National Volunteer Award Profile - Lynne Swanson

The first winner from the sixth round of the Bowls Scotland National Volunteer Awards is Lynne Swanson from Thurso Bowling Club.

Lynne is a forward-thinking ambassador for junior bowling who has been a loyal member of Thurso BC for 30 years.  Along with being a Primary School teacher and a mum of 3 She currently holds the post of Junior Co-Ordinator at the club. During her time at Thurso BC Lynne has committed many hours of her time to encouraging young people to come along and play bowls, giving up her Sundays to organise and run the youth section bowling sessions as well as raising funds to buy new sets of junior bowls and coaching equipment for the junior members. Lynne also works hard to ensure there are positive links between Thurso BC and the local community by organising try bowls events with the local primary schools as well as the secondary school 4thyears and Beaver Scouts. 

Speaking on her previous roles and current role as Junior Co- Ordinator Lynne has added:

“I have sat on the committee for many years; in the past I held the position of Ladies Captain; volunteered behind the bar; I help run club social events; support with catering; coach and run member development nights/Come and Try events; and of course, the main role for me is that of Junior Co-Ordinator.  About ten years ago I started to try and revive our junior section.  I started with a summer club- it was a flop!  The next year, I started visiting schools, bringing bowls to the school and then inviting schools to the green.  This was aimed at P6 pupils, and initially it was a success but the time that I could access the green was very restricted and although I did get a good group of children attending each week, I soon lost them to football and nearly always when they moved onto secondary school. Following Covid I have relaunched the club.  Although, last year I had my baby in April so postponed the club until this year, but I did have 60 school pupils on the green for a school trip when Murray was 2 weeks old (I just strapped him to me and got on with it)”

“I use social media as a platform to promote the club, as well as sharing my information with school to put on their social platforms, this year it seems to have been more successful.  Our Junior Come and Try was attended by over 30 children during the summer holidays.  And as the numbers have increased at our weekly club I have started to be able to look at running a junior and a youth section”

Lynne's selfless dedication and numerous hours spent helping Thurso BC throughout the years have undoubtedly not gone unrecognised or unappreciated by her clubmates. Janet Sinclair, a fellow Thurso BC member, was inspired to nominate Lynne for a National Volunteer Award after witnessing her love for the game of bowls and commitment to the club.

When asked why Lynne was nominated for her volunteering efforts, Janet added:

“I nominated Lynne because she is a wee ray of sunshine, always with a smile and so enthusiastic about every challenge she takes on. Her energy is boundless – often arriving at the green, with her three boys beside her, carrying boxes of home baking or standing in the kitchen with a mixing bowl mixing up a batch of scones. She has been a member of Thurso Bowling Club since she was a child and loves bowling. Her enjoyment of bowling and Thurso Bowling Club is evident for all to see."

“She juggles full time teaching, her three lively little boys, her commitments to nursery school etc and manages to stretch her days to fit in our Junior Club, Open Days for both juniors and adults, Group days, Committee obligations and always with a smile and great organizational skills. She likes music on the green, she encourages fun games and competitions, club nights and entertainment. She also finds time to play bowls and is an excellent player reaching numerous finals and represents the Club in the National Championships.”

“Lynne makes a huge difference to Thurso Bowling Club – she keeps us all looking forward and encourages everyone to give their all. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and she keeps pushing us to move with the times whilst keeping the traditions of bowling. She is keen to change the conception of bowling from an old person sport to a sport for all.”

In a further effort to advance the junior section this year, Lynne proposed a motion that was approved, changing the Thurso BC constitution to enable kids as young as 5 to join the junior section instead of the prior requirement of 8 years old. This programme enables younger kids to participate and advance, but it was also a strategy to bring the new players onto the green and into a higher level of competition.  Lynne developed an accessible framework that enables kids of all ages and skill levels to advance and improve their bowling abilities.

