Doing sport differently: Bowling with babies
Bowling with babies is a great example of creating an engaging, sociable activity which meets specific needs of new parents, while also benefiting sport clubs and communities.
- Know your participants’ needs and be innovative
- Create social pathways for your sport
- Use partnerships strategically to reach your audience
- Offer value to and make it easy for clubs who deliver the program
What is Bowling with babies?
Bowling with babies is a family-friendly, non-competitive sport program that increases women’s participation in lawn bowls, uses bowling facilities on weekdays (when they are usually quiet), and turns bowling clubs into a social hub for the community.
The two-hour program includes 45 minutes of bowling, with the rest of the time spent on socialisation, wellness and coffee.
Bowling Victoria (BV) developed the program with support from VicHealth’s Active Women and Girls Program, and works closely with maternal child health nurses, bloggers and parenting websites to promote it.
BV trains volunteers, normally club members and retirees, to run Bowling with babies sessions. They don’t have to be expert bowlers, but are welcoming, supportive and engaging, and understand the needs of new parents.
Since its establishment in 2017, more than 700 women have participated in Bowling with babies across 25 Victorian locations. BV do not see the program as a pathway to pennant bowls. To provide ongoing opportunities, BV are encouraging clubs to run social Mums on the Green sessions at night and on weekends, so parents can come without children, bring partners and continue playing after they return to work.
What are Bowling with babies’ benefits?
Bowling with babies offers new parents a safe, comfortable and welcoming place to go to get out of the house, socialise, drink coffee and be active. It focuses on social interaction, support and activity, rather than competitive bowling.
It also benefits bowling clubs and the sport overall by promoting clubs as community social hubs, increasing social memberships and participation in the sport, and using otherwise underused facilities. In addition, parents then also often use the clubs for private events, which increases financial benefits for clubs.
Why is Bowling with babies successful?
Through consulting with them, BV developed a program that understands the challenges and needs of new parents and addresses these. Programs provide change tables, play pens and understand that the wellbeing of the baby is paramount. They also appreciate the effort for new parents to get out of the house and the need for social interaction.
Bowling with babies uses existing but underused facilities, so no significant new resources were needed. It has turned clubs into community hubs and increased memberships, participation and events, giving clubs a social and financial boost.
BV partnered with organisations that have experience and resources to develop and promote the program. Maternal child health nurses, refer parents to the program, and ‘mummy bloggers’ and other relevant parenting websites to promote the program to the target audience.