DIANE SIGGERY, 48 FROM LEICESTERSHIRE
I loved sport when I was at school. I played netball, tennis and hockey and was in the school team but didn’t take it any further after leaving school.
I got into bowls all thanks to my daughter who was 13 at the time, while taking her all over the country to play for ladies under 25s and under 31s matches. I really enjoyed watching her play and found it a distraction from my stressful job. I initially joined the club that my daughter was part of but it was a distance away so I subsequently joined the one in the village where I live. This was over 10 years ago now.
At first, I played bowls to destress from work but I then seemed to get the bug for it and started playing more and more. Bowls truly is the sport for all, regardless of sex, age or physical ability. It is also a great way to socialise and bring a community together. We now play as a family and all bowl from the same club. Even my grandson who is nearly 3 years old has the bug, bowling anything that is bowlable!
From bowling, I have begun my journey into coaching. I remember when I first started bowling, I didn’t really have any coaching at my old club. The club did have a coach but the coach only coached in the afternoons (which was no good for me as I was at work, as was other working people) so a lot of what I learnt was by watching others and playing in games. So, when I moved clubs a few years later I could see history repeating itself as a lot of clubs are similar - you join, you are shown the basics and then left to your own devices. Plus, it seemed to be that coaching tended to be male dominated as I hadn’t come across one female coach which can be off putting for women, so, I thought, it’s time for change! I enrolled on the Level 1 Coaching Course in 2016 after being advised of the courses by the under 31’s manager of Leicestershire. I then went onto do my Level 2 Coaching Course in 2017 and I am pleased to say I passed both with flying colours. Since then I have put what I have learnt into action in many areas coaching beginners and a mixed triples team who went from bottom of division 2 to top of division 1 within 2 years! I’m incredibly passionate about coaching and have numerous ideas and plans on how to help others to enjoy the sport and be the best they can be.
DI WILSON-ROGERS, OVER 60 FROM LINCOLNSHIRE
I have always enjoyed playing sport. Team sports in particular appealed to me. They taught me and gave me the experience of playing with others and building camaraderie and trust in fellow team members. Skills and experiences that have stood me in good stead for life as well as sport.
I started to play bowls when table tennis became a little too ‘quick’ for me! I am competitive so as soon as I couldn’t play how I wanted to, I decided it was time to give another sport a go. Bowls was my choice and I initially joined an outdoor bowls club. I quickly realised that bowls offered me the competition that I enjoy so much as well as the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. The club and its members were really welcoming. After an enjoyable outdoor season, I then decided to become a member of my local indoor club so that I could bowl all year round. I took the game seriously and my efforts paid off, with success at national level, and a place in the England team followed. Whilst I am not playing at international level now, I still compete in national competitions and enjoy playing across all levels of the sport.
Over the years, I have undertaken many roles within the clubs that I have belonged to including ladies secretary and ladies competition secretary. I am presently a club committee member and mixed league secretary which basically means I organise the fixtures and programme. I also send in a weekly bowls press report to our local newspaper, the Boston Standard. In addition, over the past four years, I have got heavily involved in selection, and am now a national selector for both indoor and outdoor codes as well as being a county indoor selector for the last seven years. Along with these positions, I am also a qualified coach and like to be active within the club helping both new and existing members to improve their game.
I decided to do all of these roles at various different points of my life so that I could put back into the game of bowls the opportunities the game has given me. It has been a constant in my life for last 35 years. When my first husband became ill, the bowls club was a place that I knew I could take him, safe in the knowledge that club members and friends would be there to talk to him while I played. After his passing, the bowls club became my extended family and it was through bowls that I found love again when I met David. We have now been married for 6 years.
I think that the game of bowls gives women the opportunity to play at club level and to aspire to play at county and international level. It also enables women to become part of an extended family and community. A community that will always be there to support them through both good times and bad.
BERNIE HILL, 52 FROM BOLTON
I have always been interested in sport, as a participant and observer. During my school years, I was actively involved in netball, hockey and tennis. I had a ‘chance encounter’ with bowls in my mid 20s and was instantly hooked! I have played bowls now for 29 years, participating in different ‘codes’, i.e. crown green, indoor, flat green and a brief encounter with short mat. During my time playing crown green I was fortunate enough to play for the inter-town and county teams and had some success in open competitions. Approximately six years ago, I came to a crossroads where I had to make a decision regarding which code to concentrate on….flat won, hands down!
I enjoy all aspects of bowls from the club fun days through to the competitive inter county and national games. I love being outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and exercise that goes with our great sport. Being part of a team and building friendships through the sport is very important to me and I now have friends all over the country. Bowling is also a family activity in our house as I met my husband Alan playing bowls and he now shares my love of the flat green game!
In the six years that I have concentrated on the flat green game, I have had success at club and county level and have qualified for the National Finals at Leamington several times. Last season I was honoured to be County and Club President, two busy roles that I thoroughly enjoyed. In addition to these roles, I have also become involved in umpiring, qualifying as a National Umpire last year and I have been fortunate to officiate at county finals, outdoor National Finals at Leamington and indoor National Finals at Melton Mowbray.