Speaking on her 3-stage junior development framework, Lynne added:

I think this is the teacher in me coming out.  But my main aim is to increase the number of junior players. To do this I have had to ask for permission to lower the age range for beginner players to 5.  Our club is great, I have 3 young sons and they have always been encouraged to hop onto the green and throw a jack. But I know that as the number increase, TBC needs to take a strategic approach to incorporating our new players onto the green and into more competitive bowls.  Every player needs to develop core skills and a level of resilience to play at a more competitive level. With this in mind I have created 3 ‘stage’ criteria for juniors to achieve.  Stage One juniors are at the beginning of their development as bowlers. Once they have achieved the criteria the move onto Stage Two, where they can join the club members for their Hat nights and finally, they move onto a Stage 3 where they can play at a competitive level.  The methodology behind this is to ensure each individual is supported to develop based on their individual performance and not purely on how old they are.  Therefore, if a 6-year-old is meeting the criteria to play at a higher level of bowls and they are demonstrating that skill set then they will not be held back.  Whilst a 10-year-old, who is new to the sport will be supported to develop as a Stage One player.  For our wider membership this means that they will only be playing alongside or against juniors who have been deemed 'bowls ready'.  

This new framework has been highly praised from the young bowlers as well as the members of Thurso Bowling club, Janet Sinclair a member of Thurso BC who nominated Lynne for her national Volunteer Award has added:

“She has revitalized our junior section, persuaded the Club to change the constitution to allow 5-year-olds to be members, runs a very popular Junior Club with about 20 youngsters ranging from 5 to 15. The youngsters have a great time at the Junior Club and Lynne has set up a progression programme with different stages of development for them to achieve. Already a few of her young bowlers are joining in with the adult bowlers on the green

“Lynne’s mission is to make bowling a sport for all. She realizes that youth is the key to a bowling club’s success and works hard to achieve this.”

Lynne's extraordinary dedication to junior development and recruitment is really admirable; she recognises that the future of the sport depends on all junior bowlers across the nation and those clubs ready to present the sport in a favourable modern light. To do this, Lynne has provided some advice for bowling clubs trying to draw young bowlers:

“It is not easy, and it takes time.  My tagline is 'changing the perception of parents' and I am still working on that!  You need the committee behind you to support you. (I have offered support to other clubs in the area and one response was 'oh no, we don't want juniors, they have no etiquette'.)  You need to be open to change. Junior bowling is not about playing just bowls, it's about being creative and fun!  I am fortunate that I work in education so naturally can come up with inventive ideas. But BS is now promoting a very similar approach, so for any club wanting to start a junior section, I would recommend using Bowls Scotland to start you on your journey.  Get them on the green, let them laugh, let them have fun and in time move them onto bowls as we know it.” 

Lynne was recently presented with her National Volunteer Award on Sunday 10th of September during the Junior Competition afternoon. She was very surprised and quite overcome by the award as, for once, the secret was well kept by all.

When asked how she felt after receiving her Volunteer Award Lynne added:

“I was very shocked to be honest, TBC has many members of which many dedicate their time to the sports. I am only one and I only manage to do what I do because of the support I get from others. So, I am not sure I really deserve it but I am very honoured and am very grateful to the club for my nomination”

Without the tireless efforts of dedicated volunteers like Lynne, bowls would not be able to grow and be enjoyed by people across the country. A great message about the value of volunteers was shared by Janet from Thurso BC:

“Bowling is a community sport, open to everyone regardless of ability, it is a place to meet, to make friendships, to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and companionship whilst gently exercising strolling up and down the green. Without the volunteers giving up their free time to run things competently behind the scenes there would be no bowling club. I do not know of any other sport where a 7 year old can play alongside an 88 year old and both enjoy their game with a few high fives thrown in.”

Congratulations to Lynne on behalf of everyone at Bowls Scotland for receiving her thoroughly deserved National Volunteer Award!

Applications for our next round of nominations close on Friday 27th of October. For more information or to nominate someone, please visit:

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