Lawn bowls has been around for a long time—and so have the people who play it. At least, that’s how lawn bowls has historically been viewed. It’s a game for the oldies, isn’t it?
The answer to that is yes and no. Yes, the game has been around for long time. The world’s oldest surviving bowling green is England’s Southampton Old Bowling Green, which was first used in 1299.
And no, the game is not just for the older generation, as the World Youth Championships at the Gold Coast this month show.
But back to the game’s history. Bowls historians believe the game developed from the Egyptians, who played skittles with round stones, deduced from artefacts found in tombs dating circa 5,000 B.C. Probably the most famous story about lawn bowls involves Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada. On 19 July, 1588, Drake was involved in a game at Plymouth when he was notified that the Spanish Armada had been sighted.
Legend reports his response as being, “There is plenty of time to win the game and thrash the Spaniards too,” and he proceeded to do both.
Closer to home, Australia’s oldest existing bowling club is the Melbourne Bowls Club, which was founded on 11 March 1864, although our first club was established alongside the Bowling Green Hotel in Sandy Bay (Tas.) in 1846.
So it’s great to see the interest shown by the younger generation in such a historic game. For instance, this summer season Bowls Victoria has 850 registered members under the age of 20 and 1,200 aged between 20 and 30.
And take a look at the Australian Jackaroos squad selected for next year’s Commonwealth Games—barely a grey hair among them, and two members, Ellen Ryan and Corey Wedlock, are just 20 years old.
Later this month, the future of lawn bowls—a field of 42 players aged 18–24 years from 17 countries—will take to the rinks at Broadbeach Bowl Club, Gold Coast, to compete at the World Youth Championships. Among them are Ryan, who is returning to defend her title, and fellow Jackaroo, 23-year-old Kristina Kristic.
The women have great talent and determination to thank for their world rankings in their chosen sport, but they also acknowledge the advice, support and mentoring they have received over the years. Kristic says her state coach, Therese Hastings, inspired her to be the best she can be.
“She pushes me beyond my limits. I wouldn’t be where I am now without her support,” Kristic says, adding that the greatest influence in her life is her mother.
“She’s been through many hardships supporting me and my family throughout the years… I hope to have many of her beautiful qualities one day.”
Ryan also attributes her success to the support given to her by family.
“I wouldn’t be where I am in my life or the person I am without them. The encouragement I get to strive in life is awesome,” she says. “Mum drives me everywhere and is always so supportive. ‘Head down, bum up’ are the wise words I receive before every game.”
They know the importance of good mentoring. As Proverbs chapter 19, verse 20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”