South West Sport are always looking for local sporting clubs and organisations doing great work in the community and are willing to share their stories. Today, we are showcasing the work that Portland RSL Memorial Bowling club are doing in the All-Abilities space and learn all about the fantastic initiatives that are making their club more inclusive and introducing a diverse range of people to the game of bowls – well done, Leanne and Portland RSL Memorial Bowling club, great work!
Q & A with Leanne Evison
Club: Portland RSL Memorial Bowling Club
Position: Vice President, Match Committee, Publicity
How have you broadened your audience and encouraged a number of different people to participate in the sport of bowls at your club?
- A relationship with Kyeema Support Services (a local disability service provider) started 15 years ago when someone came to the club asking if we were interested in developing a relationship with the service and its clients. Bowls suitable in size were gained through a community grant and hence the ongoing relationship was developed. Approximately 50 Kyeema participants attend the club every Monday morning and are supported by two wonderful volunteers each week whilst the bowl season is on. At the completion of their hourly bowling session, they go into the club and have coffee and cake. The club have recently received another grant to purchase ten sets of new bowls, Dream Line XG’s, and participants were very excited to use them for the first time!
- Top Shot Bowls is an event that grew from the Glenelg South West Games held back in 2019. The club thought it would be a great idea to run a tournament for able-bodied people and hold another for all-inclusive abilities by inviting Kyeema (Portland) and Mulleraterong (Hamilton). In the lead up to the games, a couple of members attended training sessions with the Games Committee and built the concept from there. With the backing of the board and bowls committee, the day went ahead and was a huge success and it was decided to run an event annually. Unfortunately, the past two years were impacted by Covid, however the event was finally run again this year and was a massive success with 40 participants from Portland, Hamilton and Warrnambool.
- The Secondary School’s Lawn Bowls Tournament was created to engage a younger demographic. Four secondary schools in the local area including the Portland Bay School, which has students with learning disabilities were invited to be a part of this tournament, with a total of 60 students participating over three days, assisted by a wonderful group of volunteers.
- Following the Secondary Schools Lawn Bowls Tournament, Portland Bay School approached the club to continue a program. Students from Prep through to Year 12 took part in the program with hour sessions running over a four-week period. Once, these sessions were supported by a wonderful group of volunteers.
Have there been benefits for the club as a result of hosting these events and opening your doors to more participants?
Community relationships and providing more opportunities for people across the community have been a driving force behind what we do. We work hard to change people’s perceptions of the game of Lawn Bowls and to make them feel welcome with the provision of suitable formats and activities that are inclusive for our cliental. Lawn Bowls is a low impact sport that provides many opportunities for its participants. It is challenging, involves communication and is accessible for varying abilities. For many of us involved, there was an intergenerational communication taking place. It was rewarding to see the relationships develop between students, clients and volunteers. You could see our volunteers develop an appreciation of our younger generation and to also be valued for what they were contributing.
There have been a number of benefits for the club related to the program and initiatives they have been running:
Secondary School Lawn Bowls Tournament: We have had one of the local Secondary Schools playing in a BV School Tournament event in Ararat tomorrow. These students have received coaching at the club and will also use our new bowls in the tournament. This tournament will be held again this year.
The Bay School: This school have made lawn bowls part of their PE program this year for all students Prep to Year 12 over a four week period, after having their senior students participate in the Secondary School Tournament last year. The school also has held staff term break ups at the club.
Top Shot Bowls: This event is such a rewarding day for the clients and all the volunteers, staff members, and management. We are also creating links with other organisations across the region, which is forging networks of communication.
We are glad to assist in getting the game of lawn bowls out there and the realisation that it can be provided in various formats to make it inclusive, enjoyable, and achievable for all.
Finally, do you have any tips for other clubs or sports who are looking at growing their audience and including more diverse groups in their sport?
- Keep the game short and engaging
- Simplify or change the method of scoring when required
- Don’t rush things, and be prepared to go with the flow!
- Use modified equipment and make sure activities are suitable for the age group or ability
- Keep things fun – provide prizes or use balloons and streamers to make it fun
- Provide food – a BBQ lunch, coffee and cake, or free soft drink are all important parts of an event!
If you would like to contact Portland RSL Memorial Bowls Club please find further details below:
Phone: (03) 5523 2557