Return to the Green Story: Gourock Park BC

This season, Bowls Scotland have been sharing good news stories from our member clubs, celebrating the Return to the Green and highlighting the hard work of the volunteers across the country who’ve kept clubs going and made improvements during the Covid-19 pandemic. We contacted John Lamb, treasurer of Gourock Park BC in District 26 who posed some questions to the committee to form a Q&A on the clubs’ involvement in local community initiatives… 

What role does Gourock Park BC play within the community?

John & Dougie have been actively encouraging bowling in schools and for juniors for 5 years through Gourock Community Sports Hub (GCSH). GCSH was initiated by Inverclyde Council for sporting organisations to work together to increase participation. It’s managed by an Active Schools Officer and includes golf, football, cricket, bowling, archery, walking & cycling. 

John’s daughter Lorna joined Gourock Park Bowling Club (GPBC) 35 years after being a junior to keep her dad bowling during the pandemic. She was invited onto the Hub due to her job with Inverclyde Bothy and resurrected the Hub Facebook page & created a Twitter account.

GPBC hosted Inverclyde Bothy for their Volunteer Week celebrations in June this year. 12 of these volunteers have now joined GPBC, and we used their quotes on social media to encourage others to Give Bowls a Try:

"I was pleasantly surprised to find I really enjoyed bowling, it's super relaxing as there's so much to think about I needed to turn off all the "blah blah blah" that is usually going on in my head!"

"Completely agree - I didn’t really expect to enjoy the actual bowling (obviously knew I’d have fun and get a laugh with you guys) but actually found it weirdly relaxing and I’m keen to try again."

We recorded a video for the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) & Sport Scotland #FeelYourPersonalBest campaign and take part in Sport Scotland’s monthly themes like #FriendshipInSport, to share the benefits of sports with others.

Using social media and with strong support from our local newspaper, we organised 2 successful “Come and Try” sessions. We have welcomed 25 new members, and there will be more. John says “I have been bowling for 65 years and have never witnessed such enthusiasm, with lots of people regretting not trying the sport earlier in their life.”

Why is it important for the club to continue growing its membership / introduce new people to the sport?

Every club needs members. GPBC is very lucky to still have 2 greens, which means we can have beginners having fun on the top green and competitions on the bottom green, and plenty of scope to increase participation.

Are there any special arrangements for new members?

Bowls are available, so people trying bowling only need smoothish flat shoes. We offer the first try free. First year membership is only £10.

We have coaching for juniors every Thursday evening.

We felt it was really important to offer adults & families a route into bowling, so are offering follow-ups to the Come and Try sessions every Saturday morning during Summer and will take it from there.

All levels of bowlers enjoy our Wappenshaws every Monday evening & Saturday afternoon.

John McCartney, who received great praise for his involvement in encouraging children to play bowls in a recent Greenock Telegraph article, tells us how well the committee has done to continue bowling during lockdown:

How did it feel to reopen the club and welcome members back this season? Does the club have any goals for the 2021 season?

The committee had reservations initially on how to tackle the COVID issue. However, we carried out the prerequisite requirements of creating our risk assessments, obtaining the required certification of COVID officers and also setting up of track and trace for the club and then having the process ratified by the council. We also ensured that the clubhouse was COVID safe by using a fogging machine prior to the eventual opening and the ensuing weeks to ensure the safety of our members which is of paramount importance. When the day came there was still an element of uncertainty of what to expect or indeed happen on the day. The fears were allayed when the members adhered to the rules that were laid down and preceded to enjoy our day. As the weeks progressed there were still some members isolating and were still not able to attend, so the committee created a news email and it was also loaded into Facebook to enable the membership stay in touch with what was happing to and within the club. The season for 2020 was a season that the club managed (through the pandemic) to get back our sociable side along with the bowling. Through this time we managed to recruit new members. As the season 2020 ended the committee appraised how the club managed and also how the members coped through the pandemic. We agreed that given the task that was in front of us we believe we coped with any issues arising. The feedback from the membership was very positive and agreed to take the club forward into 2021.

We carried on with much of the same as the season (2020) just passed however as we started to move out of restriction levels the more the members have been reintegrating back into the club. They must be congratulated for their attention to the rules surrounding the use of sanitisers for both hands and bowls equipment, social distancing and also use of face covering where required.

 

Given the success of the members we the committee agreed to try and run some of the clubs’ internal competitions and at present although a little slow the members are taking up the challenge.

As we are not far away from our centenary year, we hope that the club will prosper in the future and go on from strength to strength gaining new members. Dougie, John and Lorna have been championing Try Bowls through the Sports Hub and the Bothy group. We are currently encouraging non bowlers a chance to try bowls through the Bowls Scotland scheme and so far this season we have 17 potential new members adding to the 8 we managed to achieve last season with 6 carrying on to become full members of the club.

There are exciting times ahead at Gourock Park with the installation of a 9-hole crazy golf course along with a loft conversion and locker room extension in the offing; so, it is a great time to be a member or if not already then become one and maintain it for the generations to come.  

Any tips for other clubs looking to engage with the community?

Take every opportunity on social media and in the local press to promote bowling & grow your reach. Post-lockdown is a perfect opportunity to grow participation, as people are generally staying local and are looking for something safe, enjoyable & healthy to do outdoors in company. Offer a route into bowling for people and grab this window of opportunity with both hands!

We were also able to attend Gourock Park's recent 'Summer of Sport' day and film this short video with some members:

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