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Bowls In Focus : January 2011
20 Bowls In Focus Pennant penalises success for Victoria Pennant competition is stifling success for Victorian bowlers and our representative teams. Pennant competition as offered today inhibits Victorian players from gaining representation in our national and international teams. Pennant competition on all fronts of scrutiny is a competition burden for elite bowler aspirations. And I witness it in a number of areas of observation. Competition: Our bowls colleagues in NSW and Queensland dominate membership of national sides and have nearly always done so. Because in those states they have a blend of pennant and tournament events, including setsplay formats, enabling their best bowlers to produce their best. We should leave pennant, as we know it in Melbourne, and the country too, to those playing from Divisions 2-10 for their 18-week season. And it is important to leave it alone as these divisions affect the majority of our bowlers. Great for the social and recreational side of bowls and club membership spirit. And these bowlers love that format. But, get real you organisers of top-level bowls! Premier Division and Division 1 comprise 50 sides, which is 800 of our best bowlers - country players aside. We preserve a level of mediocrity for these 800 bowlers by having them partake of a pennant format that is a ‘gentlemanly’ environment. The best in Victoria need to raise the bar and their level of intensity. Our governing body has to recognise the need to differentiate between the traditional social competition and the bowlers who have a chance to represent Victoria as our representatives. I don’t want a good social bowler in my Victorian team thank you! An idea I put forward as a new Premier Division is to have the pennant season go one round of nine (9) weeks duration with a top three, where teams two and three compete for the right to challenge the top side for the premiership. The bottom 4 sides in Premier, yes, four (4) sides, get demoted and replaced by the Division 1 champions for the next season. If your club is sitting in positions 7-10 on the ladder they are in strife. Won’t that keep the nervous tension throughout? Now that is competition and yet limited to a 9-week round-robin plus a weekend of finals and can be all completed within 10 weeks. And it is intended to compliment the idea of a SetsPlay circuit offered below. Those 800 elite bowlers not interested in Group and State representation are always at liberty to make themselves available at their club for the traditional pennant or the new Premier Division pennant. SetsPlay Circuit: Isuggest we have the flexibility to use the season cal- endar and schedule a new 10-week SetsPlay circuit for our Premier Division bowlers to take advantage of the support for the emergence of our elite level bowlers with a view for them being national contenders. Whether Bowls Victoria (BV) has the SetsPlay circuit from October-December or from January-March is for them to decide, however it can be a circuit to provide a relevant alternative for these best bowlers in Victoria. From early January Bowls Victoria and its associated clubs can still offer state events and profile tournaments for a period of weeks using the season to the end of April. And on the subject of SetsPlay formats; please, please, please, BA/BV officials, talk to the players (your clients and stakeholders using your jargon) and react to their views and change the format to be best of three seven-end sets and omit that sudden death three-end set which we have presently. That format has too much luck involved - ask the players who will have the same reaction. Selectors also have a role with the Group and State selectors being watchful of this prospective pool of 800 Premier Divisions bowlers, knowing the players are competing appropriately for the national and international competition formats. I remind you readers - not one Victorian played for Australia as a bowler at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. Coaching: Bowls Australia (BA) must cringe, or if it doesn’t, it should, knowing formal coaching of elite bowlers is either non-existent or deplorable. BV can confront the issue and raise the standard by demanding future Premier Divisions clubs and Group sides must have an accredited coach in place within two years. If there are insufficient coaches now, then BA and BV can use their coach systems to provide in-service workshops to assist such interested, even targeted, coaches and clubs. I and other keen coaches would be delighted to attend such workshops and even to assist in some capacity if so asked. And maybe that is an issue - why not demand that Level 2 and 3 coaches have to service BV formal programs as a method of holding their ‘ticket’ as coaches. If they are disinterested in support of our sport, cancel their accreditation. Professional development should never stop. Selection: Forget another BV official getting these positions. BV can appoint former state players, explore the criteria such as the one generated and distributed to all bowlers in Group 13. Make