Return to the Green Story: Peterhead BC
After the restrictions brought on by the Coronavirus Pandemic many bowling clubs across the country have taken the opportunity to take a closer look at the make-up of their membership and address any areas of improvements. Signing up to Try Bowls, the Bowls Scotland membership growth program is an excellent way to get advice and resources to help run and promote events at your club. We spoke to Ian Hepworth who takes on the role of Try Bowls Co-ordinator and Coach for Peterhead BC in Aberdeenshire to hear how the 2021 season is going and hear about their successful Try Bowls day.
How is the 2021 season going for Peterhead BC?
The season has been going well at Peterhead and as restrictions have eased, we have seen members slowly return to the green and they have been signing up for the social games, league games, Competitions both internal and external, Hat Afternoons and Nights have been well attended. Though we did take the decision not to have our Open Triples competition as we would have had to restrict numbers and we wouldn’t have been able to have provided the hospitality that we are known for.
Most existing members have returned, A number have decided not to bowl this season but will return to the green next year.
The club adapted to the restrictions that had to be enforced by Covid, meaning that a cuppa and fancy piece after the game isn’t an option(!) though the recent relaxing to LVL 0 has made it now possible to have a cuppa after the game. We were provided last year with a Sanitiser station which has made things a lot easier for people not to forget.
Why did the club sign up to Try Bowls this year?
Covid highlighted our aging membership, Way back in the first lockdown when there was the discussions about over 70’s having to isolate or have exclusive sessions for them we actually realised that even though we had a healthy membership that close to 90% were over 70 and that we needed to do something now to grow our membership over the next 5 to 10 years to replace members who may not be with us or will move from full members to social members
We’re not looking to recruit any specific membership groups to be honest, just anyone who wants to play the game.
It’s important that we try to grow our membership, even at this difficult time, to ensure club survival. It’s also easier to attract new members to a vibrant active club rather than one on the decline.
The club has fundraised for new bowls for juniors, as well as beginning junior afternoon sessions in August – tell us some more about this fund raising and the plans for the junior sessions?
Our local councillor contacted us about the Aberdeenshire Council Summer of fun grant, which was open to all community groups to provide activities for families over the school holidays at no cost. She was aware that we were looking for Junior Bowls and targets as we had approached her about grant information for them in the previous 12 months. I had also been working with Grampian Disability Sport with the potential of doing some lawn bowls sessions with them. I would love to see clubs that are struggling to get members become more inclusive, there is a huge group of untapped members in the disabilities group. Just have a look at what SDS have done with Boccia. Anyway, I applied for the grant and was successful, so we purchased 6 sets of Junior bowls and some targets.
How many juniors does the club have at the moment and why are you targeting younger members?
Currently we have zero junior members, getting the junior bowls which were used for the first time at the try bowls sessions. Initially as the sessions are weekly and free and will hopefully continue for some years to come we hope that some of the older juniors will become members but there is also the possibility that if parents see their children having fun and enjoying bowls they might join as well. Next year we are planning to do a try 5 sessions for a Fiver (members of the public can only do one lot of 5 sessions) as a private club we need to ensure the benefit of membership is not eroded while trying to ensure we give people an opportunity to try the sport. The club is also in discussions with Active schools just need to submit some paperwork and we will be there.
As well as being an active member of the club and committee, Ian is one of Bowls Scotland’s Coaching Tutors, helping to deliver Intro to Bowls Coaching Award (IBCA) courses in his region.
How are you finding your role as a Coaching Tutor – has the understanding of our Intro to Bowls and Level 1 Courses helped the club to plan events?
I did an IBCA curse at Ellon Bowling club with Adam, and thoroughly enjoyed it with 12 on the course. I understand Ellon enjoyed the course so much they are looking to run one just for their club members and I’m currently applying for a grant to work closer with Aberdeenshire council for sessions to get people outside doing gentle exercise etc and part of this grant I’m hoping to get funding to run a course just for Peterhead Bowling Club members.
Absolutely, fun games are the way forward! We did similar things when I was one of the Regional Academy coaches and it’s amazing how quickly people learn through games, rather than just being told what to do.
How was Peterhead BC’s Try Bowls Day last weekend?
It was initially a slow burner, there wasn’t anyone for the first half an hour and as the local councillor arrived to see how it was going a family with 3 children arrived, the kids loved it and from that point on we had a steady stream of people down, majority were from the community who had heard it advertised on local radio or one of the many Facebook pages. Some members came down with their kids or grandkids to give the junior size bowls a try. It went well.
We also gave each group a Q&A sheet with the basic costs of membership, equipment, when games were, a poster for the free junior sessions and a membership form. Also had my contact details so that if they had any questions, we could answer them promptly.
It was a brilliant atmosphere, lots of fun. Kids loved it every single one said they would come back for the weekly sessions, lots of positive comments about the club and in particular the garden surrounds. There is a bit of scope to add a few things next year when restrictions have been lifted.
Overall, it couldn’t have gone better we had 25 through the door to give it a go including juniors which made up a large proportion of the 25. Within 24 hours we had 2 new adult members join and from speaking to the juniors nearly all of them will be coming down for junior sessions so that’s a minimum of 10 and you know what kids are like they will tell their mates who will come and give it a go. I already have broad session plans drawn up for age groups, so can’t wait to get going with the juniors.
Who helped from the club? What activities were planned?
We discussed it at the committee and decided that rather than put up a volunteer sheet the committee would help on the day. Though a couple of other members showed up unannounced as they always do to help. I loosely set the format up around the IBCA course, the green was set up as a circuit.
Rink 1 - how to hold a bowl, Bend Step delivery and roll the bowl between 2 cones.
All rinks had 2 mats set around ¾ length and one about 3m for the objective
Rink 2 - bowl and finish inside a semi-circle of cones
Rink3 - to a target that had scoring spots on it
Rink 4 - Scoring wedge (By far the most popular target of the day)
Rink 5 - Circular target with scoring rings
Rink 6 - draw to a jack.
This way you could do this either as 1 person or a bit of competition. We had a lady who had never bowled before and by the time she got to rink 6 was trailing the jack or landing just behind the jack and had a natural delivery and has now joined the club because she enjoyed it so much and found bowls a great challenge. Personally, I could see her becoming the ladies champion within a year or two!
Is there any other news from the club you’d like to share?
I think it’s worth mentioning some people who go the extra mile at the club - our greenkeepers and the team of volunteers who help them keep the club gardens looking fantastic. They’ve actually won garden awards for the Peterhead area in the past! There is a real spirit at the club of volunteering and working as a team. The team are excellent in showing new volunteers what to do in a positive manner and many have volunteered for over 10 years. Without this team we wouldn't have a green or the pleasant surroundings that draw people to the club.
Bowls Scotland would like to thank Ian for his time in providing this brilliant case study on the club, as well as for his time as one of our team of Coaching Tutors. We are such that with a passionate team of volunteers at the club and well-structured sessions, the junior sessions will be a success and we are excited to see the membership at the club grow as a result of this hard work.
To share a story on your club and let us know about your Return to the Green, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.