Lighthouse club – Carrum BC
Kids running across the green excitedly after each end. Teams cheering their members on as they prepare to bowl, and encouraging them.
A crew of adult volunteers giving advice to each bowler as they step on to the mat.
Parents having a coffee. Teachers amazed at how bowls is keeping their primary school students attentive and interested.
All as the smell of barbecuing sausages wafts enticingly across the greens, with club volunteers manning the barby.
Welcome to Carrum Bowling Club – whose Primary Schools Lightning Premiership is a key component of how this club is attempting to build its membership – now and into the future.
It’s Friday in March. Seven local primary schools have been invited to play bowls at Carrum BC – the vast majority getting their first taste of playing the sport.
Carrum is a club of 110 members, based in south-east Melbourne’s bayside. About half those are Pennant players.
It’s blessed by beach on one side, and a superb club facility on the other featuring an upstairs function room and two high quality greens.
Today every space on both greens is full of kids, and 22 club volunteers showing them how to play the sport – giving the kids centre stage and a chance to test their skills.
Aspendale, Aspendale Gardens, Bonbeach, Carrum, Chelsea Heights, Seaford and St Louis de Montfort’s Primary Schools are here. St Louis are that pumped they’ve brought two teams.
Club spokesman Kingsley Ellis, who drives the schools program, is conscious that building membership into the future is critical to keeping the club going – not just now but for those who follow the current bowling generation.
Many of those trying bowls are showing plenty of talent on the greens. All appear to be having the time of their lives, cheering each other and running across the greens at full pace after every end to see where their bowl landed, and see who’s got shot and bragging rights.
“We think we may be able to get say three to five members directly from the schools premiership,” Ellis tells Bowls Victoria.
“Then you’ve also got parents who may want to be part of our club, and there’s a fair few parents down here today and they seem to all be enjoying themselves.
“But importantly it also broadens the exposure of our sport. “
Ellis says that even if the results aren’t immediate, nearly 70 kids who’d never played the sport before get a taste of it.
And perhaps the kids who’ve got a taste of it – maybe somewhere in later life remember how much they enjoyed bowls and take it up then.
It’s not the only things Carrum BC has going on to entice new members and broaden its base.
Barefoot bowls is a staple, while the upstairs function room is available for hire to community members, and offers a great function space on the bayside.
Bowls Victoria participation and club development manager Scott Nicholas says Carrum’s multi-faceted approach to boosting membership and community engagement should be a lesson for all Victorian clubs.
“The thing that makes Carrum’s approach so great is their holistic approach to connecting with the community,” he says.
“They’ve got programs in place for primary schools, they’re increasing their work with secondary schools and support that with barefoot bowls and social bowls.”
What the approach does is open the door as wide as possible within the community – to children, their parents, and means Carrum doesn’t put all its eggs in one basket.
The club is also looking to establish a junior academy to further the development of interested youngsters .
Judging by the quality of some of the bowls on show at the Lightning Premiership – which was eventually won by Chelsea Heights Primary – the future of bowls on Melbourne’s bayside looks bright indeed.