By Freya Watt & Hannah Scott
Look when we began talking about it, we were pretty sceptical as well. You would be forgiven for thinking on the green it would be a sea of grey. But you would be quite wrong, peppered with white, a wee bit of brown, and a few young enough to still have colour in their hair, though many covered with white caps.
That was until we arrived.
Growing up in a small village, the bowling club was always a presence but for many of the young people, it never really stood out. We beleived it was something mostly retired people took part in to pass the time. But having gone along and participated for a while now, we’ve both learned that there is so much more to this historical game. Mostly that it is a sport for everyone.
From finding out it was much more of a workout that we previously expected to the socialising, something that a lot of the club members struggled without during the pandemic, it was a revelation.
It’s nothing new to anyone that exercise has incredible benefits for our physical health and mental health, but what may surprise a few is that even participating in low impact sports, such as bowls can help you reap the rewards of an active lifestyle.
Most people are well aware of the positives that come with exercise. We all know that it makes us feel good as well as reducing risks of strokes and type 2 diabetes. So why is it that so many people still struggle to start or maintain a lifestyle which contains regular physical activity?
An answer to this is that many are yet to find a form of exercise that they really enjoy. Some people hate exercising indoors and some love it, many have a passion for getting so out of breath they can barely stand whereas others prefer to just build a bit of warmth in the body.
So for these people who shudder at the thought of a high intensity workout or break out in a cold sweat at the idea of a long run, what else is out there?
Introducing bowls. A sport that allows you to move your body (it could be the perfect way to reach that daily step goal that you can’t quite bring yourself to lower), get outside and meet new people.
Surprisingly tiring, bowls is a sport in which the aim of the game is to throw your set of weighted balls as close to the smaller, target ball which is the Jack.
A sport that from afar may seem straightforward and not particularly challenging but in reality requires much more skill than many (ourselves included) had anticipated.
It is a fantastic way of improving flexibility, coordination and general fitness and provides the perfect opportunity to become part of a community and get some fresh air.
There are also countless opportunities to liven the game up even more by competing in teams throughout the summer months.
When Hannah and I first showed up to the weekly 7pm practice, it’s safe to say we felt slightly out of place, largely because we had no experience playing bowls. But we were welcomed with open arms and were both given our own set of bowls to borrow for the evening.
We were very kindly taught how to play and given some top tips by Barbara, one of the club’s regular players and a woman who has multiple bowl championship titles to her name, including making it to the Scottish Championships twice, and being the club’s reigning woman’s champion for the past nth years. Having started playing when she was a mere 38, she too had her reservations of it being ‘just for old people’ but three decades later, she’s still playing and loves the sport.
We quickly realised within minutes of starting that this was going to be harder than we had first thought. The internal dialogue of “step forward, arm back, keep it straight, aim, swing and let go” and then the challenge of doing it all simultaneously. Not to mention the weight of the bowls and the walking up and down to collect them all after each turn.
From the first day of playing, to going along to the competitions, the admiration and determination felt from both of us was the reason we continue to go back. Every time since starting there’s been improvements and everyone is really keen to help you. It wasn’t like everyone had been playing for years and years, some had been playing for over 10 years, but a few, like Martha had been going along for just a few months.
Both Martha’s mum and Dad have been playing for a number of years, and she started going to get a bit of exercise and socialise after the pandemic came to an end: “I’m a pretty competitive person and when I start something I like to put my all into it,
“I enjoy getting outside and exercising but it’s not too hard going or stressful but I still know my body is getting a workout. I’m not quite ready to compete yet, I’m just doing it for the fun.”
All throughout the game there was a huge sense of community spirit among all the players. Seeing them all at the start of the night gather in groups to catch up with each other and plan out their games for the evening, showed us that many members of the club these weekly sessions are so much more than just a few games. It’s the friendships, the light hearted competition, the fresh air and the chance for many to get out of the house, that makes bowls such a special sport.
If you’d like some more information on getting involved in Bowls check out sportscotland for all the details.