If at first, you don’t succeed, try again! After running Bowl Patrol back in 2016 with nine registered participants, Bendigo Bowling Centre achieved a maximum capacity of 18 registrations for their term one program in 2021.
Rebounding from a challenging 2020 with COVID restrictions, Bendigo Bowling Centre hit the ground running in 2021, doing all they could to maximise the Bowl Patrol program’s potential. A combination of hitting the streets with promotional activities and creating a welcoming and fun atmosphere has seen the centre accomplish excellent results.
“We are extremely happy with what we achieved and extremely proud of ourselves for getting those numbers,” said Centre Assistant Manager Sharon Blyth. “We wanted to give the program another go because we think it’s a great, affordable initiative and importantly inclusive of all children”.
Tenpin Bowling Australia’s (TBA) Sports Development and Programs Manager Emily Rennes couldn’t be prouder to see a centre give the program another go and work hard to achieve exceptional results.
“I’m proud to see a centre give Bowl Patrol a second chance; we know new programs can be challenging, but we really believe in the program”, explained Rennes. “We’ve seen this happen in other centres too. Sometimes all it takes is some enthusiastic community members to help get the program off the ground; we provide everything you need from equipment to the participants’ administration. TBA ensures the centre and coaches are paid, and parents/carers are satisfied with the experience”.
Bowl Patrol is Australia’s only national ‘Learn to Bowl’ tenpin bowling program. Bowl Patrol programs promote skill development, a sense of achievement, socialisation, and teamwork to each participant. Throughout the eight-week $99 program, participants progress to deliver the ball further away from the pins on three different length carpets. The lure of wrist bands to mark various achievements all aim to provide a fast, fun and active way to enjoy and learn the fundamental skills of Tenpin Bowling.
“The feedback has been fantastic. The kids were loving achieving their next level of bands, and even for those that didn’t, the parents could see the strength and confidence growing in their children,” explained Sharon.
For Bendigo, the desire to give the program another go developed from a combination of competitive spirit and stubbornness. The initial goal was to get one more registered participant than last time. Like all bowling centres, the need for increasing junior bowler numbers remained high on the agenda, and it became a motivating factor in giving it a ‘true crack’ the second time around.
Armed with the right motivation, Bendigo went to work. They understood that the program in isolation is excellent. Yet, without centres’ efforts to hit the grounds and promote within their regions, it’s difficult to realise the program’s full potential.
“The major promotional activity was letterbox drops around family orientated suburbs in the Bendigo region”, explained Sharon. With an email to all primary schools coupled with brochure distribution to the correct demographics, Bendigo quickly saw their efforts paying off.
“We were stunned and very proud of ourselves as we did not expect to get a full program,” said Sharon.
Riding the positive wave of benefits the program provided, Bendigo Bowl was keen to share the good times experienced by participants. Utilising social media’s power and their outstanding Instagram account, the organisers were eager to show off the fun.
“We are trying to highlight the fun that the kids are having in the program,” said Sharon. “Attempting to showcase the new initiative that we are running whilst naturally promoting the program to the parents, hoping they could see this as a good fit for their children”.
One of the many benefits of tenpin bowling is that it is a truly inclusive activity. Capable of being enjoyed no matter your age, skill level or motivations, there is something for everyone. The inclusive nature of the program becoming the critical element of success in Bendigo.
“Inclusiveness. We had several children that hadn’t played the sport, that had special needs, as well as those that were just generally interested,” clarified Sharon.
Driving the inclusiveness of the program are Bowl Patrol Lane Rangers. Tasked to run the program on the lanes, these sports coaches are vital to programs’ success. For Bendigo, Anthony Cook was the centre’s Lane Ranger. A role he didn’t exactly choose to be involved with initially.
“My Manager threw me under the bus!” joked Anthony. “I’d had little involvement in tenpin bowling before working in the Centre, at which time I joined a league with my sons”.
The Bowl Patrol program has positive impacts on participants, centres and those tasked with Lane Ranger duties. Anthony shared what he enjoys about the role and provided advice for those considering becoming a Lane Ranger.
“I enjoy the social aspect as well as the challenge of teaching a variety of children at different levels how to bowl”, explained Anthony. “I think if you enjoy working with children and teaching them new skills, you will be a great fit for the program”.
After a successful term one, Bendigo is ready to go again with Term two. This time running two programs on two different days.
“Our term two registrations are particularly due to word of mouth and showcasing the term one program. However, we are still hitting the pavement and pushing the program,” said Sharon. “Several children have registered to continue in Term 2. We are keen to grow our existing junior league or start an additional league hoping that some of the children will continue bowling”.
The positive results and experiences in Bendigo should be a reminder that success doesn’t occur overnight. Particularly for junior sport participation programs in such a crowded market.
“Growth takes time. Some of the centres that started Bowl Patrol three years ago are now seeing their juniors roll 300 games (e.g. Lachlan at Logan City in QLD). Their junior leagues then start to grow, and the sport’s future looks optimistic,” explained Emily Rennes.
There is no better time to get involved with Bowl Patrol, with sports vouchers available in most states. Bowl Patrol is accepting registrations for Term 2 now! Head to www.bowlpatrol.com.au to see if a program is running close to you.