Sport-deficient families who are starving for an overdue dose of fun physical activity will receive a breakthrough lifeline after the lockdown.
And there’s no better place than the country’s vibrant bowl scene to expand your horizons, meet new people, and get started again as coronavirus restrictions ease.
This is the message from the ambitious Bowls England CEO Jon Cockcroft, who is leading an innovative nationwide initiative to encourage people to venture out onto their local greens and try bowls.
Over 600 Bowls Clubs will open their doors to new players this month when Bowls’ Big Weekend takes place near you from May 28th to 31st.
As part of Bank Holiday Bonanza, clubs across the country will be running free, accessible, and Covid-safe taster courses. Cockcroft, previously commercial director at England Hockey and marketing manager at Warwickshire County Cricket Club, hopes the groundbreaking campaign can be the stepping stone to a booming future.
Cockcroft, 43, who took over the management of Bowls England last June, said, “If people are looking for local, family-friendly outdoor activities, this is the perfect opportunity to go to their local bowls club and have that happen Sport a try.
“It doesn’t matter if you haven’t played at all – whatever skill you have, you can play bowls.
“Our sport is a Covid-safe, non-contact outdoor sport, and our clubs have done an incredible job implementing the guidelines and overcoming the practical challenges to make it as safe as possible.”
“The simple premise of rolling this bowl as close to the jack as possible is one that anyone can try – all you need is a flat pair of shoes or a pair of trainers.
“People of all shapes and sizes, abilities and ages can play our sport. Anyone can play bowling – and people are guaranteed some really fun hours at their local club.
“Events like Bowls’ Big Weekend are extremely important in promoting and promoting the game. It was great to put that energy into it.
“We sincerely hope that thousands of people will join clubs for this reason and we are starting to really increase participation in our sport.”
At Bowls’ Big Weekend, clubs across the country ensure a safe, welcoming, and family-friendly environment. With well over 600 registered event locations, a trial session must take place on your doorstep.
Bowls is a sport truly accessible to everyone, and Cockcroft – supported by its energetic team and volunteers – is determined to combat the lingering exercise reserved for the older generation.
Upbeat Cockcroft, who graduated from Oxford University before embarking on a successful sports career, added: “We are incredibly proud that bowls is a sport that can be played for people in the last few years of their lives. It is very much noble and for many people, peeling is their social lifeline.
“But we shouldn’t prohibit people of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and ages from taking advantage of the many, many benefits that sport can offer.
“I’m incredibly excited about the future of the shells. I think they have such great untapped potential.
“It’s such an accessible, doable, and sociable sport – the skill is relatively simple, but it has that addicting, compelling, and intriguing quality that really makes people excited for life.
“What we are feeling now is a revival of confidence – and we see the future very positively.”
Bowls England offers a flexible pay and play option to maximize access to the sport for those who do not wish to become a member.
And Cockcroft hopes such initiatives, coupled with other strategies like pop-up greens and roadshow-style activities, can propel the sport to new heights ahead of next summer’s Commonwealth Games.
The world’s best bowlers will be the showpiece of Birmingham 2022 in Victoria Park by Leamington Spa, home of England Bowls and the site of past achievements such as Ellen Falkner MBE, Amy Gowshall, Jean Baker and Jayne Christie’s memorable triumph at the fourth World Outdoor Championships of the year 2004 descend.
Cockcroft knows that a home game is a great opportunity and reckons that visible success on the biggest stage can spark the audience’s imagination.
He said: “The next year will be an incredible year for us and a tremendous addition to our sport.
“Above all, I hope this gives our sport a real level of confidence.
“This is our Olympics – all the players are going to be incredibly excited and really want people to see them, admire what they are doing and inspire them to pick up a bowl.
“I am really looking forward to what we can achieve. We are very excited about the opportunity and the platform it offers us to develop the sport.”
Find the closest participating club at www.bowlsbigweekend.com