It was privileged to cover Para-Lawn Bowls at the Scottish Indoor Bowls Development day on Saturday 27th September for TS-Sport as my contract creases at the end of September 2014.
It was only two month ago since I introduced Ryan MacDonald, Project Leader of Trendspotters who manages TS-Sport to Ron McArthur who is Assistant Head Coach for SDS and former national coach for the Visually Impaired and Blind Bowlers. Ron is probably better known for his success at this year’s XX Commonwealth Games, (Glasgow 2014). He was one of the Director for one of the Visually Impaired Bowler, Robert Conway at this year’s Commonwealth Games and they scooped Silver. Ron says speaking of his recent success “Without doubt, being a Commonwealth Games Silver Medallist. Just shows nothing is impossible in life. Who could argue with that? Satisfying result after years of working to improve the standard of VI bowling, However, I believe we could have done better and there is still a long way to go. It was a great honour to be selected to represent my country in such a prestigious event, especially in front of a home crowd. I hope that Para Bowls will now become an established part of the Commonwealth Games”.
With Glasgow 2014 demonstrating the inclusivity at the heart of the Commonwealth Games, TS-Sport explored Para-Bowls in the series of Come and Try sessions to encourage people with disabilities to become involved in sports. Ryan says “as it received a lot of publicity during Glasgow 2014 so it made sense and thanks to Julie McElroy who was able to initiate the connection for us”.
Ron informed us when we met him in August this year, there would be a SIBA (Scottish Indoor Bowls Association) development week culminating in a demonstration of Bowling at the West of Scotland IBC. On Saturday 27th September, this was the line-up:
10am to 12.30pm
Green 1: Scottish Under 18 Squad vs Challenge Squad
Green 2: Demonstration of Scottish Disability Bowls
12.30pm to 2pm
Green 1: Celebrity Pro-Am Event
Green 2: Come and Try event
2pm to 6pm
Green 1: Scottish Gents League Select vs West Lothian
Green 2: Scottish Ladies League Select vs Auchinleck
Julie went along to cover this event for TS-Sport and caught up with Ron. On meeting Ron, he is regarded as a perfect gentlemen and is considered as the key person if you wish to take up bowls recreationally or competitively. Ron has over thirty years of bowling experience and he prefer to coach these days. It was his wife that was instrumental to introducing Bowls to him and since then Ron has impart it onto other through various pathways.
Over the years, Ron developed his bowling interests and soon found a niche. He is now committed and heavily involved in the Scottish Blinds and Visually Impaired Bowls. He says “I was asked to become an Umpire at the7th IBBA, (International Blind Bowls Association) World Championships, Girvan 2001. The then Secretary Dora Crudge asked if I would become part of a team to draw up a new training Manual for SABB, (Scottish Association of Blind Bowls). The Manual became part of the Scottish Bowls Coaching Manual in 2003. It was never part of the assessment to become a coach and to date is still the case. In 2005, I was asked by SABB to produced a training program for Directors/Bowlers Assistants. In 2007 I was asked to become the 1st National Coach, a position I held until I stepped down in early 2014.
It is clear that through Ron’s hard work, dedication and persistence has led him to become well respected by those who work alongside, the visually impaired bowlers can confide in him for guidance and objectivity. For the last seven years, Ron was the 1st National Coach and through this pathway, he was considered as a Director for a Scottish Blinds and Visually Impaired Bowler. A Director for Visually Impaired Bowler, their role is to ensure that the Visually Impaired Bowlers knows where to aim to i.e. the jack. Ron elaborating on his coaching involvement, says “As part of my duties as National Coach, I tried to move away from family/friends acting as Directors. I wanted a more professional approach and introduced trained coaches. I undertook to work with Eleanor Clark (B2) and proved the advantage of front coaching, I successfully directed Eleanor to UK singles champion in 2009. I have worked with various players since then. Front directing is a contentious issue within SABB. I have tried to demonstrate the advantages and how it is used very successfully in the rest of the World; however, there is strong resistance to it in Scotland and I have come against severe opposition”.
