Sam Taylor's SofaDODGER Olympic Challenge
Number 2 - Bowls
I am not silly; I know that with my current level of fitness, I will probably break if I try and join a running club or cycling club this early into my challenge. Bowls, therefore, seems like a good second sport to progress with. In fact, it is not just bowls; it is short mat bowls – not to be confused with Bowling Crown, Bowling Flat Green, Bowling Indoor, Lawn Bowls or Outdoor Bowls.
I’m enthusiastically welcomed into the Village Hall by Blisland Short Mat Bowls Club. Given the time of day (Tuesday afternoon) it’s no surprise that most of the players looked retirement age but don’t be fooled: this is a competitive and skilful game. Betty was also “new” and she told me not to worry. However, Betty didn’t tell me that she was only new to the club and was actually a county player!
There are two green mats laid over the hall floor and this is where the action happens – clever really, as unlike their outdoor sibling sport, they are not interrupted by the English weather. I like watching most sports, but I’ve never watched a game of bowls in my life and am a bit perturbed to see a long wooden obstacle in the middle of the floor. This is definitely going to cramp my style. After smacking my first attempt into the floor, as if I’m going to score a strike in the ten-pin variety, and knocking down the wooden slab, it soon becomes clear that I might need to change tactics. Steady and smooth, not fast and furious, is the order of the day.
Everybody’s very encouraging and clap whenever my ball doesn’t go off the mat. However, I must have a latent competitive streak because there’s no way I’m leaving until I hit the jack. After an hour and a half, I hit the damned thing, which is met with riotous applause and “she’s a natural…sign her up!”
I know I’ve only done 2 of my challenges and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but I have a feeling there is a sport for everybody. Although bowls is no way just a sport for older people, approximately 775,000 older people (that’s 7% of those aged 65 or over in the UK) say they are always or often feel lonely. That’s a tragic situation when there are so many clubs and activities up and down the country. At Blisland, the members can play competitively or just enjoy playing the game on the afternoons they meet up, so is an ideal activity for anybody who’s interested in meeting new people and taking up a new challenge. There was a lot of banter and a cuppa in the interval. I was also offered the chance to do bell ringing, but that isn’t on the list!
Sofa Dodger; One Woman's Quest to Try 100 Different Sports and Fitness Classes in a Year is available on Amazon, please click here