We visited Kettering Lodge BC in Northampton, home to 2022 Commonwealth Games Squad member Kieran Rollings, to discuss their thriving junior section and the effect a home Games will have this summer.
We arrived at Kettering Lodge BC and as normal received a warm welcome from its members.
We were going to speak to several junior members, as well as Kieran, about their bowls journey, but before that we learned a great deal about a superb club.
Kettering Lodge BC is an excellent facility, enjoying both indoor and outdoor facilities following an amalgamation in 2006. It is the only club in the Borough to offer both of these facilities; a fact that the club is extremely proud of.
Another fact for you: the Northamptonshire club was the first in the country to have turf for their green delivered by rail!
Bowls was first played on the outdoor site in 1880 and created a legacy for a remarkable 142-year-old history
At 22, Kieran is the youngest member of the Birmingham Commonwealth 2022 Squad. He will be aiming for podium finish following his 2018 Gold Coast experience. Alongside his international success, he is a keen advocate of expanding the game to young people.
How did he get into the sport? Like many bowlers, family connections were the start of things.
“My grandfather introduced me to the sport. Everyone was very welcoming, with the older generation at the club always encouraging new blood into the sport.”
The group of young Kettering players Kieran introduced us to included Lily and Ryan, and they both described their careers on the green to date.
Lily was inspired onto the green by her father, who has been playing the sport for several years. However, the presence of Kieran was an additional spur. “Having someone like Kieran at our club, it inspires people like me to try the sport.”
Lily only recently started playing bowls and agreed that the game has offered her another route into sport outside of school, with the additional benefit of meeting with other young people.
She is able to build friendships and work in a team environment, and she feels that has improved her confidence.
“I have been able to make friends both on and off the green, which has been really important to me.”
Ryan is a total newbie to bowls, having taken up the sport just over a month ago! He has thrown himself into the game with genuine enthusiasm, playing four or five times a week.
He considers bowls his primary sport and feels it is a better game to experience than playing football. In particular, he spoke about the team aspect which is something he enjoys about the game.
“I love being part of a team and even in just a month of playing, I have made friends for life.”
It is clear both Lily and Kieran have a real passion for the game, and the presence of Kieran is without question a significant inspiration and motivation for both Lily and Ryan.
Lily is focused on replicating Kieran’s achievements. “I want to follow in Kieran’s footsteps and represent England on the international stage.” Bowls fans should watch this space!
Kieran feels this summer is an opportunity to promote the inclusivity and accessibility of the game.
“The competitions, social events and great atmosphere all play an important aspect in the game; I feel as a sport it is something that young people can easily get involved with and enjoy.”
He also acknowledged the importance of making it easier for younger people to play the sport, and thinks new initiatives, in particular the Pay and Play platform launching this year, will make it easier for more people to get into clubs and play the sport.
” A new initiative such as Pay and Play will be brilliant for the game.”
Kieran explained how Kettering BC use event posters, social media and new joiners’ competitions to bring in younger players.
“Using social media, and new channels, can be a great way to ensure its clear that this is not a sport just for older people.”
” Bowls is a diverse sport and there is a real need to push it to the under 25s”
Kieran reflected on how he was motivated by watching the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on television and how this was the catalyst for him to become an international player.
“From that day forward I wanted to get into the international squad. It’s a great honour to not only represent my country at one Games, but to do it twice – it’s just incredible.”
As we concluded our visit at Kettering Lodge BC, Kieran reflected on his best bowls experiences. Four years ago featured heavily. “The pride of reaching the medal match. It didn’t matter that it was for a bronze, simply being able to play for your country at this level, was a dream come true; knowing you have done your part and all the training has paid off”.
We have a five-point plan to boost participation levels and inspire future generations in lawn bowls during the home Commonwealth Games year. Building on its new 2021-26 strategy, Fit for the Future, the plan will take advantage of the golden opportunity of Birmingham 2022 by making lawn bowls more attractive and accessible to those we know are interested in playing our sport in the future.
Read and watch our previous Club Life episodes below.
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