Bendigo woman encourages a new generation of bowlers
COMPETING against the best is what most athletes strive for.
As the saying goes, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best.
Bendigo bowler Susan Howes says she grew up having a competitive edge.
She always wanted to be the best sportsperson she can be.
The 61-year-old has had a decorated bowls career in the past 20 years, winning championships across the city.
However the wins are not what matters most for Howes.
She is encouraging young people, the next generation, to play bowls.
“I try to promote and get women involved with bowls,” Howes said.
We have to change our thinking and give young people as much opportunity as possible to play at the highest level
“We have seen clubs go down in the past by not encouraging and bringing on young people.
“You have to give the next generation a go.”
Howes said there weren’t a lot of Bendigo youngsters playing bowls.
“We have about half a dozen under 25 and they are workers, they are students,” she said.
“They don’t get a lot of opportunities so we have to change our thinking and give young people as much opportunity as possible to play at the highest level.
“It is supposed to be more unified now, so everybody should be given the opportunity to play.”
Howes, who is involved with the bowls match committee, said as a sport in Bendigo, that attitude towards bowls needed to be changed.
“At this stage it (playing bowls during the day) is disadvantaging these young people,” she said.
“In Melbourne and in a lot of other regions they actually play their state events at twilight and on the weekends.
“We do it for the men, we need to do the same thing for the women.”
Howes said more should be done to support bowlers over the age of 25.
"There is so much money pumped into the junior level but in doing that they are not giving anything to people over the age of 25," she said.
"It is a great game but I believe junior players need to be playing with their peers in their age group.
"Nine, 10-year-olds are playing with 60, 70-year-old players.
"I don’t like it.
"They have great junior competitions but sometimes people forget the everyday grassroot bowler."
Howes has always had a strong passion for bowls.
She said that passion was ignited when she moved to the city.
“I started playing bowls in Alexandra and I only started because my husband Geoff played,” Howes said.
“I had two little children at that stage and I was just played some social games.”
After her husband lost his job, the Howes family decided they needed to move, they decided they needed a fresh start in another city.
“My sister was moving to Bendigo and we are pretty close to her family so we gave Bendigo a go and it is the best thing we ever did,” she said.
“Having two little children at that stage, the city offered everything.
“My husband was out of work for a couple of years but he picked up work.
“The kids started school at Kennington and preschool.
“Everything was in Bendigo.”
Howes said it was then when her kids were settled, back in 1995, when she began to seriously play bowls.
She began playing for Woodbury.
“I played there for two years, I played in their division five side the first year and then their top division the next,” Howes said.
“I won the club championship.”
Despite winning the prestigious club championship, Howes’ competitive hunger continued to burn.
She wanted to play in a higher level, against Bendigo’s best.
“I wanted to play top bowls so me and my husband decided to move to white hills and at that stage white hills had a very strong team,” Howes said.
“We won the pennant in 1999.”
As well as playing the game she loved, Howes also began working with the non-emergency patient transport ambulance.
Howes said she was trying to find the balance between working and playing bowls competitively.
“I was working and playing bowls at the same time,” she said.
“It restricted my bowls for a while.”
“I couldn’t play pennant for one or two seasons because I was working fulltime so I was one of the first ladies to play Saturday pennant in Bendigo.
“I played that for 12 months and then I went back to work part time so I could go back to play pennant on Mondays.”
After 12 years of working with the patient transport ambulance, Howes decided to retire.
She then moved onto the Bendigo East Bowling Club.
“I still wanted to play and keep competing at that high level,” she said.
“I spent 12 months in their second division side before moving up.
“We won three pennants in a row and we went to the state level in Benalla and finished equal third.”
Howes said the club’s biggest opposition in the last few years has been the Golden Square Bowling Club.
“We have a great rivalry with those girls,” she said.
“If you follow the history of bowls since 2000 Bendigo and Golden Square have maintained that top position whereas other clubs have fallen away.”
Since being at Bendigo East, Howes has won three club championships, adding more awards to her growing cabinet.
As well as competing in Bendigo’s highest division, Howes also works with Bowls Victoria.
She is the regional representative for Bendigo.
“I attend meetings with Bowls Victoria, different representatives from different regions come together and bring their concerns up,” Howes said.
“We keep in contact and keep up-to-date with what is happening.”
Howes said growing up she didn’t encourage her two children Brooke and Nathan to play bowls.
“We didn’t let our children take it up but now my daughter Brooke has taken the sport up,” she said.
“She just finished equal third in the state and she has only just started playing.
“She began playing because her partner plays bowls.”
Howes’ husband Geoff is still heavily involved with the sport, she said he is still working fulltime and is also the secretary of the Bendigo Bowls Division.
“He played bowls with his father, brother and uncle in a premiership and that was a pretty special moment for him,” she said.
The retiree is now ready for an action-packed 2014.
“I am pretty tied up because I don’t just play bowls in Bendigo I play in Melbourne for Glenroy as well,” she said.
“Bendigo East is on the top of the ladder here and Glenroy is on the top of the ladder there.
“Every Tuesday I go down to Melbourne and play.
“It works on a permit system; some of the girls come and play up here too.”
Howes has also received her bowls coaching accreditation.
“I have got my coaching accreditation this year, so I will be doing a bit of coaching within the club,” she said.
“I am willing to help anyone.”
Howes has had a stellar bowls career.
She credits her success to her desire to be the best.
"I have seen the best from the best and I have seen the worst from the best," Howes said.
"I like playing against the best and beating them.
"Anyone on the green can be beaten."
Howes said her aim this year was to continue her good form with the Bendigo East Bowling Club.
“We are on top in division one pennant,” she said.
“We are doing really well; we have a stable and competitive team.”