Duffus Park Bowling Club: Junior Development Programme

Securing our Club for the Next Generation and Beyond

 

 

Background

Duffus Park BC in Cupar was formed in 1947 and is one of the most prominent clubs in Fife.

The club structure was akin to many in Scotland – a general membership comprising a Gents Bowling Section with a smaller ‘unofficial’ Ladies section.

Although all members were full members of the club, recent years had seen a stagnation of the total membership and a year-on-year average age on an upward trend.

In 2007 they had NO members under 25 years of age. It was a worrying situation for the club to be in and a common problem faced by clubs throughout Scotland. After a thorough review of the current membership, analysis of potential solutions and an agreement of how the committee envisaged the club in 10 years time, Duffus Park decided to tackle the problem head on and introduce a Junior Development Programme to secure the future of the club.

At the same time they spearheaded the move for the great Unification debate in Scottish bowls. To date, the results of their endeavours have proved spectacularly successful and hopefully other clubs can see the benefits of their actions, implement them and join them in looking forward to the next generations of bowlers guaranteeing the future of their club. Looking back on these past few years the club is extremely proud of their Juniors and 100% convinced they did the right thing.

Today the club has over 60 youngsters playing the game – aged from 3 to 15 – and all members of the club.

Plan of action

In 2007 Duffus Park BC had a total notional playing membership of 125. By the end of 2011 that number had grown to 180, in the main due to the phenomenal growth in their Junior Section which had over 50 full junior members under the age of 18 years.

 

In 2007, the Committee of Duffus Park drew a line in the sand. The Committee decided to give 100% backing to a Junior Development programme that had specific plans to increase the membership and reduce the average age of the membership. Added by-products were a streamlining of a club structure that was not fit for modern day purpose and complete unification of the membership.

 

The plan that the club implemented comprised a few basic issues:

  1. The ‘Aye-Been’ attitude of previous generations would be challenged at every opportunity.

  2. 100% Agreement within the committee and club membership to back the programme.

  3. Identification of key personnel to drive the project to implementation.

  4. Acceptance that at that stage the Active schools network was not an avenue that offered any scope for official school participation. The club would have to go it alone.

  5. Ensuring some club members became official qualified club coaches.

  6. Guaranteeing weekly Junior Coaching session times EVERY week without exception.

  7. Targeting initially 2-3 Juniors to start the programme and then spread the positive gospel.

  8. Ensuring Juniors were to be made to feel a full part of the club – not an add-on.

  9. Ensuring all Juniors were to have full membership rights within the club apart from obvious issues relating to alcohol and a vote at an AGM.

  10. Not concentrating the Junior Development programme on structured games, instead focussing on short, sharp fun based bowling skill activity.

  11. Ensuring that all sessions introducing Juniors to the sport were FUN.

 

It was really that simple in theory – and a lot of hard work by those involved in practice!

 

 

 

A core team lead by Bowling Co-ordinator Andy Meekison and Club President John McIntyre set about implementing the plan and crossed their fingers. What they realised straight away was that they had to interact with the Juniors at their level, get them involved in all areas of club activity and concentrate on the FUN element of the sport. After all, that’s what kids are interested in at that age. Once this was established word spread among the kids in the town and every week 1 or 2 more would come along to try it out.

 

The Junior Development team decided not to adopt a ‘hard sell’ approach but instead relied on the enjoyment the kids got from playing to be the vital selling tool. They soon utilised every single item they could find to provide visual challenges to the coaching sessions – knocking jacks into buckets, putting mini traffic cones on the rink to establish drawing lines – they even used a pink paddling pool and a home-build ramp to motivate and challenge the kids to play a running shot! It seemed to work anyway as numbers increased on a weekly basis.

 

By the end of 2008 the club had around a dozen Juniors. By the end of 2009 about 18 had joined and by the close of the 2010 season numbers were up at 38 full paying Junior members – with the majority turning up weekly. By the end of the 2011 season the numbers were up to above 50!!!! It caught the coaches a little by surprise but having made the commitment they felt duty bound to follow it through.

