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Bowls In Focus : October 2011
8 Bowls In Focus In my office, I have a poster that I made for a presentation to Vic Health in seeking funding and to convey our ambitions for the next period of years. It reminds me every day of the major objective of Bowls Victoria, and by that I mean of our entire Bowls Victoria community (Members, Clubs, Divisions, Regions, State) and of our partnerships, not just the Board,: 1 that we must help clubs to adapt to the changing circumstances in which they exist, and 2 that failure to do so will mean that any number of clubs will not survive into the future. Club Membership: Approx 200 of our clubs have fewer than 70 members. A simple club health equation would reveal the following: Age of Members: in many Clubs, there are few or no members under 60 years of age (and there are very few new members, if any) + Income: 90% or more of the income generated comes from the Members themselves via member fees, green fees, raffles, special efforts, etc. = Club in trouble. The poster aims to convey that the communities in which we live are always in a state of change, no matter how rapid or slow that might be. This applies to our own Clubs. It also argues that a failure to adapt to changing circumstances will mean, at some point in the future (perhaps very near future), that some/many bowls clubs will “die” and become extinct in their communities. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory talks about “natural selection” or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. The term “survival of the fittest ” refers to this principle. Darwin meant it to mean “better adapted for immediate, local environment”, not the common inference of “in the best physical shape”. The “big, strong clubs” may well survive, but that is not what Darwin meant. Its applicability to clubs in many major sports (golf, tennis, bowls, cricket, etc.) is so very real, and especially when talking about adult participation. The participation census for many major sports often conceals this reality: cricket and AFL continue to have extraordinarily high numbers participating, but the programs with hundreds of thousands of primary school age children (AFL Auskick and Cricket Australia’s In2Cricket) do not represent Club Membership. Children (and their parents) who join and participate in junior programs are often referred to as “samplers” – they “give it a try” and often move on to another program (perhaps music, dance, skate-boarding, BMX, other sports, etc.) . I recall doing research into Auskick participation when responsible for that area when with the AFL. For instance, one particular Auskick centre had 208 children registered in one season and 212 in the subsequent season. But, only 104 returned for the second year, and two years later many had left football all together. While these “samplers” appear as statistical participants in very high annual numbers for such sports, the adult membership at their Clubs still lags behind, and often still sees clubs closing. So much so, that AFL Victoria has established a new department: “In line with this strong commitment to supporting community football, AFL Victoria has established a Community Football Development Unit within its Development Department. The Unit’s primary objective is to work with leagues and clubs to develop and implement programs that support the volunteer administrator network and enhance the safety and culture at local football clubs. (www.aflvic.com. au)” Why? To create clubs and competitions that will be attractive to new members. “Adapt or Die” is a call to action for many clubs (not just in bowls) and our proposed view of how best to assist club officials (as expressed in the model discussed in last month’s Bowls in Focus) is a way to work together to help Clubs to adapt. Change for change’s own sake is not an option. Bowls Clubs who fail to adapt to their “ immediate, local environment” may well be in need of immediate assistance. And that is why Bowls Victoria is employing a Development Manager and four (4) Community Development Officers (supported through Bowls Australia/ Australian Sports Commission funding): to work directly with Clubs/Divisions and Regions to assist Clubs to adapt to their immediate local environments. Club Support Is A Priority Leading The Way Peter Hanlon Lawn Order
August September 2011