After over 30 years in this sport, I have developed one or two thoughts. This is my opportunity to inflict these opinions upon anyone who cares to read on. Those who think of bowls as a past-time rather than a sport may not entirely appreciate my point of view, but that's okay. To each his own. My philosophy can be most easily summed up in two words "Bowls Matters".
If you wonder about my experience in the Sport of Bowls, here is the short version.
Started July 23, 1981.
West Lincoln Bowls Club 1981-1994
Churchill Fields Bowls Club 1991-1994
Granville Park Bowls Club 1995-2003 (social member since)
Kerrisdale Bowls Club 2001-present
Pacific Indoor Bowls Club 1996-2011
Certified Umpire since 1993
V&D umpire coordinator 1998-2006
Provincial Officiating Chair 1999-2000, 2004-06
HEU National Indoor Singles 2007
Certified Level I Coach (Community Coach) since 1993
Club Coach Churchill Fields 1992-94
Granville Park 1996-99
Club President West Lincoln 1988-90 (aged 24)
4 provincial medals (all in 4's): 1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze
2 national medals: 1 gold, 1 silver
1 international medal: bronze (2011 Asia Pacific Championships
It seems that nothing gets the blood stirred more than a discussion about the National Team selection process. A number of people argue (long and loud) that the Canadian Champions should go. There's no politics, no favouritism - you win, you earn it, you go. I have to admit, it would be the easy thing for Bowls Canada to do. The logistics of fitting 7 winners (not counting the mixed pairs and indoor singles) into whatever teams were needed could easily be worked out ahead. There's only one problem - it doesn't work. In fact, it is such a bad idea that no one does it. From small countries like Cyprus (350 total bowlers) right up to Australia (many 100,000's), they all use a selection process. Here are a few good reasons:
1.) Your national champions are not necessarily your top bowlers. Winning at the nationals is not the same as winning internationally. A major element here is the greens. Winning on a 10 second green in Canada is not an indicator of how you'll do on a 15 second green in Australia.
2.) Some of the national champions might well turn down the invite to the national team for any of a number of reasons (costs, fear, disinterest).
3.) If the national champions go, you know they'll believe that because they have already 'earned' the spot, they don't need to work any more. But that is when the work really should begin. There should still be coaching and training and detailed preparation. But that won't happen - I guarantee it!
4.) Canada used to send their national champions and they used to lose regularly. That is why they created the selection process and it worked. Canada wins medals. Look at the Asia Pacifics.
What the process could use right now is to have some of our Canadians who have played and won internationally to step up and offer to help out on the HPC. Use their experience and knowledge to continue building the Canadian Team so that it is consistently a threat at every event and against every team.
Everybody says that they want to have more younger bowlers - anything under 50 is gold. But the reality is that we run things for the convenience of retired seniors. It's not a conspiracy; it's just the way things have naturally developed; but that doesn't make it any better. If you disagree, think about some of the following:
Club and district meetings are held during the day on weekdays. Most clubs will change this to accommodate a working board member, but not the V&D. They keep scheduling meetings for weekdays. In the offseason they pick Saturday mornings, but, unfortunately, some of work Saturdays as well. The smart ones identify the people with the busiest schedules and work around them first.
Clubs will often schedule bowling for the daytime. The women are particularly bad about this since women of a certain demographic are still coming to grips with the concept of women who are married, have children and also work. I know working women who have signed up for a club event with the proviso that it be held in the evening. The event is then arranged for a weekday morning and the organizers have asked "Can't you take the day off?"
The general approach to the sport of bowls is one which first emphasizes the 'fun' and 'social' aspects of the sport as well as the pleasure of getting fresh air and gentle exercise. There's two problems with this approach. One is the pervasive belief that fun and competitive are mutually exclusive (that's a whole separate topic). The other is that what makes bowls attractive to one person will attract everybody. Surprisingly enough, 20 year olds, 40 year olds, 60 year olds and 80 year olds have different interests.
If there's one topic which is bound to get grass-roots bowlers up in arms, it's affiliation fees. Cries of "What do we get for our affiliation fees?" are raised and comments about how 90-95% of bowlers are social and are getting nothing of the provincial and national bodies who only work for the tiny competitive minority. The following is the case for affiliation fees:
1.) Affiliation buys every bowler in the country the OPPORTUNITY to take part in a wide variety of Bowls programs. These include Provincial and National Championships, the National Team, umpire certification, coaching certification, memberhsip recruitment materials and ideas, 25 year pins, provincial and national newsletters. If a bowler does not wish to take advantage of these opportunities, that is their choice.
2.) Even you personally don't directly take part in high level competition, you and your club still benefit. You may not venture outside your club, but the exposure that top-level bowls can (and to some degree does) bring to the sport serves to advertise the Sport of Bowls in a positive and attractive light to potential members. My own club has gained new members because we have been holding a tournament which has attracted someone to watch, try rolling a few themselves and then join up. Also, we had a National Team member come one night to a coaching and Q and A session. Everyone who came out (about 30) had a great time and were really interested in what Bowls is like at the international level. This group of 30 were mostly social bowlers, but they benefited from the existence of high level bowls and the National Team program.
2.) A lot of the benefits are not "sexy", but they are valuable nonetheless. Clubs and their executives are covered by liability insurance at a discounted group rate which is absolutely necessary (unless you want to be sued into non-existence).
3.) Affiliation fees for Lawn Bowls are among the lowest for all sports in Canada. Bowls BC ($7.50) and Bowls Canada ($13.50) collect a combined $21.00 per year per member. By comparison, the combined provincial and national affiliation fees for soccer are $31.00, for athletics $75 and for rugby $112.