BOWLING is a sport enjoyed by millions around the world, but what many don’t realise is that you don’t have to be able to see to play.
Bowling is an activity that can be fully enjoyed by people with visual impairments, and all you need is a piece of string and the right coaching. Cumbernauld Indoor Bowling Club has recently begun supporting blind bowlers and hopes to soon qualify for membership in The Scottish Association for Blind Bowlers which currently boasts 12 clubs around Scotland.
Coach Doreen Strachan is working to help establish blind bowling at the Cumbernauld club, and currently works with a small group of ladies while also helping train other coaches in the ways the game is adapted.
Doreen said: “The game is based around a clock system where the jack is the centre of a clock face. Twelve o’clock is directly behind the jack and six o’clock is directly in front of it. A ‘marker’ player will call out the final positions of each bowl using this system and the visually impaired bowler is thus able to picture the game in their head.”
The other biggest modification to the way the game is played is that a piece of string is laid along the carpet, which helps the bowler to estimate how strong they need to make their shot.
One of the blind bowlers at Cumbernauld, Janet McLelland, started playing bowls 40 years ago but had given up due to her declining eyesight. She feels the sport has helped boost her confidence.
“I was listening to my talking newspaper and Doreen had an announcement on it saying she was looking to set up a bowling club for people with a visual impairment, so I thought I’d come along and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying myself so far.”
Eleanor Clark is the furthest-travelled of Cumbernauld’s blind bowlers so far. Not only does she live in Kirkcaldy, but she has also participated in competitions in locations such as Sri Lanka and South Africa.
However, while glamourous travel opportunities are avaialable to dedicated enthusiasts It doesn’t cost a lot of money to get started playing bowls, and the kit is the same whether you have a visual impairment or not - there’s no need to spend money on special modifications. New bowlers are discouraged from spending money on bowls as it usually takes a fair bit of experimentation to determine which type of bowl is best for a particular player. Doreen will be happy to arrange “taster” sessions for visually impaired people who wish to try the sport.
Cumbernauld Indoor Bowling Club hosts visually impaired bowling sessions on Thursdays. For details call 01236 727852. The club is also recruiting sighted volunteer coaches.