Intellectual Disability Squad Leaders Retire from Volunteer Roles
For over 15 years, Claire and Glen Baskett have overseen the Bowls Victoria Intellectual Disability Squad as dedicated volunteers. Unfortunately, due to Glen’s current health issues, the pair have now made the difficult decision to retire − in fact the recent Victorian Country vs Victorian Metro Championships match was their last time guiding a team event.
And while all good things must come to an end, the Basketts leave a wonderful legacy in Victorian disability bowls coaching and development. Their commitment to the group, and to the game as a whole, has been truly remarkable and unparalleled. In 2016, Claire was a deserved finalist in the Volunteer of the Year category for the Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation Awards.
A splendid journey
Glen was first introduced to bowls by his father-in-law, with his interest then piqued further when he realised his days playing cricket might be numbered. A while later, Claire was left with little choice but to take up the sport taking up most of her husband’s time. “Glen had become so involved in bowls that I wasn’t seeing much of him, so I thought I better join him,” Claire says. “Funnily enough I am now the more fanatical one!”
Having been heavily involved in coaching junior bowls with Bowls Victoria (formerly the Royal Victorian Bowling Association), Glen jumped at the chance to take an assistant coaching role in disability bowls. At first Claire remained in the background volunteering, but a few years later she became an official part of the team. Glen and Claire have been planning the annual bowling program of squad days ever since.
Each squad day they would arrive early for registrations, set up drills and coach the bowlers. When the idea for the Integrated Pairs was floating around but no progress was being made, Claire put up her hand alongside Gay and Stan Jebb and Glen to organise the tournament and catering, with Bowls Victoria taking care of all the advertising. Integrated Pairs was launched in 2013.
“We were hoping to get 8 teams for the first try and we had 16 teams apply,” Glen explains. “A lot of players that competed that first day have been at every Integrated Pairs to follow. This has been so successful that last year we had 48 teams.”
There have of course been many highlights for the Basketts throughout their involvement with the Victorian Intellectual Disability Squad.
“Bowls Victoria formed a committee to oversee all disability groups, which has led to outstanding results. Because of this committee’s work, bowlers with a disability are now being accepted more than ever,” Claire explains.
“The opportunities for bowlers with a disability have increased and the introduction of tournament prize money was terrific. The Victorian Multi-Disabilities Championships has given all bowlers with a disability something to work hard towards. The competition between players is fierce, but the comradeship on display could teach every bowler something about how to play sport in the right spirit,” she adds.
“The introduction of Vic Metro v Vic Country gives bowlers with an intellectual disability the opportunity to play for Victoria. It is a delightful concept and the players love to yell support for their team across the green. Of course to play for Victoria against another state would be a dream come true.”
For the love of the game
There’s no doubting Claire and Glen’s love for the game of bowls, but they’ve both been particularly passionate about coaching and development for people with disabilities. “We had some personal experience with a very good friend of ours having a disabled daughter, and we saw how much joy could be gained through bowling. We also have a nephew who is deaf and has always enjoyed the game,” Claire says.
“It’s such a joy to coach bowlers with an intellectual disability and see the growth and confidence as they achieve their goals − be it big or little. We both get so much enjoyment out of seeing people develop their character and skills on the bowling green. And we love that the squad includes parents coming along to support the players. It’s also an opportunity for them to talk about everyday life as carers with other carers.”
While the extensive travel involved in their roles has recently become too great a burden for the couple, the good news is that Claire and Glen will continue to coach at Edithvale Bowling Club.