Recruitment Challenges - One Lawn Bowls Club's Experience

A common concern expressed in conversation over a cup of tea, or something stronger, after a bowls match is the problem of declining membership and the headache of getting enough players for all the matches that have been arranged. I'd like to tell you about how my local club has tackled the issue of membership. Firstly one of the Directors took charge and decided a very proactive campaign had to be waged. It started with members delivering leaflets about the club in the surrounding area - initially to the houses and flats nearby but later to places further afield. People who normally would not have heard or noticed the club were made aware of it and invited to drop by and/or come to an Open Day (a couple of these have been organised).

On the Open Days plenty of members were on hand to chat to the visitors, offer refreshments and invite them to try their hand at bowling on the indoor rinks. The atmosphere was friendly and encouraging and many signed up for a coaching course. These numbers were swelled by the club attending local Sports & Leisure exhibitions in the town centre and at the Sixth Form College and reaching out to people.

Having initially got people through the door, the whole campaign would have faltered without a great team of coaches whose bowling experience, enthusiasm, friendliness and patience encouraged everyone to complete the training course and many to join the club. Over 90 new members have joined in less than twelve months and, most importantly, new recruits continue to come along. I have to say I'm quite envious of the care given to the new members - it's not a case of 'sink or swim'. Several follow up training sessions have been organised to enhance and develop their skills. They have had Marking Evenings, Friendly Bowls, Improvement Sessions and A Refresher for Outdoor Bowling.

Good links have been established between the club and the local bowls shop. This has helped ensure new members get good advice and support when purchasing bowls and equipment and I know they have appreciated it. Approaches were made through the shop to the manufacturers to arrange for a range of suitable demonstration woods to be made available for the training sessions so new bowlers could try different models and sizes and be better informed when buying their own bowls.

Looking to the future, overtures have also been made to encourage the junior membership. Links have been established with local scout groups, high schools and primary / middle schools. The scouts and students from one of the high schools have each had a couple of Fun Days organised by the Director and Coaches and feedback has been very positive - many were surprised at how much they enjoyed it! At present several small groups of primary school pupils are attending Fun Days specially organised for them by the club. It would be wrong to suggest lots of youngsters are now going to be rushing through the door, impatient to join, but attitudes are being changed by these programmes and barriers broken down.

Success has been achieved through sheer hard work with the promotions and coaching. It has taken a lot of time and effort from everyone involved but it does show that you can make a difference!

You can get all the Lawn Bowls equipment you need at Worthing Bowls Centre, as a player or a club. They stock scoreboards, short mats, and mens and ladies bowling clothing.

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