St Heliers, the current Auckland Bowls Club of the year, is one of the few clubs in New Zealand and indeed throughout the lawn bowling world where membership is growing. In the past two years the club has attracted 45 new members, the majority of whom are new to bowls and Club President John Ross believes that the current 45 or so junior members is possibly the largest number junior players of any club in New Zealand.
Doing the little things well and embracing new ideas has helped in attracting new people but as John says, “It’s not just about attracting people to the club, it is about building an culture and environment where the new people you attract actually want to stay and become active members”.
Anyone attending one of the many have a go days, social bowls or business house bowls events are invited for some free coaching on a Monday evenings with the clubs coaches. This initiative alone has generated a lot of new members and is followed up with substantial winter coaching programme .
John Ross and the St Heliers Board’s philosophy has been to create a club culture where everyone is encouraged get new people along to have a go and to support new club members to integrate and become part of the St Heliers family. This has included running competitions purely for junior players and holding social evenings where the new players are introduced to the members as well as the history of the club and the rules etiquette of bowls which is something really appreciated by junior players.
The latest initiative at the club is to run a 6 week Bowls3Five tournament, with two games played each week on a Thursday evening. The difference being that each team can only have one skip and must have 1-3 junior player as lead. John said, this idea is to prevents any team being stacked with top players and encourages junior players to compete on relatively equal terms and have a real chance of winning a club tournament. The initiative is proving very popular at the club with competition looking likely to be full. St Heliers is always looking at new ways of doing things, as John says, “If you don’t try something new, how can you expect a different result?