To stun or not to stun…that is the question.
15 years ago bowls was a sport mocked by the young. In grade school I kept it a secret from my friends that I bowled for 2 years because it was not a ‘socially accepted’ sport to play. At the time, perhaps it was true. Those involved wore plain white clothes, and rocked some plain white hair. The young were across the street doing basketball, baseball and laughing at how much fun they were having. Bowls? I heard crickets and light clapping. Enticing it was not. But I tried it anyway, more so out of respect to my Grandad who had been rolling since the 1970s. The funny thing was that I couldn’t stop thinking about it after each time I went out and rolled a few. I caught on to the basics and my competitive edge made me want to exceed expectations. At age 11 I played my first Provincial Junior event and somehow found myself beating some 15 year old 21-19 in the final. I also was trying to comprehend Nationals in PEI at age 11? It was bizarre and overwhelming, and quite hilarious. This so called ‘old person’ game is now sending a high-voiced skinny kid to a National event. I finished 5th and was the youngest in the event. I had the time of my life and ended up meeting some ‘cool’ 16 year old kids who wanted to hang out and ‘look after’ me. Needless to say, I became a full fledged member for the years to follow and eventually told my friends back home what I do during the summer. They laughed but I didn’t care because this whole new world of travel and competition opened up before my eyes! From then on Bowls was the sport, and everything else was second nature.
From 1997-2001, I competed in the Junior Nationals and managed a few medals in the process. From 2003-2010, I played in the Under 25 National Qualifier and came home with a few more shiny things. In 2008, I had achieved what I had always dreamt of, and that was representing Canada internationally. What a wild experience!! After all these years on the Junior circuit I began to think, “is this really an old person’s game anymore?” Young faces were popping up everywhere, nationally and internationally. The Under 25 bowlers were wearing casual shorts and flashy bowls shirts instead of the usual whites. The ‘kids’ were starting to fist pump and yell at their bowls! Instead of light claps the young were cheering on the sidelines, hyping up the bowlers. The shift is happening!
Bowls is becoming a sport…finally. The 2011 Canadian Nationals had the youngest playing field across the country in the tournaments history. Both Men and Women’s Fours teams won the gold medal, and the average age between the two teams was under 30. Three of the Women’s Singles players were under 30, one of them winning Bronze. The Men’s Singles final consisted of a 30 year old versus a 25 year old. The entire Saskatchewan Men’s team had an average age of 28! Hell, after winning the team award the SK men leap-frogged one another up to the podium, not just for show, but to firmly plant some excitement and desire into this ‘quiet’ game! Approximately two-thirds of Canada’s 2011 National Team is within the age range of 25-35 years old. Now that is scary. The funny thing is it’s not just happening in Canada, but all over the world. A young 20-something woman from England won the Women’s Singles Gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Another 20-something woman from South Africa also won a Gold Medal in the triples at the same event. Young men from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia are currently some of the World’s most promising bowlers. And every single one of these bowlers above are licking their chops and preparing to feast on what’s to come.
Many of my most fond memories are from Bowls, whether it’s on the green or off. I end up meeting young people who really just want to have a few cold ones, roll some good bowls, and create some good times. The face of Bowls is that of the young. It is not a revolution, it is a reality. Every “young stunna” should try it, and once you do I will guarantee you’ll be ‘having a time’ on a daily basis.
Alex Scott, Age 25, Current National Team Member