After 10 years as international selector at Bowls England, Jayne Christie has decided to hang up her selector hat. With a number of accolades to her name and ‘trophies in the cabinet’, Jayne has had a decorated career in the sport she loves. A gold medal in the Women’s Fours at the World Outdoor Championships in 2004, gold at the European Bowls Team Championships in 2003, a National Mixed Fours title and runner-up in what was a riveting game in the 2023 Aviva National Finals Women’s Singles – to name a few. So, after many years of dedicated and unwavering service to Bowls, Jayne has decided to take a step back. We caught up with her to find out more…
Tell us about your time as a selector, have you enjoyed it?
I’ve loved every minute of it! Having played international bowls with many of the current England players of today, I’ve been so fortunate to keep those relationships when I transitioned from player to selector – which was so important to me.
After choosing to retire as an international player in 2013, I was asked if I would be interested in putting myself forward as selector. I did just that, but I remember thinking to myself that if I was selected, I would make sure that the team knew we [the Performance Team] were 100% behind them and that we wanted them to do well. When I was in my playing days, the selection process was very different. You felt like you were being scrutinised while playing, which added a lot of pressure. Whilst we are closely monitoring the team for selection purposes, we are also there to support them as we know what it’s like to play in that arena and understand how it feels – which is vital for any selector.
Most of them [the England squad] know that we’ve been there and experienced what they’re experiencing. There’s a whole raft of emotions – there was always a lump in my throat, and I felt 6 inches taller wearing my England kit at the opening ceremonies – but with that comes the added pressure that you put on yourself as a player, especially when you know you’re being closely monitored. So, as a selector and part of the Performance Team, I was determined that I wanted all players to know I was there for them.
“There’s a whole raft of emotions – there was always a lump in my throat, and I felt 6 inches taller wearing my England kit at the opening ceremonies”
How was it to make the shift from player to selector?
When I became a selector, I had played with every single person in that England team which was a bit of a shift for me, but because they were all my friends, not one of them treated me any differently. I will always be grateful for that because I never intended to treat them any differently, either. Obviously, there are unwritten rules about what can be said, but all the players understand that. It is funny though because the girls that I used to play with, they say things to me now and I see some of the younger players look over, thinking, “I can’t believe she’s said that to a selector!”, but it’s because of the friendships, and I believe that players should be able to share things with the Performance Team, whether it be a laugh or something more personal that they might need support with.
What have been your highlights?
There have been so many highlights along the way. I have always loved going to the Junior International Series and seeing the passion and enthusiasm of the younger players. I was so proud of our senior girls in Ayr this year when both England teams reached the Final – they played in some dreadful weather throughout and just got on with the job of winning. Hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and our performances throughout. The success of our players at the World Championships in the Southern hemisphere this year, and the gold medal the girls [Lorraine Kuhler, Amy Pharoah, Sophie Tolchard, Jamie-Lea Marshall] got against Australia, on Australian greens, was amazing! It was such a feat.
Oh, and that day at the Aviva National Finals – no one could have been more pleased for Stef [Branfield] at the Nationals than me – which sounds strange as it was me she beat in the Final! But I have known her since she was a junior and have seen her come up through the ranks, and for her to win the National Singles for a second time was brilliant!
That photo of us at the end of the game – arms around each other and smiling was so genuine. She said to me in that moment, “What have I done!?”, and I said, “You’ve done and achieved what you deserved to achieve!”. I was genuinely chuffed for her because, for anyone to win the National Singles once is an achievement, but to do it twice, puts her into a different class.
How do you feel about the future of the sport?
It’s really promising and I’m so enthusiastic for the future of the game. We’re putting together a clear pathway, which is needed to bring youngsters through. It’s an amateur sport but we need to do all we can to develop them, so we’re set for the future.
There are so many talented youngsters out there who play and there are some exciting ones coming through, which we saw at the Junior Day. But the truth of it is that most of the youngsters play because of parents and grandparents who are involved the sport. The key thing is to get others seeing the sport so we can widen our talent pool and take our game to other groups such as Scouts, Guides, schools, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if we got parents interested in bowls because their kids had started playing?
“I’m so enthusiastic for the future of the game.”
What would be your advice to the next selector filling your shoes?
Be yourself. Be genuine. Never make a decision that you don’t feel comfortable with or that you don’t feel you can justify.
Playing or selecting?
Playing, always! But I have had so many wonderful memories across both.
However, there is something about playing for your country that is so special, it’s the ultimate. I consider myself very lucky to be good at sport that, for most people, is a hobby. But a hobby that I have had the honour of representing my country in.
“There is something about playing for your country that is so special, it’s the ultimate.”
As I said, I have loved every minute of my time as an international selector and feel so proud to have also played for my country. But, with both of those comes a lot of responsibility and commitment. I have missed so much in my, and my family’s life – time’s flying and it’s too precious. It has been a commitment, but it’s been a commitment I have loved. But now is the time to step back, although I’ll continue coaching the younger players within my County (we’ve just started up a youth academy). And will you still be playing? Oh, absolutely!
Performance Director, Mo Monkton, said:
“As Performance Director, I will miss having Jayne on selection as she brought a wealth of experience, was always approachable, with a thorough knowledge of players in her region and beyond, and completely fair and impartial and at all times.
We will all miss Jayne’s support and good humour at selection meetings and international events, and I feel privileged to have worked alongside her.
We all wish her well and look forward to seeing her on or around the greens at Leamington for many years to come.”
Feeling inspired? Why not enter a 2024 National Competition here.