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    This is a question that's been bothering me for some time. It's really been ever since I joined Queanbeyan some 18 months ago. I had just gone from playing a sport that’s taking off in this country in soccer, to a sport whose heady days of the 70's and 80's are long gone.

    I've gone from playing with people my own age to scarcely seeing another teenager in sight. So it got me thinking about how bowls compare to mainstream sports like Cricket, Soccer and AFL when it comes to youth participation. Let's use the AFL as an example. As our most widely recognised sport in Australia and with millions watching their main event each year, it seems appropriate to see how our great sport stacks up to it. The AFL in 2012 released their national participation census and found that overall participation had grown by 6.8% to 844,779. Compare this to Lawn Bowls who had 494,567 followers and a 0.9% increase. So judging that stat alone we can see our sport is stagnating. Youth participation is the area I've focused on in this article and this is why.

    Primary and secondary school participations are where the future of each sport is. Without the young talent coming through there is no way the sport can thrive for the next generation. So it’s a real concern for me with these numbers as a bowls member. 334,713 youths play AFL. That’s 39.6% of the participation. Bowls on the other hand have just 37,987 youths. This is a meagre 7.6% participation.

    That’s disturbing if you ask me and we need to encourage more youths to play the sport. Queanbeyan at the moment have only two juniors and two in their twenties. How many junior TEAMS do you see in say your local football club. Maybe from u7’s through to u16’s, so they could have between five to six teams of 25-30 players. That’s almost 150 juniors!

    So why do so few juniors take up the sport of bowls? Is it the perceived unattractiveness of the game? Do young people find the rules too stringent and not flexible enough? But I do have to say even if bowls doesn't have the quantity of players, they certainly have the quality.

    Take Queanbeyan. We have in our ranks Trent Britton who is representing Australia at an Under 18 level, which is an outstanding achievement. He is also a competent golf player. As long as the sport continues to foster the young talent that community school programs and barefoot days provides, I’m quietly confident bowls can close the gap on the AFL in terms of school participation.

    It may seem a stretch to far but I believe it can be done. Why bowls clubs can’t go and try and poach talented athletes who may be disenchanted with their sport and they can try something different. Bowls is great in that straight away you can play in high level state competitions and learn quickly. Most sports require you to play against people your own age. Not bowls. It allows you to test yourself mentally in ways you couldn't imagine. In my experience so far over half of people who try bowls enjoy the game straight away. But once they leave they rarely give it another crack. How can we bring those first timers back? The answer in my opinion is for the STA’s and Bowls Australia to set up a respectable financial incentive to play the game. I know there is a feeling that there’s no money in bowls, but maybe that can be reversed. Surely mental genius in conquering bowls should be valued more then physical sports like the AFL and other footy codes. The AFL's best player Gary Ablett gets paid 1.5 million a year. What does Mark Casey BA's number 1 single player for 2012 earn?

    - Nathan Savino