selectors accountable and responsible. Consider having in-service programs for prospective Group and state selectors Make selectors watch the games and this is a benefit of the SetsPlay circuit series they can, No, must observe players in competitions. State selectors must no longer play when our best bowlers are competing. Their job is to forego playing to be selectors. Selection of bowlers is the weak link in this sport throughout the entire world, trust me! I was appalled a few years ago to observe a chairman of selectors make decisions with an utter disregard of the policy and direction of the club, and its president, because that selector did not agree with the club approach. Would your club have sacked the selector on the spot for that level of apparent contempt toward the club and its members? Even at national level years ago the chairman of selectors had strident views on selection and was not into consulting with his committee. In both instances the committee simply winced, groaned, maybe whined and accepted it. Weak! Junior Development: Another bugbear. A coach known to me as a good Group bowler, good coach, strong juniors coach, and a good contributor to our sport and his club, talked about the poor treatment of his juniors by the selectors at the club. The essence of it was that a few ‘grumpy old men’ got their way to ensure the kids were not in these bloke’s teams and not in teams above them. Selectors, committees - put these ‘grumpy old blokes’ in their place. Our sport provides a recreational service that these blokes benefit from - bugger it, remind them it is not their club! It is the club for all members. If the committee and selectors choose to play youngsters and encourage them at higher pennant levels that’s fantastic and seems appropriate. The kids may bring accolades to the club with their future bowls success. We should revel in that club success. You only had to witness the approach of the young bowlers competing in Wagga Wagga at the NSW Open Championships in December to see the value of encouraging youth. Interestingly there were about five notable coaches from NSW watching their charges. And encouraging the development of youth need not be to discard the mature age elite bowler. Witness the success of the young and the older performer in the pairs combination of Joan Tennant and Samantha Shannahan who won the NSW Open Women’s title. My concern is we may lose juniors as much for the way they are treated in clubs. Pity if we lose them because other things give balance to their young lives; let’s enjoy their lives if they move on from us as bowlers. Let’s not force them to leave bowls because of bad selection experiences. High Performance (HP) - A Modern Approach: Bowls Victoria has formed a HP committee. I cannot find anything on the website to give me an idea of what it entails, or who is steering our HP. Just be sure it should dovetail the BA national approach so that ALL Victorian players, juniors, selectors, coaches, umpires, team managers get a chance in their important roles to be considered for future national and international roles. My concern is that BV might recycle those holding BV positions into HP roles. Being a valued servant is not a skill, and not placing the right person in the right position contradicts the base premise of HP. Summarily, HP is just a fancy term for excellence, or the striving for excellence. For example to see ‘young’ Mark Cowan, a Victorian as our leading international umpire in Delhi 2010 is an example of what BV can do to demonstrate change for the future. Most umpires, coaches and selectors, are older and not contemporary enough for HP as it applies in today’s elite bowls. Allow our older experienced personnel to service the larger body of the sport. Clubs Expansion and Tournaments: Iopened this column saying something akin to - pen- nant as we experience it now is a dead loss for HP and elite bowlers within Victoria. But, for clubs, both suburban and country, where the majority of the bowl- ers compete in the Divisions 2-10, it’s great; there is no suggestion of change. If my ideas had any support your club has the capacity to:- • Introduce a prestige tournament between January and April that attracts the 800 Premier Divisions bowlers as it fits within a BV HP structure • Be a host club and part of a new SetsPlay circuit series which is again a part of the BV HP program • Foster juniors in the above circuit and give them a chance to fast track their ambitions to be better bowlers and associate early on with premier bowlers. Victoria should, be at worst in the top three states in any national bowls championships. At times we fall below that minimum standard which can be a reflection on our performance. But, it also is a poor reflection on how strong Australia is at the time. My contention is that when Victorian bowls is strong, Australian bowls is strong too. BV can change our standing to reflect the strength of bowls in Australia. Will they adopt the above ideas or any other idea to take Victoria into a leading HP position for all the roles I covered above? Let’s watch for the change! Tiger Tales Tiger Tales Lachlan Tighe