Some of Bayswater Bowling Club’s greens are now used for roller hockey. (Facebook: Street roller hockey league)
A Perth lawn bowls club that faced closure due to an ageing membership and rising costs has become a thriving community social hub, thanks in part to the conversion of some of its greens to rollerskating rinks.
Mark Cameron, the vice-president of Bayswater Bowling Club, told ABC Radio Perth Focus that closing down was a real possibility seven years ago.
“If it wasn’t for the major uproar from the community in Bayswater in being extremely vocal, I think it would have been a done deal,” he said.
“We had fewer bowls players and the costs associated with running a bowls club is something that gets on top of many of the small clubs in Australia.”
The key to staying open was not to encourage more people to take up lawn bowls, but to open up the club to different sports and introduce social memberships that allowed people to come, even if they weren’t playing sport.
Homeless roller hockey meets struggling bowls club
While the bowling club was looking for a way to survive, Eamonn Lourey, co-founder of the Street Roller Hockey League (SRHL), was searching for a place to play.
“One of the hardest things about being a new sport is finding venues,” Mr Lourey said of his game, which involves playing a form of ice hockey on rollerblades.
“We were playing on tennis and basketball courts, often with different levels of approval from council.
“We got kicked off so many courts that we decided we had to build our own.”
Many older bowling clubs are looking for new ways to attract members. (720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne)
That’s how the Bayswater club came to convert two of its greens into a roller hockey pitch that not only now hosts the SRHL games but also roller derbies, skating for kids and, most recently, basketball.
Another disused green has been given over to a community garden project.
“The view is community over commerce; they need to become hubs, community hubs,” Mr Cameron said.
Reducing pressure on members
Reducing its reliance on volunteers to do the day-to-day operations has also been key to the bowling club’s revival.
“There is more a focus on running it as a business with certain goals and being able to be in a position to reinvest in the club,” Mr Cameron said.
“With bowls, we have halved the fees for next year on the basis that they don’t need to worry about it.”
Junior sports clubs struggle to get parents involved and keep the organisations going. (ABC News: Jen Browning)
Volunteer burnout and a shortage of people putting their hand up to help is the biggest issue for many junior sports clubs.
Simon Glossop has been helping at the Morley Bayswater Junior Cricket Club for 10 years, but several years ago the club almost folded due to a lack of volunteers.
“We couldn’t form a committee,” Mr Glossop said.
“Parents cycle out when their kids get older so you always need new people coming in and that is where junior clubs struggle.
“We didn’t have a president, we didn’t have a secretary or a registrar and all hands down at the AGM.”
He is expecting the same problem when the current group of parents move on in a year or two.
“A lot of people would rather just pay money and not have to do it,” Mr Glossop said.
“You get drained with the constant struggle of trying to convince someone that if they don’t do it, who else is going to do it?”
It’s a frustration shared by a number of listeners to ABC Radio Perth:
Mike: “I was on the committee of an amateur footy club. It was hard work as the amount of whingeing and moaning was astonishing. Endless criticism by people who never lifted a thing to help, complaints about everything from the price of sausage rolls to who washed the team jumpers. Absolutely exhausting and demoralising.”
Graham: “I’m a member of both a swim club and a surf club. I find that it is approximately 0.5 per cent of the membership that run the respective clubs. Trying to get more volunteers to put their hand up is impossible.”
Sarah McDonald, the director of lifesaving at Coogee Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, said it had solved the issue of volunteer burnout by asking for less.
“Our volunteer base is quite high,” Ms McDonald said.
“We restructured a lot of our board structure and our committees so we that developed more roles.
“They are smaller roles but more people doing them so we can remove that burnout.”