Lynne 4

Focus On … Bowls

Bowls Scotland’s National Volunteer Awards are recognising the dedication of individuals across Scotland

Scotland’s 815 bowls clubs all operate in their own unique way. However, one thing they all have in common is their reliance on the voluntary work of many devoted individuals.

With only a small number of paid coaches in Scotland, bowls as a sport is run almost entirely by volunteers.

Adam Martin is the Coach & Volunteer Manager at Bowls Scotland. He said:

“Around four years ago we were having a lot of discussions around recognising and rewarding our volunteers.

“We wanted to create something that catered to all of the volunteer roles whether that be coaches, greenkeepers, or committee members.”

Rewarding volunteers

The National Volunteer Awards were launched in June 2021 off the back of National Volunteers Week with nominations open all year round and anyone within or outwith a club able to nominate.

“In most sports, you’ll find that volunteers have stopped competing but that simply isn’t the case with bowls which I think makes it really special,” Adam said.

“We get so many inspiring nominations in and it's fantastic that we are able to recognise so many individuals in this way.”

Twelve awards are presented annually with a representative from Bowls Scotland going along to each winner’s club, usually as a surprise.

“We have found it incredibly rewarding to go along and present the awards in person and thank each individual for all their hard work,” Adam said.

One of the most recent winners was Lynne Swanson from Thurso who was surprised with her award at a junior competition afternoon late last year.

A member of Thurso Bowling Club for 30 years, Lynne juggles her volunteer work with her job as a primary school head teacher and being a mum of three.

Over the past three decades, Lynne has tried her hand at numerous roles within the club from ladies' team captain and coach to working behind the bar and helping with catering. Around ten years ago, she began focussing her efforts on reviving the club’s junior section.

Growing the game

Reflecting on those early stages, Lynne said that it was not an easy task and recalls that the first junior summer camp she ran was ‘a flop’. The following year she began bringing bowls to the surrounding primary schools and then inviting them to the green - which proved a more effective strategy.

Fast forward to now, the club had 30 young players attend the junior come and try session last summer, and now has a steady number of around 15 juniors attending the club each week.

Lynne is fiercely passionate about growing the game and believes that getting young people in the door is the key.

As part of her youth development plan, Lynne has created a framework to allow children of all ages and skill levels to advance and improve their bowling skills. The framework lowers the previous minimum age of eight years old to allow children as young as five to join the junior section.

“There’s a bit of stigma around children playing bowls, and I feel really strongly that it is actually a great sport for children as it is so accessible,” Lynne explained.

“I knew I needed a framework in place for all the young players I was bringing through so that I and the rest of the club would feel confident that we were getting it right for the young people in terms of progressing them to eventually play competitively.”

Looking ahead

Lynne’s work has now been recognised in the wider county with other clubs in Caithness eager to boost their own junior sections. She said:

“Following my award last year, the work that I’ve been doing with juniors has been brought up at the meetings we hold between all of the bowling clubs in Caithness.

“I’m really eager to do some outreach work there and use the work I’ve done to ensure any juniors coming through other clubs have a positive experience.”

Back at Thurso Bowling Club, Lynne is keen to open up opportunities for young people with disabilities and has recently been in talks with the local secondary school about how the club can work with their pupils.

“A lot of my focus now is on applying to various funds to allow us to increase our stock of smaller bowls and bowling aids to ensure that we have what we need for those players to come in,” she told us.

The spirit of the game

It’s been a busy few years for Lynne and the years ahead look no different. When asked what motivates her to put in the time and work that she does, she said:

 “I just love the bowling community and all the spirit and fun that comes with it.

“When I go away to compete the best part is catching up with friends I’ve made over the years. It really is a sense of belonging.”

The National Volunteer Awards are open for nominations all year round. To find out more and to read about all the previous winners, head over to the Bowls Scotland website.

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