Lawn bowling club hunts for younger players

By Kris Ohashi

Centretown’s Central Lawn Bowling Club is struggling to find new members, despite a rising interest in the sport in Canada.

“Currently, we’re down to nine, hopefully 10 members,” says Clifford Smith, acting president and secretary of the club. “Two of our members passed away in the last year and all of our current members are seniors.”

To cut down on operating costs, the club has collaborated with Croquet Ottawa, sharing maintenance costs and usage of their greens, located at Bronson and Gladstone.

Despite the club’s efforts to advertise throughout Centretown by posting notices in churches and apartments, Smith says membership continues to decrease.

“I think our location may have a lot to do with it,” he says.

“We’re in the central area of Ottawa, which is populated by people of all cultures and they’re unfamiliar with the sport. You can see that they’re curious when they watch us play, but when we invite them to join us, they decline.”

The club, established in the 1920s, has seen a decline in membership.

Chad Pawson, communications coordinator for Bowls Canada Boulingrin, says interest in the outdoor sport has increased.

“We have growth every year in Canada but we also have attrition,” he says.

“Because a lot of bowlers are older, there are a lot of players who pass on. That being said, we’re seeing a real growth in interest among younger bowlers.”

Pawson, who says the sport is “much like curling on grass,” attributes growing interest in the sport to its accessibility and competitive nature.

“Golf is immensely popular, but it’s a really expensive sport to play,” he says.

“Lawn bowling generally only costs $60-$100 per year for membership fees. You can also represent your country at international tournaments and I think that’s an attractive aspect of the sport.”

Henrietta Pound, who has been a lawn bowling coach in Ottawa for nearly 20 years, agrees with Pawson.

“For years, I’ve been trying to get the press to see that it isn’t an old person’s game,” says Pound.

“We now have people who are in their twenties who are on the national team. The Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club (located near Bronson and Sunnyside ) is holding the junior national championships (in August), and I was pushing for this because I want people to know that people of all ages can enjoy the sport.”

Pound says increasing media coverage of curling is also having an effect on the interest in lawn bowling.

“The two sports use much of the same terminology and are very similar, so I think it’s only natural that the coverage curling is getting would rub off on our sport,” she says.

While his club may be struggling to find new members, Smith says he will continue to enjoy the social aspects of the sport.

“We enjoy it (lawn bowling) because it’s a means of getting exercise and meeting new friends,” he says.

“All of our members are in the seniors bracket, so this affords us the chance to be active and social, something we otherwise might not have.”