Stewart bringing in the next generation

by Val Febbo

National initiatives are making inroads at increasing participation levels among younger Australians, but certain BCiB Australian Jackaroos have elected to take measures into their own hands to do their part.

National representative Chloe Stewart recently demonstrated her desire to engage young people in the sport, when she took it upon herself to encourage two children from Taroom in Queensland’s Condamine District, more than a six hour drive from the 25-year-old’s home club of Tweed Heads.

Just prior to last month’s Australian Open, ten-year-old Summer-Jane Kehl and her eight-year-old brother Costa were invited by the three-time Bowls Premier League champion to Paradise Point Bowls Club to roll up and get some tips for their budding games, as well as some personal memorabilia.

“I actually became friends with their mum Delacey, who is a bowler, and she mentioned that the kids were thinking of taking up the sport,” Stewart said.

“They came down for holidays on the Gold Coast and we met up at Paradise Point, had a roll with them and gave them some tips.

“They also came down to Tweed Heads and Delacey came and watched us in the final at Club Pine Rivers in BPL13, so after the match I gave her the medal and said take it back to the kids because they will love it.”

For Summer-Jane, it was a dream come true to practice with one of her sporting idols, as well as getting the edge over the Jackaroo in a game of left-handed bowls.

“I loved it, getting to play beside my idol, she really inspires me, she’s just so down to earth and really cool” Kehl said.

“I even managed to beat her at left-handed bowls, which was awesome.”

It has been two years since she first picked up a bowl to roll down the green, which seemed destined to occur, given the family home and Taroom Bowls Club share a driveway.

“I started playing when I was eight after mum played in the State Championships fours and told me about her experience,” she said.

“I get to meet new people and play throughout the week, as well as social bowls every weekend; I love it.”

As for Stewart, mentoring the next generation of players is one of her goals for the future, outlining the importance of changing the stereotype of the average bowler.

“At Tweed, I’ve just started coaching a couple of juniors which is something we weren’t really doing, so every Wednesday night we get a few of the kids along,” Stewart said.

“We train for an hour or so and it feels awesome to be a part of that and it really is cool.

“With tournaments like the BPL and Australian Open and the more TV coverage and streaming, it’s really helping the game evolve to get the younger demographic on board.

“I do believe that Bowls Australia’s Rookie Rollers and Sporting Schools programs are all contributing to getting younger kids playing.”

For Delacey Kehl, she could not be happier for her children to be mentored and guided in the sport by Stewart, labelling her positive mindset as a key factor as to why she is an inspiration for them.

“Full credit to Chloe for being that inspiration for the kids in wanting to play bowls,” she said.

“She is an inspiration because of her attitude as well, she is modest and down to earth, she inspires adults with those features just as much as she does children.”