 

What was undoubted though was the fact that Duffus Park received not one penny of funding for their activities and the team spearheading the programme were determined to make it self-financing and not a drain on club financial resources. To the contrary, the Juniors were each set with an annual Sponsorship activity (it turned out to be a morning of weeding the club paths, flower beds and generally tidying up the perimeter of the green) – and each player was asked to try and raise £20 for their funds. Each year since then the kids have raised between £400 and £900. In addition, the Coaching team organised a Sportsman’s Brunch which was a sell-out and overwhelming success, raising an additional £1300 profit. All monies were set aside for the Juniors and they in turn were able to purchase a dozen sets of Junior Aces, some sets of 00 ‘Slimline’ Bowls as well as each junior getting their own personalised team shirt and rain jacket. They immediately became part of the fabric of the club.

 

To date the initiative taken by Duffus Park to introduce a cohesive Junior Development Programme has been an undoubted success.

 

 

Outcomes

  • From 2007 to 2011 Duffus Park membership has grown an astonishing 40% - almost completely due to the Junior Section.

  • This was achieved with NO external funding from any external body, local authority or the club itself.

  • The majority of the Junior Section are under 12 years of age.

  • At the close of 2011 Duffus Park had more girls than boys playing the sport – 28 girls and 24 boys

  • Fife Council have joined with the Duffus Park Development programme, realising that the potential for combining the Duffus Park philosophy with their own Active Schools promotions offer a perfect venue for hard pressed teachers looking for a sport that can fit easily into their PE curriculum and allow every boy and girl to participate.

  • A number of clubs in North East Fife have agreed to adopt the Duffus Park philosophy and work together to actively promote junior bowling in the area as a way of re-energising the sport and attract vital new family group members. A venture named ‘Bowl4Fife’ has commenced an already local clubs in the area are using the Duffus Park model to introduce Junior Development Programmes and re-invigorate their memberships.

 

 

Next steps

The 2012 season has seen another increase in the number of youngsters flocking to Duffus Park and – the most crucial aspect – joining the club as members. With over 60 juniors after only a few weeks the target for the end of the season is 75 and to achieve this a number of actions are being taken, including visiting local schools and inviting them to come along for taster sessions, ensuring the parents receive weekly newsletters by email letting them know what their kids are doing and what is planned for the rest of the season, introducing a midweek coaching session for the older kids where they can receive more intensive instruction and learn about tactics, etiquette and other club activities that they are encouraged to participate in. Also to bridge the gap between the ‘fun’ introduction to the sport a number of juniors club competitions are being introduced to bridge the gap to SYBA competition standard. In addition, more club members are coming forward to offer their services to the coaches who are swamped on a Saturday. All in all it’s a vibrant and positive environment.

 

 

 

The Future

The future for Duffus Park looks bright but the club are under no illusions that they cannot rest on their laurels. Experience has shown that up to 25% of their youngsters leave the game between seasons – for a variety of reasons - with the hardest group to retain being teenagers who are S1-S3 at secondary school suddenly and who suddenly find themselves faced with a whole variety of life choices that arise at that stage of their lives. The challenge for Duffus Park is to make sure that the 25% who move on are replaced whilst ensuring the teenagers who remain are stimulated and encouraged to stay in the sport and are afforded a range of opportunities to develop their playing career. In effect Duffus Park must ensure there is a clear ‘Bowling Pathway’ for their youngsters.

 

 

 

 

Key Points

  • Full commitment from the Club.

  • A dedicated team of coaches and volunteers.

  • Sessions at set times every week without exception.

  • Make sure a Development Plan is in place but be flexible with it.

  • Keep good communication with parents as they then feel part of the club.

  • Make youngsters welcome and give them the same rights as any other member.

  • Involve the youngsters in all club activities

  • Integrate youngsters with the general club membership at every opportunity.

  • Give the youngster the opportunity to elect their own Captain & Vice-Captain to represent them.

  • Provide the youngsters with a club shirt so they are seen to be a part of the club.

  • Make sure the youngsters do their own fundraising.

  • Keep reviewing your Development Plan as it will undoubtedly face areas of change.