A highly decorated athlete and umpire, Nick Watkins is a multiple time Canadian Champion, former national team member with appearances in two World Championships and is one of only two Internationally Certified Officials (ITO) in Canada. With Watkins stepping down as Chair of the NOC to pursue a role with the Ontario Lawn Bowling Association, he has passed the torch to George Cubiss. He leaves behind a legacy of improved processes, updated education resources and improved standards in Canadian umpiring. This is a look back on his journey.
After retiring from the BC Ministry of Education, Watkins was looking for a new challenge. Already an accomplished bowler, he knew an adventure in bowls awaited. As a former drawmaster for the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, he had more than adequate experience to volunteer as Chief Scorer for the 2009 National Championships. Ian Tyzzer, who was the BCB Chief Umpire at the time, encouraged Watkins to stand for appointment as the BCB Chief Umpire. Only a year after that, Nick Watkins was appointed Chief Umpire for BCB subsequently becoming a member of the National Officiating Committee (NOC). Clearly skillful, it took no time for Watkins to be appointed as Chair of the NOC in 2011.
In his role as Chief Umpire from 2010 to 2016; Watkins was responsible for conducting officiating programs at all Canadian Championships, serving as Head Event Umpire at all Canadian Lawn Bowls Championships, recruiting umpires, appointing Head Event Umpires for other national championship events, and preparing the tournament draw schedules for all Canadian Championships. Subsequently, as chair of the NOC from 2011 to 2022 Watkins established the implementation of a national umpire training and accreditation program based on World Bowls Standards. Watkins expertise led him to become an integral part of the creation of the Bowls Canada “Laws of the Sport of Bowls” where he drew inspiration from Bowls Australia to add an index to the Canadian rulebook.
With aspirations of officiating the same international competitions he played in; Watkins was determined to become an International Technical Official (ITO). Becoming an ITO meant that Watkins would be qualified to officiate as an umpire or a marker at any World Bowls event fulfilling his long-term goal. Travelling all the way to Australia to pass his exam in 2014, Watkins was invited to represent Canada on the World Bowls Laws Committee. Watkins has been the only member of this committee who has been directly responsible for implementing laws and providing practical advice in a country. Furthermore, as an International Technical Official, Watkins was an official at the 2015 World Junior Championships in Australia and officiated at his first World Bowls Championships in Christchurch, NZ, in 2016. This year, Watkins will be officiating at his second, and last, World Bowls Championships in Queensland, Australia.
Watkins has never seen himself as a mentor to his fellow umpires. His primary objective has always been to “encourage bowlers to become umpires earlier in their bowling careers and to provide training and opportunities that will help them succeed”. Further on that point: “I have always enjoyed answering all questions that have come my way, and I have learned much more about the sport (and the laws) during this time. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me in my journey, especially two of my early mentors – Berwyn Griffith in Edmonton and Fran McAdoo in Victoria – and my partner Jeanne Mermer.”
George Cubiss, current Chief Umpire for Bowls Cananda Boulingrin and newly appointed chair of the National Offficaiting Committee had this to say about his time working alongside Nick Watkins:
“I, and many others, were saddened to hear Nick had resigned his position as Chair of the NOC in November 2022. From the date of his appointment as Chair in 2011 his goal was to improve the standard of officiating and there is no doubt, he has done his utmost to achieve this. Nick was Canada’s first International Technical Official. He has been a fountain of knowledge and still will be for those who need it.”
Cubiss also expressed gratitude for the many hours Watkins spent working on developing training manuals, drafting domestic regulations, compiling an index for and formatting the Canadian version of the Laws of the Sport, and formatting both the French and English pocket-sized versions of the booklets. “This was no mean feat, and a big step in the right direction for all who wish to become an umpire.”
Cubiss worked alongside Watkins many times as an Assistant Head Event Umpire. “The standards Nick set were high and they needed to be for the benefit of the players and success of the National Tournaments. If I needed advice, he was always there to give it. The respect he has earned from the players speak for itself. I have big shoes to fill as Chair of the NOC following Nick’s resignation, but he leaves a legacy that needs to carry on for the benefit of all of us involved in Lawn Bowling. With the help of members of the NOC we will do our utmost to make sure this is carried forward.”
We at BCB will be forever grateful for everything Nick Watkins has brought to bowls in Canada. From his knowledge and expertise to his desire to continuously improve upon officiating standards for the bowls community, his contribution to lawn bowling in Canada is unmatched. Thank you for all your years of service, we wish success in all your future endeavours.