“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”
Derek Robinson, Zimbabwe’s 2013 National Bowls champion, echoed this Chinese proverb, telling Harare News that for the sport of bowling to survive “we need to educate and raise awareness among our youth and schoolchildren.”
While he is delighted to have grabbed the laurels of victory, bagging gold in the singles finals, he insists his wish is to have more youngsters come to play.
“I would like to go down South, learn to be a coach and return to teach in the schools, especially the high-density areas,” said the 60-year-old player who has rubbed shoulders with the world’s best on the greens. “Schools are the future of the game.”
The former Air Zimbabwe pilot who played in the China Open in 2008 is slowly watching his wish take shape with some boys from a nearby high school taking serious interest.
Fourth former at Prince Edward School (PE) Aaron Chilundo (pictured), plays at Alexandra Sports Club. He says playing has dispelled his previous perceptions of the game.
“I used to enjoy athletics at school but after I was introduced to bowls I just can’t wait to walk onto the greens,” he said, explaining: “The game teaches concentration, focus and discipline.”
Chilundo is not the only new kid on the block. Innocent Dongo, another PE product, of City Club, has represented his school at cricket and swimming, but, he says, bowling has stolen his heart. The 20-year-old has already represented City at club, provincial and Master’s level.
Echoing Robinson’s wish to bring in more young players, Borrowdale Sports Club’s Marie Pizarro, who won a silver in the ladies section in the Nationals at Highlands, says there is a discernible show of interest among the youth: “Young ones are warming up.”
Heather Singleton, Mashonaland East Bowls Association competitions secretary, says bowling is not for any particular race or age or sex. “That’s why we have regular social fun-day weekends set aside for those interested to know more about the game,” she said, adding, “we need sustained campaigns to help keep the fire burning,” and paid tribute to Collin Ott from City who she credits with the initiative of bringing schoolboys from nearby schools into the clubs.
Retired player Kathleen Havel, argues that there’s some confusion on who plays and why. “With my generation passing away, I am afraid the game may die a natural death if we do not bring in new blood into the game. Something needs to be done to change the perception that bowls is a rich white man’s game and only played by the old,” said the lady who is in her 70s.
“In fact, it’s very cheap to play the game,” she says, explaining “one only needs a set of bowls/ woods, a sun hat, flat shoes, and acceptable behaviour and dress code!”
Tom Craven, president of Bowls Zimbabwe, says the Association has in place a development programme for schools like PE.