If there’s one thing that’s predictable during this time, it’s unpredictability. Across Canada, clubs are facing the common threat of COVID-19 and being forced to adapt and take action to ensure member safety as well as the survival of their club. What varies across the country is clubs’ levels of restrictions and overall risk of the virus in their area, which means the challenges and fears they face differ as well. We asked clubs to share their reopening progress and experiences during these uncertain times; their responses give us a snapshot of how the bowls community is responding to COVID-19 from coast to coast.

We’ve come a long way over the past several months, and with the first phases of return to play being released, clubs have been able to safely start opening their doors. Excluding Ontario, 60% of clubs in Canada have opened* and 20% are almost ready to follow suit. These numbers are extremely positive and reflect how committed, hard-working and dedicated the boards, committees, members and volunteers have been. After all, re-opening means a lot of moving parts, major time-commitment, adaptation, and teamwork.

When hearing from clubs, a consistent challenge reported was the use of scheduling for members to sign up for green time, and the communication of how to use these tools. Many clubs have been using SignUpGenius as their go-to tool for scheduling and have found this to be the easiest option. A video tutorial explaining how to use SignUpGenius to schedule green time is provided here. The most effective communication methods to get members to sign up for time slots will vary by who your members are, but based on the survey responses, the most common methods currently being used are email and phone or video calls.

Safety officers in action at Calgary Lawn Bowling Club.

The other most prominent challenge when returning to play has been balancing the expectations of members who want to return to play as quickly as possible, with those of members who are more cautious. Many clubs are experiencing so much cautiousness that their turnout is disappointingly low, whereas other clubs don’t have enough volunteers to support the number of members who are eager to get back out. Here’s a basic overview of the three psychological phases of returning to play, which members will experience in different orders and different timeframes. Understanding these phases will help accommodate players’ and volunteers’ attitudes and fears.

A positive outcome that clubs are appreciative of is the fact that their volunteers are taking on new roles and responsibilities: from being liaisons with city officials, to scheduling practice times and implementing safety protocols. Depleting their human resources is a common concern but fortunately more and more members have been stepping up to become safety committee members and volunteer safety officers.

A sanitize station at Calgary Lawn Bowling Club

Overall, the clubs have been extremely pleased by how much the members care about each other and the club, and have been continuously looking out for each other. Because of how important recreation is for mental and physical health, those involved in the reopening efforts of their club have found the hard work to be worthwhile. The Sidney Lawn Bowling Club wanted to share how excited their Under 25s and Juniors were to get together and practice after not being in school or having many outdoor activities for almost 3 months.

The implications of COVID-19 will remain unpredictable, but the sense of community and passion for the sport is unwavering as is the dedication and hard work offered by members and volunteers during the reopening process. There’s no telling whether all members will return next year, but the most clubs can do is keep an open line of communication and keep players safe out on the greens.

*Due to the Province of Ontario’s slower re-opening phases, they have been excluded from this data.