Sturt BC Impressive Womens Growth

Sturt Bowling Club’s Impressive Women’s Growth 2023-24

by Marketing on April 11, 2024

Showcasing a significant increase in women numbers, Sturt Bowling Club’s first women’s pennant team in nearly 30 years reached the grand final in season 2023-24. A small coaching team led by Peter Hughes has accomplished a remarkable feat to grow the club’s membership, and achieve competitive success, this season.

The public intention of the program initially set out to provide Women’s Winter Bowls for the 5 existing Women members, with possibly some Night Owls and other interested women participating. The private intention was to reestablish Women’s Pennants. The Club goes on to explain:

What challenge did the program address?

In an email sent to the Club President and Secretary on 6 April 2023, Peter Hughes wrote:

‘We believe it will do several things:

  1. Provide some additional focussed bowls experiences for our current pennant players.
  2. Provide an opportunity for Night Owls to have extra bowling opportunities.
  3. Provide an opportunity for ‘Come and Try’ for women.
  4. Achieve extra nominations in the Women’s Singles and Handicap singles events.
  5. It will make extra use of our facilities during the week
  6. Enable SBC to demonstrate that we are working to engage more women in our Club.’

Through May – August as the numbers of participants regularly grew the program’s aims expanded to include being competitive in Women’s Pennants.

Did it achieve its goals and objectives?

The initial expectations set on the 6 April were not only achieved, they were exceeded.

Numbers grew and with near 100% interest in playing Pennants, 2 sides were nominated with Metropolitan Bowls.

As the season approached, we were faced with having 8-9 reserves every week until Beaumont invited as to form a combined side. We advised our players, asked for feedback, and the offer was readily accepted. This gave extra admin challenges but many extra opportunities for our women to get playing experience.

In statistical terms:

  • We went from having 5 women playing pennants to 32.
  • 25 also played at least one game of Saturday Pennants. The highest number on any one day was 18 and the average was 15. (The previous maximum, in the history of the club had been 6).
  • Many extra women played Night Owls.
  • Nominations in internal club tournaments exceeded all previous records.
  • 6 women completed the Measuring Course.
  • Women have supported several other club tournaments.
  • As we were laying the foundations of Women’s Pennants, players were given many opportunities to experience competition bowling. 25 women played in the Sturt 1 team (and all played in at least one winning rink), 15 women experienced playing as a Pennant Skipper (11 of them for the first time).

In general terms the women embraced club life at SBC. They:

  • Initiated a Melbourne Cup lunch.
  • Attended all club functions in good numbers.
  • Volunteered for extra duties. (Unley Council twice brought their GrandFriends project to our Club mixing young people with elderly and several new women members supported them).
  • Brought friends into the club.
  • Added spirit and friendship to the clubrooms especially on Friday afternoons and Saturdays after Pennants.
  • Supported each other through several instances of family trauma.
  • Large numbers have supported SBC teams throughout the finals series.

How well was it received by members / potential members / wider community?

The numbers grew from 5 existing Pennant playing women at the end of season 2022/23 to 33 over May-September.

This number includes 21 who had not played Pennants before. (8 had played some, limited, Night Owls).

There were several other participants who accepted the offer of Come n Try and that was all they were interested in for this year.

Men from SBC were always on hand at coaching sessions to assist with setting up the greens, packing up, applying club stickers, kitchen and bar duties and then volunteering to play an internal trail (and then another). Men readily volunteered to be OG players, but were rarely needed.

Neighbouring clubs (Beaumont and Hawthorn) immediately contacted us for trial games.

A Grant application to support the program with new sets of bowls, measuring equipment and external coaching was submitted to the City of Unley and was supported. 

Once the season started, the average attendance at training was 25 and this continued all year. Additional Friday afternoon training sessions were also held and were well supported.

Many new women now can’t wait for our club’s winter social bowls to start.

What strategies were used to make the program successful?

Our recruitment started with contacting our (small number) of women Night Owls. It flowed to their friends and friends of friends.

We were advocating Come N Try in a very supportive small group environment. When our numbers suggested 2 teams were possible, we boosted the recruitment to more friends of friends and referrals from existing club members.

We were advocating something new, healthy recreation, new skills opportunities, new people, active ageing, competitive or social sport.

A group of 4 Coaches, who had all completed the Club Coaching course the previous year, were active supporters of the program all year.

Three of the Coaches (2 female), attended weekly meetings for planning purposes.

Weekly communication from the Head Coach sent by email.

The Head Coach had attended the 2022/23 Pennant Grand Finals as an interested observer and was confident of creating a successful team(s). He assessed that pre-conditions at the club were probably at their peak to ensure success (after experiencing a number of precursors in previous years).

Getting to know you segments and name tags helped to develop familiarity.

Special welcome and introductions to every new member. Every new member already knew someone else in the group. Word of mouth was our best friend.

Improvisation. The winter weather caused the cancellation of many initial coaching sessions so indoor sessions were established (Introduction to the theory, and some practice, of many basics plus watching Coaching videos).

The new members were embraced by the Club Board and Members. An official launch was held with welcomes from Karen Gatto (Bowls SA Board) and Monica Broniecki (Deputy Mayor of the City of Unley). A budget was provided to engage an external coach through Bowls SA Coach Zone (Julie Bannister) who visited, led, and supported us on 5 occasions… plus finals.

Weekly Awards were introduced. (Rink of the Day, Most Valuable Player and Rising Star). These announcements were greeted each week by strong applause and appreciation.

The following tasks were completed by enthusiastic club members, which achieved awareness in the local community.

1. 500 flyers for letter box drop

2. Flyers on all council notice boards 

3. Contacted community radio for an announcement over the radio and sent them a flyer of information.

4. Notice on the front gate of the club and club rooms for Night Owlers and members.

Coaches at the time of the project, Janet and Noal commented A big factor in the success was that we encouraged women with no bowls experience. With our training we did not turn anyone away, and in many ways encouraged some with no initial ability but with some training become good bowlers. Training and welcome support of the club was the secret. Peter was the driving force, and motivator.”

“It is our strong impression that extra women members have been a great addition to SBC. Increased gender balance and a wider spread of personal talents in the club.”

Bowls SA would like to thank Peter Hughes and the Sturt Bowling Club Committee and members for sharing this enlightening and extensive summary. We believe this to be an incredible example of how a small team grew a bowling club to not only improve the club’s spirit but also the local community. Congratulations to the team who achieved so much with this project. They have set an example for other clubs across the state.

Photography acknowledgement: John Mitchell