John Siteman of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia shares his story of how he got hooked on the sport of bowls. John recently graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University with a degree in Public Relations. In addition to volunteering at the Dartmouth Lawn Bowls Club, he is also a member of Bowls Canada’s marketing committee and Lawn Bowls Nova Scotia’s board of directors.
The excitement, the precision and the challenge of competition. After trying sport after sport without success, these were why I came to grow into the sport of lawn bowls. Upon learning the game at the Dartmouth Lawn Bowls Club, the desire to up my game and compete at the highest levels of this historic sport has allowed me to travel around the world, make lifelong friends and have the honour of getting to represent my fellow club members back home. If it were not for the opportunity that I had to compete for Nova Scotia for the first time at the 2013 Canadian Youth Championship in Fredericton, New Brunswick, my life would indeed not be the same.
Taking place at the Fredericton Lawn Bowls Club, a little facility dropped in the middle of a downtown park; the Canadian Youth Championship brought 20 junior bowlers (aged 13-24 in two age groups) from around the country to this small Maritime town to compete for national honours in Singles and Pairs competitions. As one of the least experienced bowlers in the tournament, I came in with the hopes of making lifelong friends and at least playing my best in each game. If I got anything more out of it, that would be quite a bonus!
It wasn’t until I arrived at the club for the first day of practice that I indeed found out what I was getting into. I saw a girl from British Columbia who I discovered was the previous year’s silver medalist practicing and watched as she delivered all her bowls back to back in a straight line like they were almost placed in a row. On another rink, I would see two brothers from Saskatchewan who would deliver with intense precision from a precision draw shot to a hit shot that was like hitting a cue ball from 100 feet away. At the time, my accuracy of getting my bowls close to the jack at the other end of the playing surface was nowhere near any of them. All I could think was that this was going to be more challenging than I ever imagined.
While the singles event met my expectations of winning a game and having some fun out on the green (especially against kids my age), it was the dream run of competing in the Junior Pairs event that shocked everyone including me. In the pairs event, we would get drawn to play with another Junior (usually from another province). After I sparked a friendship with Alex LeBlanc (a very experienced bowler at the time who was the defending Ontario Junior Champion), we were excited when they announced us as one of the teams. With all the talent teamed up, the competition would be fierce.
Our competition was relatively smooth the whole way through the round-robin with some strong wins over bowlers with more experience than I had. I realized how challenging this event would be in the second game of the pairs when we faced a young girl from Saskatchewan with a bright smile and lots of talent along with her very experienced partner from British Columbia who was competing in the Under-25 Women’s event. End after end, this little girl with her ponytail in a ballcap, glasses and her tiny black bowls who barely came up to my shoulders would push me with big shot after big shot. In what could be the bowls equivalent of a heavyweight title fight, we were able to find the power to get the points we needed in an extra end. It was a great win, but after splitting our final two games with a win over a team of Provincial Champions from Manitoba and Saskatchewan and a loss to a team of brothers from the host club, it would set up a meeting between the girls from the second match and us for the gold medal.
Unfortunately for us, the Sunday afternoon would be a very rude awakening as to how tight a national final indeed was. As the match went on, we weren’t getting the right results on every significant play that could have gone our way. The girl from Saskatchewan was able to be that little bit better than me on the day and made many big shots for her team. Their experience of competing in medal games indeed showed as they were able to topple us 16-6 to pick up the gold medal. Though I was disappointed that we did not win the gold, I always remember how much of an honour it was to be able to represent my province on the biggest stage in Canadian Junior Bowls.
Competing in that event in Fredericton brought so many amazing things into my life that I would have never had if it weren’t for bowls. Many of those bowlers that I first met there and got to have fun playing against at the highest level are now some of my closest friends. That young girl from Saskatchewan, who played like a champion of the future to beat me, is now one of my best friends and we keep in touch from all the way across the country. Aside from the many friends that I made, I knew that my competitive desire to go further was there. Since then, I’ve gotten to travel across Canada and to many significant events (including the Canadian Lawn Bowling Championships and the Australian Open). If it wasn’t for taking that chance and pushing myself to be the best I could be in Fredericton, I don’t know if any of these opportunities that have come my way would have ever happened. It indeed has been life-changing, and I can’t wait to see where bowls will bring me next!