Due to a genetic disorder, Zach is visually impaired. He’s never had the ability to participate in a sport competitively. Here’s his story of how lawn bowls has changed his life – for the better.
Meet Zach Abdalla, a 14-year-old from Calgary, Alberta. Zach was born with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues. About 1 in 5,000 people have Marfan syndrome, and it can have varying effects. For Zach, the syndrome has affected both his eyes and his heart. So much so, that he has never before had the ability to participate in sport competitively. Until he tried bowls.
In collaboration with the Alberta Sport & Recreation Association for the Blind, the Calgary LBC offered a Try-It session that Zach participated in. After trying it once, Zach was keen to learn more.
Zach’s mother, Chris, explains “as a parent of a youth with sight loss, I spend a considerable amount of time figuring out ways for Zach to participate in whatever activities he is interested in. A year or two ago we stumbled upon lawn bowling; to my surprise and delight, the lawn bowls community already had all the adaptions in place to give my son the opportunity to participate at any level he wanted.”
“As a blind lawn bowler, the game can be tough,” says Zach. “Sometimes your bowls go wide because you misaligned yourself and got the wrong curve described by your director. But, in light of these challenges, the past few years I’ve been lawn bowling have been outstanding. I have a lot of things to look forward to in lawn bowling”
At the national level, Bowls Canada’s vision is to “Bring Canadians Together Through Bowls”. This means making the sport as inclusive and accessible as possible. When asked about how the sport has been inclusive, Chris says “the Bowls Canada Community has welcomed us every step of the way. We are incredibly thankful for our volunteer coach that has not only taught Zach the fundamentals he needs, but has patiently taught me the skills needed to be his director. He loves the challenge and fun of lawn bowling so much that he convinced one of his friends (who also has sight loss) to join him on the green when the pandemic is over. Next season, Zach is looking forward to sharing his love of lawn bowling with his friend, training sessions with Coach Kathryn, and competing at the Provincials. The potential opportunities for both Zach and his friend are amazing. They could possibly join a Youth Lawn Bowls camp to learn and play alongside their sighted peers, compete at National Championships, and maybe even one day represent Canada at the Commonwealth Games.”
Kathryn MacGregor, BCB’s president, is Zach’s coach and director. Having someone so knowledgeable about the sport isn’t lost on Zach and his mother either. “Kathryn, my coach, has been amazingly supportive and has big ideas for my future in lawn bowling,” explains Zach. “I greatly enjoy the challenge of lawn bowling and find the various adaptations that are used both interesting and helpful. The director is a very useful person to have around, they use auditory directions to line me up with the jack and the board. There are feet markers along the field so that my director can tell me how far I threw.”
According to Zach, “I have never before had the ability to participate in a sport competitively. Lawn bowling has given me this wonderful chance to go far with a sport and I am very thankful for that opportunity.”
Bowls Canada is in the process of creating adaptive programs and resources to encourage even more people like Zach to give bowls a try. Help us to make the sport more inclusive and accessible.