I went along to the West of Scotland Indoor Bowling Centre which is near Shawfield Greyhound Stadium, Rutherglen to see the Scottish Indoor Bowls Development and I was equally impressed with the venue. It was a warm and welcoming environment. The fact that we play on a surface made of carpet, makes it an ideal training and playing surface. Carpet is a far easier medium to deliver a bowl than grass bowls.
We were also treated to a celebrity match by Anne Dunwoodie, Scottish Bowls Internationalist; Linda Brennan who is also a former Scottish Bowls Internationalist and played in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne; Johnathan Ross, a Northern Ireland Bowler who now represent Scotland and the man of the Match was Darren Burnett who was a Gold Medallist at this year’s Commonwealth Games. He won the Men Single’s at Glasgow 2014 helping Scotland’s Gold Medal Tally.
Ron emphasised that the day was an opportunity to become part of a sport that caters for all generations. A sport that is playable by most Physically Disabled, Visually Impaired, Learning Difficulties and mainstream bowlers. A genuine family sport, regardless of age and disability. The real beauty of the sport, a gentle exercise, sport that can be played at any level and at your own pace. You decide whether you want to play purely for fun, or get competitive. The competitive level will depend ability.
There was a range of people with disabilities who already play bowls were on stand-by to give a demonstration on of disability bowls and it became apparent that the sport speaks for itself. This is a sport that can be played by any age group. It is a gentle exercise sport that can be played by most people. Each person can decide how far they want to progress in the sport, it can be for purely pleasure. Anyone competitively minded can take it to the highest level. Bowls is an all-inclusive and very social sport.To take up bowls and the same could applied for all sports in order to advance, require commitment, perseverance and precision with bowls. Generally, the ability to hold a bowl, if you can do that, we should be able to help you play bowls. Ron reiterate that “Bowls is a simple game complicated by people. The purpose of bowls is enjoyment. The object is to win. The better you do something, the more you enjoy it. Our job is to help people achieve their best possible level of attainment”.
It was also highlighted that there are a range of aids can be used by a disabled bowler. It could be, specially adapted wheelchairs, walking sticks,bowls and jack lifting aids. It also could be, no additional equipment would be needed. In the 1st instance, anyone interested, should just turn up and try. Once a player decides to take the game up with any degree of competiveness, they can see if any additional aids could benefit their game.
Currently there is a big push to recruit new Para-Bowlers who either have a visually impairment or physical impairment to take up the sport. If you are interested, there are loads of contabe followed up.ct points. Local Clubs, Scottish Disability Sports, Bowls Scotland, Scottish Indoor Bowling Association, Scottish Association of Blind Bowls and local sports councils. If considering the competitive edge of bowls, the (Physical Disability) PD’s are directed to either Scottish Disability Bowls or Bowls Scotland, the (Visually Impaired) VI’s to Scottish Association of Blind Bowls and depending on where they live will depend on if it can
It has been nearly two months since Glasgow 2014 and everything is being done to capitalise on the success of the XX Commonwealth Games. Ron believed that the Games helped make people aware, that being disabled does not mean being excluded. The fact that we were fully integrated with the mainstream showed, we were there on merit and equal standing. We have to keep that uppermost in people’s minds. However, when it comes to ensuring that people with disabilities continue to be inspired by London 2012 and Glasgow 2014, Ron conceded that this will only have any value if there is a concerted effort to get people along to the sports and supplement it with follow up sessions. Anything we can do to make the sport easier, accessible and more enjoyable can only be to the good.
TS-Sport has so far explored Angling and Para-Bowls. Ryan believed that it is going very well, we have created some good links with groups that provide activities and are continuing this work. We also know we have introduced people into new sports that they are continuing to participate in. We are currently in talks with a water sports provider and also a wheelchair basketball group about providing taster sessions over the next couple of months.