Alongside my officiating role, I have also attained the Level 1 and 2 Bowls Coaching Qualifications and am a Coach Bowls Tutor. Helping new members to start bowling was something that occurred naturally to me building on my professional life as a primary school teacher and my passion for teaching. During the last ten years I have moved into a role as a Regional Manager in a local Music Service, meaning that I do not get the opportunity to teach on a regular basis so coaching bowls has helped me to fill this void.
I thoroughly believe that bowls has something to offer everyone, from the most competitive lady player to the lady who wants a social roll up. We are very fortunate in our club that the vast majority of our competitions are ‘open’ or ‘mixed’, so that ladies are fully integrated. As a club, we also have a good social section which means there is a support network for all members, this has been of particular benefit to some of the lady members in our club who have been recently widowed. In short, bowls provides women with a gently active hobby, health benefits, friendship and opportunities to play at different levels.
SIAN HONNOR, 30 FROM KENT
Sport has been part of my life from a very young age. I played tennis, netball, rounders and golf at school and my sister and I did disco dancing a couple of times a week. Some of my closest friendships to this day have been derived from sport but whereas I have continued bowling many of my friends have dropped out of playing any kind of sport since leaving school.
My grandfather started bowling while he was working and my nan followed once she had retired. I can remember being at the bowls club as a child and being desperate to have a go. We had a set of carpet bowls which we would play with for hours in the garden, rain or shine, setting up tournaments and playing for money. As soon as I was big enough to have a bowl in my hand I started playing, although we had to lie about my age. Luckily, I have always been tall so we got away with it!
Bowls for me, is much more than a sport that I play. It is my escape, my outlet, my hobby and my passion. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world doing something that I love and have met some incredible people along the way, many of whom I consider to be dear friends.
I think bowls can offer fun, friendship and competition. From the moment you step foot on the bowls green you can be anything that you want to be. The pile of washing and ironing that's waiting for you when you get home, the meals you need to plan for your family that week, the meeting that you will need to prep for on the train in the morning- none of it matters - it is just you, the bowls and the green.
GAIL HUNTER-GILKES, 55 FROM OXFORDSHIRE
My experience of sport started at school, where I represented my county at netball and hockey. Just after I left school, I took up golf whilst my parents played bowls at the same time.
My whole family play bowls. My grandfather and great uncle played for Scotland but it was not until I was twenty, that whilst watching my parents play bowls, I thought I would have a go. From that moment on I was hooked.
The reason I love the game is that it can be social or competitive and flexible. I worked shifts and found I could practise and play to suit me. I also love that people of all ages and abilities can play together. Just looking at my own family, three generations play. The social side of the sport has meant that I have made wonderful life-long friends, met my husband Steve and have achieved goals I never thought I was capable of. The highlights being playing for England and winning national and British Isles titles.
From playing, I moved into coaching. It all happened because each county was asked to get a team of eight female players who were under 31 team to compete at the National Championships. I was playing in Essex at the time and we did not have a team so I contacted every club and we managed to get a pool of girls willing to try and play. Once I had got the players, I took my coaching exams and then committed to delivering a series of coaching sessions with them as well as managing the team itself at the National Championships. Alongside managing the Essex Junior women’s team, I was then asked to manage the England Women’s Junior International team in 2006. The icing on the cake then came in 2010, when I was asked to be part of the England management team for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Since then, I have managed the England women’s team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the full England women’s team from 2015. Having coached across all levels, I can honestly say that coaching is incredibly rewarding at all levels. I have been part of some amazing moments at Commonwealth Games, but equally I get pleasure from helping club players improve their game or simply be able to deliver the bowl with more ease. This I believe is because regardless of the level, everyone has dreams and aspirations or just need some help to play to the standard they want to, in order to get maximum enjoyment from the game. Helping others to achieve their dreams is why I love being a coach.
I would encourage more women to get involved in bowls as it is a very social game yet can be competitive if you want it to be. It gives you great enjoyment and fun and also lets you achieve goals that you can be proud of either as a player or as a coach or volunteer.
KATHERINE REDNALL, 22 FROM SUFFOLK
From a young age at school, I was always willing to get stuck into any sport, probably due to starting bowling from the early age of 5. My Dad, John ran the junior section at Ipswich and District Indoor Bowls Club where around 30 of us would get together on a Saturday morning. I was usually the only girl, and quite considerably younger than most of the boys but that never stopped me! In fact, looking back on it, I wouldn’t change that for the world now as having to keep up with them pushed me and got me where I am today.
Bowling is a real family affair as my Mum, Dad and Grandma all play, and have played to a high level. Being able to play as a rink of three generations is quite impressive! Winning national titles with my Mum and Dad is helping me to give back to them for everything they have done for me, running me all around the country and for their ongoing support. Still, nothing makes me prouder than watching my Dad represent England, sharing his success.
