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The Story of Lawn Bowling

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Irene Lambert is a member of the NFB:AE's Board of Directors, and was a charter member and the first president of the Quebec Blind Lawn Bowling Association.

Lawn Bowling Blind? You bet! It's fun, it's fresh air and sunshine, friendships, skills and strategies with exercise and if you choose to compete and lucky enough to win a gold or silver medal you could be traveling to distant lands.

All you need to get started is to find a club in your area. Before you set foot on the bowling greens you will need a pair of flat smooth soled shoes and a set of bowls. Why bowls and not balls? You will soon learn that your set of four bowls is not exactly spherical. In fact, they are flatter on two sides and weighted so, that depending on how you deliver it, it should go in a straight line for some distance, and then take a turn to the right or to the left depending upon the bias with which you sent it up the green. A particular emblem or design is embossed on each side of the bowl which identifies the bias and the fact that this set is yours.

Lawn bowling is a sport with a long history, which was brought to Canada primarily from the United Kingdom. The old popular image of those who lawn bowl is that of ladies and gentlemen dressed in all white sports clothes standing at the end of a very highly groomed lawn at a lawn bowling club. Today, in Canada, you will see coloured shirts, brown or black shoes and more baseball caps decorated with club pins rather than sun bonnets. When in action one of the group will step on a mat and roll a small hard, white ball, known as a jack, down the green. Once the ball is centered from side to side of the grass rink and the distance from the player on the mat is determined the player will then pick up one of his or her bowls and roll it down the green with the intention of getting it as close to the jack as possible.

Then, each of the other players will take their turn rolling their bowl down the green until all of the bowls have been played. When the last bowl has been delivered all players walk briskly to the head to judge who will win the points. The score is recorded; the bowls are gathered and hustled to the opposite end of the rink where the play is started again. This game is continued from end to end of the rink until either a certain number of ends have been played or a specific score has been attained by either a player or the teams participating.

This game of lawn bowls has over time undergone some modifications. One significant change has been to adapt it to the needs of blind and vision-impaired people. However, sighted and blind people seldom lawn bowl together. The casual observer may not immediately recognize the blind players' vision limitations as the quality of play may be as good or better than that of many sighted bowlers. As in all blind sports the players will be assigned to one of three categories determined by their amount or degree of existing sight. Those with no sight will be B-1's and will have a coach-director assisting with choosing the most strategic grass line to get the bowl up to the jack. They will also gather and separate the bowls and guide the player down the rink or onto the mat. The B-2 and B-3 people will each have a coach-director but will need somewhat less guidance during the game.

Another noticeable difference between sighted and blind games might be a nylon cord stretched along the ground down the middle line of each rink and nailed to the ground at each end. This serves to identify the center of the rink for choosing a grass line, to deliver the bowl or for centering the jack. A marker will be assigned to each rink who will center the jack, clear bowls from the green that have gone out of bounds and most importantly communicate to players how far the jack has been thrown or which bowl is the "shot". All other rules of play are identical to lawn bowls convention.

Altogether there are approximately two to three hundred blind lawn Bowlers in Canada. They belong to clubs at various venues and as individual competitors they will join their blind sports association at the local and provincial levels. The provincial associations are under the aegis of the Canadian Blind Sports Association, which serves as a regulatory commission for all blind sports and officially sponsors championship tournaments. Nine of our provinces have a registered association of blind lawn bowlers.

BC has the most players using 10 to 12 different venues. Each of the other provinces has from one to three venues registered. Every provincial association holds playoffs to determine who will represent them at the Canadian Championships. These national tournaments are held annually, hosted by a different province each year. Medal winners at the national championships become members of the Canadian national team and are then eligible to attend the World Blind Bowling Tournaments, held every four years and sponsored by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA). There are also invitational tournaments in various countries around the world.

According to IBSA, blind lawn bowling was introduced to international competition in South Africa in 1977, with six English speaking countries participating. The World Blind Lawn Bowls Tournaments now have ten countries competing including Israel and Hong Kong. "The World's" were held this year (August 2001) in Scotland. IBSA claims there are some 5,000 blind lawn bowlers registered around the globe making it the largest outdoor sport.

Many communities nowadays are finding lawn-bowling greens costly because of their high maintenance, especially with our unpredictable weather in Canada. Here and there, we are beginning to see indoor facilities opening with artificial surfaces. This could be the wave of the future for lawn bowling. So, why not get out and join the healthy outdoor comradery while you can? Check out your nearest community lawn bowling club and as we say with a handshake before starting to play, "Good game!"


The last year that CBSA did Canadian Championship was 2009 and now the BBAC (Blind Bowls of Canada) has developed a structure to represent the Canadian Blind Lawn Bowlers in Canada and internationally will be a pretty good movement for everyone. They really need to improve the situation
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Irene, a good coverage of Blind Lawn Bowls in Canada but as you did the reporting in 2001, a lot has changed. The last year that CBSA did Canadian Championship was 2009 and now the BBAC (Blind Bowls of Canada) has developed a structure to respresent the Canadian Blind Lawn Bowlers in Canada and Internationally.
Today, we have come a long way, thanks to pioneers like you and Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC). On behalf of all Blind Lawn Bowlers and organizations working today.. Thank you Irene.
John,(MBLBA) Maritime Blind Lawn Bowls Assoc 2012

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