National Volunteer Award Profile Derek Dillon

The next winner from the fourth round of Bowls Scotland National Volunteer Awards is Derek Dillon from Calderbank Bowling Club. Derek was nominated in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the local community, excellent leadership and quality coaching. We spoke to Derek to find out more about his involvement at the club and to Paul Kane, Gent’s District Co-ordinator (DC) for the area, who nominated Derek for the award.

We started by asking Derek when he first took up bowls, how he got involved as a volunteer at Calderbank and about the rewards he gets back from his coaching roles:

“I usually holiday in Spain where there is a local Bowling Club (Benavista BC) on the Costa del Sol. Having watched the bowls during several previous visits, in October 2014 my partner Lorraine and I decided to give bowls a try. We borrowed some bowls played against each other and we were immediately hooked. We had found a sport which we could play together. We later joined the club and play there whilst on holiday.

“When I returned home, a friend then took me to Coatbridge Indoor Bowling Club, which I joined in January 2015. Lorraine and I then joined Calderbank BC in April 2015. The volunteering started as soon as I joined, I like gardening, so I started off by tidying up and planting up the raised flower beds, in time introduced some additional flower beds and annually place pot plants and troughs around the green. I also got involved in doing various odd jobs around the club which required attention. During my first season I was asked by the then Vice President to be his Vice President the following year 2016. In 2017 I was President then in 2018 I became Club Secretary. The reason that I joined the Committee was that I had previous experience from my Golf Club and I genuinely wanted to help the Club in any way that I could.”

“I have played golf for many years. I served on the committee of Carluke Golf Club for several years where I was the Club Captain in 2013. I was for a time a Club Golf Coach and the Junior Convener. In my roles I attended several Scottish Golf Union, Management Development Programme Courses and Seminars. As a part of Scotland’s bid to host the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014, the Scottish Government provided golf equipment to every primary school in Scotland. During 2013 I and several other coaches attended eight primary schools in the Carluke area and provided a series of golf sessions to the children, which I found rewarding. This led to a number of children joining the Club Golf Programme at the Club whereby some of the children became junior members.

“After joining the bowling club I attended the relevant Bowls Scotland Courses, An Introduction to Bowls Coaching and thereafter a Level One Coaching Course. I get a great deal of pleasure from volunteering in bowls. As you know bowls is such an inclusive sport, it can be played by anyone irrespective of their age, gender, mobility, physical characteristics etc. It can be played for fun or competitively. I fully understand the benefits of playing bowls both physically and mentally. It can be played by grandparents with grandchildren. I always try to make the sessions fun and get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the look on a child’s face when they get their first “toucher”. It’s as if the penny drops with them that they can play the game and be good at it!”

Derek was nominated for his award by a fellow volunteer Paul Kane, who is Gent’s DC for Bowls Scotland’s District 20. Paul explained the difference that Derek has made not only to Calderbank BC but also within the wider community:

“Derek was extremely worthy of this nomination because of the passion and commitment he has for his vision. You can’t help but be inspired and impressed by the work that he has done, and is continuing to do, to promote bowls in the North Lanarkshire area. Derek’s work to promote the sport has reached an audience that most of us could only dream of, but Derek has even greater ambitions and has no signs of stopping now.

“Derek’s work has led to formation of a budding junior section at Calderbank BC, but the rewards of his efforts are being reaped in a much wider area. He is very willing to try and help other local clubs and has set up links between several primary schools and their local clubs. I would honestly say that the future of bowls in the North Lanarkshire area is brighter because of the work Derek is doing. We might not see all of the results straight away, but people will join these bowling clubs 10, 20 maybe even 30+ years down the line and it will be down to the friendly and fun introduction to the sport that Derek has given them.”

Paul gives a brilliant testimonial to the wealth of voluntary work that Derek has done to inspire the next generation of bowlers and support his club and community. We were delighted that Paul was also available to present Derek with his National Volunteer Award trophy at the end of the 2022 season. On receiving the award Derek said:

“When I first saw that I had been nominated for the Award I felt very proud, but being honest with you I didn’t think I would be selected as a Winner. When Paul presented me with the Award at our recent Club Presentation of Prizes I was gobsmacked, I had no idea that it was happening, I had just returned from holiday and no one at the Club alerted me as being selected as a Winner. Inwardly I felt quite emotional as I felt that my efforts had obviously been appreciated by someone, which makes it all worthwhile.”

