This article was written by Frances Scott of the Nutana Lawn Bowls Club in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. This will be a two part series the second will highlight increased information and answers to some FAQ
The Nutana Lawn Bowling Club in Saskatoon is running a highly successful mixed triples recreation league that has brought in hundreds of new bowlers over the years, not to mention thousands of dollars in revenue for the club. The league runs on Wednesday nights for ten weeks with a total of 120 participants. The format is very simple – 16 games every Wednesday consisting of 8 ends. The participants are in five groups of 8 teams, with one group having a bye every week. There are a few key steps to running a successful rec league:
Step 1 – Keep it fun!
The atmosphere at the club on Wednesday nights is fun, energetic and enthusiastic. Music is always playing on the loudspeakers, giving the area a youthful and upbeat vibe. The average age of participants in the league varies but the majority seem to be in their 20’s and 30’s. The bar is a huge draw for this league – we keep our drinks priced at $4 and offer a wide variety of beer, wine and coolers. There is nothing better than beers and bowls on a hot summer evening! We also run a concession selling pop, chips, candy and every week we host a BBQ after the bowling where players can purchase a burger or a hot dog.
Step 2 – Keep it simple!
Many of the bowlers in this league are not looking to be the next Canadian champion. It is definitely a social league so we keep that in mind when we are enforcing the official rules of lawn bowling. We have had some participants join the club as full members but the majority of the players are just out for fun and we don’t want to overload them with all of the technicalities that come with our sport. We give them the basics and deal with the smaller details as they come up – for example: measuring, what to do when a jack goes out of bounds or into the ditch, etc.
Step 3 – Keep it organized!
The league has a main coordinator with a committee of volunteers. Each volunteer has a different duty – setting up greens, running the bar, running the kitchen, helping new bowlers, etc. At the end of each season, the coordinator submits a list of the different roles volunteers can fill to club members. Over the winter the members can look at the list and determine how much work each role would take before they commit. By spreading the work around the volunteers don’t get overwhelmed and tired by the time the ten weeks are up. The coordinator is also in touch with the league members via email, communicating a basic welcome/ground rules at the start of the season, and updates regarding rain delays when they occur.
Registration has become quite competitive over the last few years as the league has grown in popularity. Players from the previous year and any new enquiries are informed via email a few weeks in advance that registration opens on a specific day at midnight – this year it was May 1st. The teams are registered in the order that their registration email/payment is received (we highly recommend using an e-transfer as form of payment). We had teams registering at midnight on May 1st and by mid-day on May 2nd the league was filled at 40 teams.
Step 4 – Keep them excited!
There are various things we do in the league to keep the players excited – MVP sports has helped out with a discount on a set of bowls that the league purchases and then raffles off. We try to create excitement surrounding the raffle and the winner is presented with their new bowls in front of the rest of the league so everyone can see how nice a custom set of bowls can be. On the final night of the league we have an extended BBQ supper that everyone participates in and it is a great way to end off the season with socializing and a bit of a party. We also promote and create excitement surrounding the teams that make it to the play-offs – we announce who is playing on the loudspeaker and present the winners with a trophy. For the teams that are not playing in the play-offs we allow them a “grudge match”. They can send in requests for any team that they would like to play – sometimes they repeat matches they played earlier in the season or sometimes they pick a new team from a different group who they haven’t had the chance to play yet.
Step 5 – Keep them coming back!
Communication is very important in this league. We encourage members of the league to follow our club on social media. We take photos throughout the season and post them on our club’s Facebook page so they are encouraged to follow the page and see new updates along with their photos. We also try to be as accessible as possible whether it be via email or in person for any enquiries or questions players may have. Everyone seems to really enjoy themselves and they keep returning year after year so friendliness and a welcoming attitude is key.
Overall this league has been a resounding success for our club. It has brought in approximately $10,000 in revenue each year with registration fees and alcohol/food sales. It is a lot of work but it is worth every minute to see all of the new, young faces enjoying our sport. The league has given lawn bowling great exposure within Saskatoon and the word of mouth is astounding. Last year we were featured on two local news channels and the popularity of the league doesn’t seem to be slowing down. There is already talk of expanding this league to include another night of the week to accommodate all of the new requests.