Woodstock Lawn Bowling Club faces new challenge as membership dwindles
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The past few years have been particularly successful for the Woodstock Lawn Bowling Club when it comes to winning medals, with many of its members finishing at or near the top of provincial and national events.
Now the challenge is how to attract more players to the greens considered to be the best in the area.
“We’ve produced some very high level bowlers, and the percentage of us winning medals for squad size is pretty darn high,” said member Jurgen Fessler. “It’s hard to sit here and not see more people playing.”
The club’s membership, which is now in its 127th year, dropped from 34 to 20 a few years ago before the pandemic.
Fessler has been with the club for four years, but has been bowling for 25 years. As one of his most accomplished bowlers, he stressed that it is up to everyone to decide how far they want to go in this sport, whose roots go back to ancient times. Egypt.
“You don’t have to be a major athlete,” he said. “You can be any shape, size, gender, whatever you want to play this game. It helps that you come from another sport, it helps that you are flexible. – you have a little advantage – but you don’t need it if you are interested and willing to devote some time to the game. “
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Jim Roth took over green maintenance five years ago and “has done a fantastic job,” said member Derek McKie.
“A good setup usually breeds good talent,” added Fessler. “A good installation usually costs a lot of money to maintain. The city helps a little, (but) financially, it puts a strain on things. “
The club, located at the intersection of Parkinson’s and Finkle, has been trying to attract new members for years. Youth camps and school groups have stopped to try the sport, and the club has tried other initiatives designed to generate interest.
“We need to get children interested in play,” said President Lorraine McLean. “(People think) it’s an old man’s game, but it’s not anymore. If you go elsewhere, the kids start bowling, and there are competitions in Ontario, even in Canada. It’s about getting kids to come here (and get away from) the stigma you have to wear in white.
McKie, Fessler and McLean have all pointed to increased competition, especially in the summer, which hurts the club in its recruiting attempts, especially among the youngsters.
“If you get involved in your youth, it’s a sport you can play the rest of your life,” club treasurer Carl McLean said. “You can always come back to it. “
McKie was convinced to try lawn bowling six years ago. Then, in his early 30s, he figured playing other sports would mean the greens. He won his first tournament and kept adding accolades.
“I immediately appreciated the strategy of the game,” he said. “I asked complicated questions because that’s what I’m doing trying to figure it out, and it started from there.
“It’s interesting how many people I’ve played against that have played for 50 years, and they started as a teenager.”
This is a trend that Woodstock is trying to follow.
“That’s the problem,” said Lorraine McLean. “Marketing is where we need help. “
The club organizes open days from July 1 to 4 for anyone wishing to try bowling. The greens will be open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.