Ken Wood realizes lawn bowling is competitive. But for him, it’s not about winning.
“I’m not athletic,” he said. “This is about as much athleticism as I’ll get.”
Summer may be gone, but the beautiful weather keeps beckoning East Yorkers to the Cosburn Lawn Bowling Club. And the bowlers aren’t always citizens who are retired. Ron Sellen, owner of the club, said lately the students at Cosburn Middle School, just across the street, have come often for lessons.
“It’s hard to get young people into the sport,” Sellen said. “I didn’t like it when I was young because you have to be quiet. People are concentrating; there’s no place for talking and joking around with your pals.”
The Cosburn Lawn Bowling Club offers free lessons Tuesday and Thursday evenings with seasoned veterans of the sport offering instruction. The club also offers a women-only practice and a men-only practice, as well as a session for players from the LGBTQ community.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable here,” Sellen said. “It’s all about the love of bowling.”
Kyle Knoeck is the founder of the Rainbowlers, an LGBTQ group that bowls every Wednesday evening. Knoeck played in an LGBTQ curling league, and suggested the switch to lawn bowling when some fellow curlers thought they’d like to give it a try. Six years later, Knoeck encourages people of the LGBTQ community to lawn bowl and feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.
“There’s a big social side to (Wednesday night games), and a lot of times it’s more comfortable for lesbian and gays to engage in a sport in a queer environment,” Knoeck said.
The Rainbowlers also help bring in younger members to the club.
Like Sellen, Knoeck acknowledges the stereotype about lawn bowlers often being retired people. But some Rainbowlers are in their 20s; some in their 60s.
“East York isn’t really thought of as a hot spot of queer culture in Toronto, but we are everywhere, so it’s good to have organizations and activities in all parts of the city and not just downtown.”
The lawn bowling is very relaxed. There’s laughing and the odd cheer after an especially good bowl.
“I’m not good at all, but that’s okay around here,” Wood said. “It’s relaxing on a Wednesday; it’s all calm, easy-going people.”