Ian Howard, President of Bowls Canada Boulingrin, has recently been elected to the World Bowls Board of Directors. Howard replaces Bowls USA’s Scott Roberts as Regional Director for the Americas (including the Caribbean) Region. Ian is currently a member of the Burlington LBC in Ontario, and has been a member of the Bowls Canada Board since 2016 serving as a Director, Vice-President and most recently a 2-year term as President. Casey Donnelly, Bowls Canada’s new Communications and Safe Sport Officer recently had the opportunity to talk with Ian about his time with Bowls Canada and his aspirations for World Bowls.

Casey: How did you first get into lawn bowls and how have you been involved with the sport over the years?

Ian: I have a vivid recollection of watching a game when I was four years old across the street from my grandparents’ place where I was living at the time. In 1973, my mother had the good fortune to represent Papua New Guinea, a team that played in the World Ladies International Championship in Wellington, New Zealand. Her team got a silver medal and she wrote to me when I was living in England saying “you should play this sport, it’s a game that you’re going to enjoy.” A few years later in 1978, I was at a church rummage sale and saw a set of bowls and remembered that my mom had told me to play. They were hardly used and selling for a great price so I decided to buy them. My consulting career was a 24/7 thing which made it very tough to play bowls because so much time was devoted to work, plus we were moving around the world quite a bit, but I still kept the bowls with me. In 2013, I decided to go down to the local bowls club and told them I’d like to join. I’d had a very serious injury which made playing very tough but I persevered because my mom said to play and like a good son I did what I was told. 

One day I was sitting with a mate who said I should go for the vacancy of the secretary of the club. After eight weeks I finally caved and said I’d try. I ended up getting elected and that was the start of the admin side of bowling, much to my chagrin in some respects because it did cut into my bowling time. There was something I enjoyed about the admin side and giving back through executive positions at the club level, and later I became the director at the provincial level as well. One day somebody mentioned they were looking for directors at Bowls Canada, so I decided to have a go at that as well. I served as a director and then as a vice president and now as you know, president of Bowls Canada. My journey in bowls all started when I watched that first bowls game and that memory is still as vivid in my mind as it was when I was four years old.

Casey: What exactly is World Bowls and why is it important for Canadian bowlers?

Ian: World Bowls is the globally recognized International Federation of the sport of bowls, just as FIFA is the international federation for soccer. World Bowls establishes the standards for international competition which enable many nations to compete at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, which are also sanctioned by World Bowls. World Bowls also helps develop international marketing programs, coaching and umpiring standards, and works with the people that do the anti-doping protocols. World Bowls initiatives make good sense and they help our top athletes proceed along a pathway to bowling fame, which in turn is embraced by their local clubs where they became proficient in the sport in the first place. It’s important to Canadian bowlers because it is circular. When we have a bowler that excels, it rubs off on the local club members. Their stories are told here and it gives the younger people a chance to aspire to bigger and better things. There is a need to support World Bowls because they have the power to promote the game on the global stage which helps the sport grow at the local level.  We want to ensure that we have that international voice that represents bowls at tables like the Commonwealth Games Federation, World Anti-Doping Agency and, someday we hope, the International Olympic Federation. 

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Casey: What will your responsibilities look like on the World Bowls board?

Ian: The regional director is primarily a conduit for communications from World Bowls to the Member National Authorities such as Canada, but it’s a two-way street of collaborating. There may be a possibility that I could get asked to serve on a World Bowls committee where it’s appropriate for my skills. Overall, my job is to develop the region as much as possible so that the sport of bowls can thrive in North America, South America and the Caribbean region. 

Casey: Why is it important to have a Canadian on the board of World Bowls?

Ian: Serving as a World Bowls Regional Director is not so much to represent Canada as it is to represent the Americas. The Americas include Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Falkland Islands and we’re trying to put something together with Jamaica. But the idea is that I represent all and am communicating with all. But of course the fact that Canada is at the table, I think, gives a nod to the excellence of the leadership of BCB. So Canada does benefit but not in the sense that I give preference to Canada versus Brazil, for example. 

Casey: I understand that your term as President is up in September of 2020 at which point you will be stepping down to fully dedicate yourself to the World Bowls position.  What accomplishments are you most proud of achieving during your term as President of Bowls Canada?  What will you miss?

Ian: The current strategic plan, which is the foundation of all that BCB does, was initiated during my term of office. Clearly it’s had to be revisited because of COVID-19, but I do hasten to add that while we’re revisiting the strategic plan, the values of BCB are not going to change. We have strong values and I’m very pleased that what was developed by representatives of the Canadian bowls community at all levels back in 2014 is still holding true today.  I’m going to miss the camaraderie of my fellow directors and the issues that we’ll have to tackle in the future. I’ll miss that interaction with our Executive Director, Anna Mees, and my colleagues on the board. I’ll still be in touch so I think that’ll be just as exciting, but I certainly will miss the camaraderie. It’s a good team.

Casey: What do you hope to accomplish while on the World Bowls board?  

Ian: I hope that the Americas and all nations involved can be a growing region and that this growth excites other regions to say “I want some of that.” Sooner rather than later, it would be good to have an Americas open for all the nations of the Americas because I’m sure the media attention generated in all the nations would be quite something.  I believe that the more that nations around the world can share resources and ideas, the better off bowls will be for every country.

Casey: What personal skills and attributes do you believe will help you achieve this? 

Ian: I think because I have had experience in starting up companies in Europe where there are many languages, and have also had experience in the United States and Australia, I’m able to understand that people have their own objectives and national pride but if you can get them to work together towards a common goal they are willing to hold less tightly to their nationalism and work towards that shared ideal. It’s difficult working with the cultural side of things and working with all these people thinking about their own aspirations, but I think I can say that I’ve accomplished that in companies that I’ve managed in Europe.

Casey: What new challenges will this present to you?

Ian: I’m going to be moving from a “sleeve rolled up” position of being actively engaged to one where you’re cajoling, suggesting and motivating which can be tiring and is very hard work. That’s going to be a challenge, but I don’t see it being insurmountable. That being said, I still intend to be involved with the Hall of Fame in the Ontario Association and the Ontario Premier League so I’ll still have some interaction on a sort of day-to-day basis where I can get my hands into something. Besides that challenge, no one expected COVID-19 to come along so sometimes the unexpected comes along and when it does I’ll need to be able to go with the flow.

Casey: What is a non-bowls related fact about yourself? 

Ian: I think the first and foremost thing is I’ve been married to my best pal, she’s pretty amazing. I’ve been married to her for quite some time now and without her I don’t know where I’d be. We have three kids, two son-in-laws, a daughter-in-law and five wonderful grandkids!

Ian wished to finish off the interview by mentioning that bowls is a game for families. It’s a game where everyone can enjoy the sport but if you want to become the world’s greatest bowler ever there’s a pathway for that too.


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