A campaign to increase the number of young people playing crown green bowls across Shropshire has received a cash boost from Sport England.
The £7,145 grant is the culmination of nearly three years’ work from officials at the Mid Shropshire League, who were becoming increasingly concerned at the declining number of youngsters taking up the sport.
The cash will be used to buy five sets of junior bowls coaching equipment – including smaller bowls that youngsters can hold more easily – for qualified coaches to use in sessions at clubs and crown greens all over Shropshire.
The Shropshire Junior Bowls Development Project hopes to attract young people aged 14-18 by using more appealing and engaging equipment, and create strong and sustainable links with schools.
The project was launched following meetings between league officials and the team at county sports partnership, Energize. Mid Shropshire League compiled the grant application with the full support of the county executive, and Energize submitted it to Sport England.
League secretary Malcolm Fletcher said: “It is a national first for our sport of crown green bowls, and we are eager to shout it from the rooftops. We don’t want to see the sport retreat into the shadows any further.
“In these days of getting more people more active and healthy – and youngsters away from computer screens and mobile devices – we are certain that bowls can play an important role.”
Joe Lockley, club development manager at Energize, said: “When we first met up, the league was clearly tired of being told by clubs that they could not attract new members because crown green bowls was seen as an old man’s game.
“They approached us for funding ideas, and also produced an in-depth policy which included lessons plans that could be used by clubs to approach their local schools to offer coaching with qualified and DBS cleared coaches.”
To prove the policy could be used successfully, the league held an after school bowls club for primary age pupils at Hadley Learning Community in Telford, which has Charlton Bowling Club’s green inside its campus. This has now run for the last two summers and produced new members for Charlton.
The first funding bid was rejected in April this year, so the Mid Shropshire League jumped through more hoops – including changing its constitution in July – to get the project over the line.
The junior bowls training scheme will be overseen by qualified coach Pauline Wilson, who takes over as Shropshire Crown Green Bowls Association development officer next year.
Malcolm Fletcher said: “Pauline fits the bill perfectly to get the full benefit out of this huge boost to our sport at the 130-plus affiliated clubs who play in the 17 leagues that are affiliated to the Shropshire association.”
Joe Lockley added: “This project could be just the start in recruiting more young people to bowls clubs across the county, and we wish the Mid Shropshire League well in their campaign.”