More to Bowls Than Winning for Young Indigenous Champion
She’s a lawn bowls state and national champion, practising physiotherapist and proud Indigenous Australian. Both on and off the greens, Kylie Whitehead’s life is rolling along smoothly. She’s a lawn bowls state and national champion, practising physiotherapist and proud Indigenous Australian. Both on and off the greens, Kylie Whitehead’s life is rolling along smoothly.
Last year the 24-year-old from Wodonga Bowling Club won an Australian singles title at Merimbula, while in April 2018 she took out the Victorian Champion of Champions event at Bendigo East – a victory that qualified her for the Australian Champion of Champions to be held in Tasmania this October.
“I am really looking forward to the competition as it will be a privilege to test myself against some of the best players in Australia,” Whitehead says. “My goal is always just to enjoy the experience and play as well as I can. I never have any expectations going into events or put any pressure on myself.”
Since getting hooked on bowls following a ‘come and try’ day with her grandfather eight years ago, Whitehead has achieved enormous success in the game she loves. Yet she has always held onto the refreshing outlook that winning isn’t everything.
“There aren’t many sports a 16-year-old can easily play with her grandfather, so for me bowls was something fun we could share, and even though my Grandma doesn’t play she is obsessed with the game,” Whitehead says.
Indeed, according to Whitehead, it’s that sense of community and camaraderie, as much as the competition, that makes bowls so special.
“My home club has offered me amazing support. I was the first junior female member there and they welcomed me with open arms,” she says.
“The bowls community in general is amazing to be a part of. I’ve met people from all walks of life, made some lifelong friends and even increased my free accommodation options whenever I go travelling. And if I had known about the ‘bring a plate’ days and the Christmas parties, I would have taken up the game even sooner!”
Last year Whitehead completed her physiotherapy studies and landed a position with a small company in Albury.
“Graduating was my proudest achievement, then finding a job with employers who were supportive of my bowling career meant I didn’t have to leave home and I could keep enjoying Grandma’s home-cooked meals,” she jokes.
And on a serious note, Whitehead can now passionately pursue her two health-based vocations at the same time.
“Being a physiotherapist, I am always encouraging my patients and participants to keep mobile and active. I think lawn bowls is the perfect sport in that it is a gentle form of exercise, but incorporates balance, strength and coordination all in one,” she says.
“Bowls allows people to get out of the house and socialise with others and develop friendships, and in this day and age, having an escape is so important. Plus, the fact that bowls can be played by nearly anyone of any ability is what makes the sport so great.”
Indigenous role model
As a young Indigenous athlete, Whitehead is very keen to take on the responsibilities of an active role model.
“It is one of my biggest drivers and always has been in any aspect of my life. I have seen how tough it is for Indigenous kids in Australia to get an opportunity to achieve their dreams, and I feel very lucky to be in a position where I can hopefully inspire them and show them that it’s possible if you want it enough,” she says.
“I would eventually like to work in Indigenous communities and contribute to health improvements for Indigenous Australians. Who knows what the future holds, but I think as long as I am known for being a good person and I don’t bowl too many ‘wrong biases’, I will be happy!”
Author: Kalon Huett, Bowls Victoria Contributor.