Finally, we asked Derek more about his mission to introduce young people to bowls; about the relationships he’s established with local schools and Active Schools and the use of carpet bowls to provide a year-round opportunity for pupils to play the game. This truly demonstrates the inclusivity of his volunteer work which is not just to the benefit of his own club but for the wider North Lanarkshire area and to bowls in general:

“Introducing young people to the sport is important to me because they are the future of the sport. Many of the bowling clubs throughout the country are struggling to attract younger members. I believe that lowering the average age of memberships in clubs is essential to ensure their existence, attracting younger member’s assists in this regard.

“Also, I am fully aware of the health benefits to a child of playing bowls, for example: improves hand eye co-ordination, promotes teamwork and communication skills, improves numeracy skills, a sport for all abilities and ages, strengthens and conditions arm, shoulder, chest and leg muscles. It provides an exercise option for those with physical limitations, it is not an expensive sport and families can play together. I fully understand how involvement in sport can also be a diversion and prevent young people from drifting into anti-social behaviour or petty crime.

“During the 2016 season we invited the pupils from the two primary schools in Calderbank to come to the club to partake in bowls sessions. At the end of the season the Head Teacher of Calderbank Primary School who was a lapsed bowler commented that the children would really miss playing bowls during the winter months. As I was aware that Coatbridge Indoor had a bowls carpet I got permission to borrow it and delivered it to the school. I then, with a fellow bowler, attended the school and provided introductory sessions to the pupils and teachers. That was when I first met the North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) Active Schools Co-ordinators (ASC’s).

“Having gone around schools previously delivering golf sessions I discussed with them the idea of doing the same thing with bowls. Firstly, the ASC’s encouraged our club to apply to become an NLC Accredited Club and guided us through this process. We were successful and became the first bowling club in the Monkland’s area to achieve accreditation. They also suggested that we should apply for funding for such a project and assisted me in this process also. Our project was titled The Calderbank Bowling Club Community Bowling Project.

“Our application for funding was successful whereby we received £5000. With this funding we purchased 3 bowls carpets with fenders etc, junior bowls, mats and jacks. We also purchased sets of junior bowls and additional coaching equipment for our club.

“We placed 2 carpets and ancillary equipment in the two village primary schools and after discussion with the ASC’s the other carpet and equipment were placed in two joint campus primary schools in the next village Chapelhall. I accompanied by a fellow bowler thereafter attended at these schools on a regular basis providing introductory taster sessions to the pupils and staff. These sessions were very well received and enjoyed by the children.

“As awareness of the Project became public knowledge, fellow bowlers began advising me of the locations of bowls carpets mainly in local church halls and community centres which were not being used. I also began receiving requests from ASC’s to, if possible, provide carpets in other schools. I thereafter contacted the churches and community centres which had been mentioned to me, advised them of the Project and requested that they consider donating their carpet to the Project for reallocation within a local primary school.

“To date the Project has placed bowling carpets and ancillary equipment in 18 Primary Schools, 2 Secondary Schools and 1 Community Centre. We continue in our quest to source more unused carpets for reallocation.

“After delivering a carpet and equipment to a school I, accompanied by another coach, attend the school and deliver introductory sessions to the pupils and staff. I have found that this is not always necessary as some of the schools have a teacher who is a bowler who is prepared to take this onboard inhouse. Thereafter if any school wishes further sessions delivered then we are contacted by the relevant ASC and this is arranged. If there is a bowling club in the vicinity of the school I advise them that the local school now has such equipment, if the club is willing we then introduce a member to the Head Teacher within the school to hopefully form a link. This has resulted in some of the schools visiting their local bowling club for playing sessions.

“In 2018 Calderbank BC hosted in partnership with NLC ASC’s the first Primary School Bowls Tournament. It continued in 2019 however was due to the Covid 19 pandemic. It has been agreed that it will commence again in May 2022.”

Huge congratulations and thanks to Derek for winning this award, for connecting communities and schools to their local bowling clubs, for raising awareness of and introducing so many youngsters to our sport. Thanks to Paul for both nominating and presenting Derek with his National Volunteer Award. Nominations are open year-round and can be submitted via the online form on this page. If your club has been inspired by Derek’s story and are interested in holding recruitment events to bring in younger members why not take a look at our Try Bowls programme for support on planning and running events to increase membership.

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