Representing my country is a feeling that you cannot replicate from a professional level, but being able to share this with the ones you love most is the real satisfaction. Characters of the sport often fondly reminisce about my Grandad, and tell stories of ‘back in their day’. Friendships are made for life between families and bowling colleagues and I am always eager to hear the tales they have to tell me over a cup of tea.
Women’s role in the bowls community is such an important area socially. From experience, I know it is a tool that provides a sense of friendship, support and community for everyone. Whether it is meeting up with friends that have been made all over the country at an international series, or using Tuesday afternoon league as an excuse to organise a lunch date beforehand, it gives women the opportunity to share the interest we all love regardless of age, background or personal struggles. It is a united support network which opens its doors to everyone regardless of the level you play.
MO MONKTON, 62 FROM YEOVIL, SOMERSET
I have always loved playing and watching sport. At school, I played hockey, tennis, basketball and netball. I did not enjoy athletics, much preferring the team sports. Out of school and after leaving school, I played mixed hockey, squash, basketball and ladies football. As a founder member of the local ladies football team, sport has given me an understanding of governance, team work, fund raising, coaching and a great opportunity to mix with a whole variety of people and skills.
I first got introduced to bowls as a result of watching my parents play and they challenged me to give it a go! I enjoyed it and started to drop into the local club and join in games. Then as I got older and it became more difficult to play the sports I played when I was younger, bowls was my saviour. I love the challenge, the team work, the people and keeping active.
As well as playing bowls, fifteen years ago, I decided to start a junior section at my club and encouraged a lot of different groups to try the sport. I loved seeing everyone, especially those less able start to believe they had found a sport in which they could enjoy and achieve. It was a win-win for me personally, as I was able to pass on some of my experience and also see players having fun and benefiting from the sessions. I truly believe bowls is one of the few "sports for all" and have been delighted in the last few years to use my coaching and people skills to help those with disabilities enjoy and participate.
I think bowls has a lot to offer women. Through bowls, women can keep active as well as be part of a great social network where women can meet up and become part of a supportive and friendly community. Women can feel comfortable walking into their club on their own, knowing there will always be a warm welcome and someone to sit with for a chat over drink or cup of tea. Bowls can be played and enjoyed whatever the standard or aspirations and gives women an opportunity to play socially or develop, train and compete at the very highest level.
ALISON YEARLING, 37 FROM DEVON
As a child I was never particularly sporty. I belonged to a squash club that I quite enjoyed and I also spent time walking on Dartmoor and swimming. I like watching some sport on TV such as bowls, football and the Olympics.
I started bowling in 2009 at the age of 29. I was trying to come to terms with my sight loss and wanted to join a group that catered for visually impaired people to try and meet people that were going through the same thing as me. I was told about the Plymouth visually impaired bowls club and rang the secretary of the club to find out a bit more information. I was invited to go along and have some sample bowls sessions. I enjoyed myself and was encouraged to join the club, which I did.
I play bowls because I enjoy it. I love socialising with the other bowlers and playing in competitions. It is nice to feel a sense of belonging by being part of a group. Despite my sight loss, I can still bowl at a high level and achieve my goals. It has definitely helped me come to terms with and accept my disability. I have met lots of visually impaired bowlers over the years who have inspired me to continue playing.
I would encourage other women to bowl as it will help to keep them active. It is a good way of socialising and becoming part of a team.
NATALIE CHESTNEY, 28 FROM DEVON
When I was at school, I loved all sports. I represented the school in football, hockey and athletics as well as swimming at county level up until the age of 11. However, I must admit to be the worst racket sport player you have ever seen. Embarrassing really!
Before my brother and I were born, my dad played bowls pretty regularly. He introduced us both to the sport at the ages of 9 and 7 respectively at the local indoor centre, where they had a thriving junior section. We both loved it and have played ever since!
As well as being great fun and an outlet for my competitive nature, bowls also ensures I spend most of the summer months outdoors which is something that I really enjoy. The social side of bowls has also been a big part of my life. Through bowls, I actually met my husband, Jamie, as well as forming friendships for life with people of all ages. One of the things I love about bowls is that it is a sport where you can compete at all levels, playing against the highest level opposition one week and alongside club mates during a local league game the next.
I can honestly say that bowls has changed my life in so many positive ways. I have travelled the world, met the most wonderful people (including my husband of course!) and it has taught me a lot of important life skills which I have been able to use at work including team building, effective communication and concentration / time management. It gives me the chance to immerse myself in an activity and forget all the other stresses of everyday life.
I think more women should take up bowls as it is an active but sociable sport. It is one of the only sports that is genuinely for all the family but can be used as an escape if needed! It is a low impact game that can be played alongside other sports or activities if you like - it is a really flexible sport. There are always options to play in mixed or ladies only events, depending on preference. If I could say one thing about bowls – it would be to ignore all the stereotypes and give it a go! I promise you won’t regret it!