On Sunday 16th I was up with the lark and on my way to Wey Valley Indoor Bowls Club in Guildford to officiate at the EBYDS tournament.
EBYDS is the English Bowls Youth Development Scheme, a partnership between the English Indoor B.A. Bowls England, Bowls Coaches and the English Bowls Umpires Association. Its purpose is to provide a pathway to enable children and young people to participate in the Sport of Bowls and to develop their potential to whatever appropriate level they so wish. The Scheme provides a series of County Invitation Singles events followed by Regional Schools of Excellence and then a National School of Excellence. This event at Guildford was one of these regional events.
I was officiating with two colleagues, Ken Bickley and Wendy Dunn. It was an all day event commencing at 9:00am and finishing at 6:00pm - yes we were knackered and so were some of the kids.
The morning was dominated by a round robin mixed singles tournament. Each game was played over 7 ends with player using 3 bowls each. Points were awarded for a win and a draw. The groups were divided into two age groups - 15 to 18 year old and under 15's.
It was incredible to see the little ones, some aged just 6 & 7, competing against the older children. The standard of play was really impressive as well and filled us with hope for the future.
The markers for the tournament were all qualified members of the coaching scheme and really took the time to help the children with their games. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable few hours. Us umpires were also on and off the green constantly and it got the kids used to having officials around helping with their games.
After lunch the coaches set up a number of skills which tested the children's ability to play a range of shots and score points for each skill they did well at. I helped with the measuring of the running bowl skills. A row of 4 bowls were placed just in front of the jack and the players had to play a controlled weight shot to try and disturb the head and get as close to the jack as possible. They scored a maximum of 3 points for getting the shot bowl, 2 points for second bowl and 1 point for third bowl. It was a really difficult skill and one that I admitted to the coach I would struggle at.
Following the skills tests we played the semi-finals of the singles competition with the two age groups playing separately. This was followed by the final. I was honored to mark the final of the seniors (15-18 year old) with both players displaying some excellent skill and an impressive range of shots.
The final formality of the day was to present the trophies and certificates and each child received a medal as well. It looked like they all thoroughly enjoyed it.
It was certainly an eye opener and a fabulous experience for me and it was excellent to see so many talented young players. It just goes to show that this is not "Old Mans Marbles" and the future of the sport is looking great if we can hold on to these guys and girls and develop them in to the top players of the sport.
I would like to thank fellow umpire and organiser of the event, Shirley Clarke for inviting me to officiate on the day and I really hope I can make the date next year.
If you would like to read more about the work of the EBYDS please take a look at the following webpages: