I want to know what other people want to wear, it’s not just about what I want to wear. Because I am slightly different and I do want to push change, we’re still, we have a lot of other people with ideas and I do my best to satisfy as many people as I can when it comes to designs.

I’m just a big believer, no matter what you’re doing, in any sport, especially at the highest level, the most important thing is wearing something that you’re comfortable in. Because it’s one less thing to be thinking about when you’re supposed to be fully focussed on your performance, your results. I don’t want to be stood, personally, worrying about ‘my trousers are too baggy for me or my zippers not comfortable, but it’s too cold if I take it off’ just little things like that. It’s about making sure that kit is comfortable for everybody.”

Many thanks to Megan for taking the time to speak to us about her own bowling experiences and her company. We are sure that 2023 will hold great things for Megan both on and off the bowling green as she looks to build on the success of her 2022 season which included winning Gold at the Bowls Europe Championships last summer at Northfield.

To find out more about XX:20 and Bowls Scotland’s partnership click here or visit their website.

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