Hampton Bring Seniors to the Game Thanks to U3A

by Kalon Huett (BV Contributor)

It goes without saying that lawn bowls is a popular pastime among seniors, but Bowls Clubs can still do more to attract older generations to the game and help them discover a deeper appreciation for its many joys and intricacies.

Thanks to a flourishing partnership between Hampton Bowls Club and Bayside U3A – the local arm of the U3A (University of the Third Age) worldwide phenomenon promoting continuing health, education and engagement among people of retirement age – more senior Victorians are now embracing bowls in an active lifestyle. Bayside U3A currently offers more than 150 courses for seniors, with approximately 50 Victorian seniors taking up bowls through this course over the past five years.

“When faced with retirement, some seniors want to learn new things, and the gentle exercise offered by bowls is both stimulating and good for their health,” says Rob Coulson, Marketing Officer at Hampton Bowls Club. “The X factor is that they all seem to get on so well socially, because they are all ‘in the same boat’, so to speak.”

Rob originally joined U3A to find more engaging things to learn about in his own retirement. After a year of attending, and as a committee member at Hampton Bowls Club, he decided to make the most of his experience as a bowls coach to offer a Bayside U3A course himself. Soon the other coaches at Hampton Bowls Club engaged in the U3A syllabus as well. The club started in 2014 with an introductory course getting people who had never bowled before onto the green. After a successful year, the club added an intermediary course running alongside the introductory course.

Positive outcomes

“We normally have these participants for at least one year, so you could describe it as ‘slow bowls’ – we try and cover every aspect of playing the sport. This contrasts completely with our Barefoot Bowls, social bowls and schools activity bowls, which are based around ‘fun for that moment’,” Rob says. “The end result has been that many of these students become members of Hampton Bowls Club, with some also joining other clubs closer to their home.”

What have some of the most significant outcomes been? “Everyone involved with this venture agrees it has been very positive for the wellbeing of the students, the development of the club itself as new members come in, and the way it fits in to the U3A courses for mind and body.”

In addition, Bayside U3A recognised that there is a shortage of smaller legal bowls in the class, which is now more popular than ever, according to Rob. “Often senior bowlers have hand problems of various kinds and the smaller 00 bowls can be easier to use. After receiving a Bayside U3A grant, the club now owns these smaller bowls and lets people use them while learning.”

A typical two-hour Bayside U3A session at Hampton Bowls Club includes:

  • Chatting about a topical issue in bowls that week e.g. “In a match on Saturday this situation happened – what would you do?”
  • Running drills suited to the students’ abilities and progress with a particular theme e.g. playing ‘second’.
  • Playing a game of pairs, triples or fours.
  • Covering rules or etiquette over a cup of coffee in the clubhouse.

At the end of each school term, all the senior students play a singles match against each other, with the club presenting a prize to the winner. “This provides a fitting conclusion, and at $20 per term the participants are getting on the green with full-on coaching for less than $2 a week – that’s good value,” Rob says.

Want to learn more about Bayside U3A courses at Hampton Bowls Club? Visit the club website and get in touch.