YORKTON - What makes one sport hugely popular and another far less so?
That is a question that I find fascinating even if I have no idea of what a reasonable explanation would be.
So why bring it up in this week’s column?
Well, recently I came across an online mention of Regina’s Jordan Kos, who I imagine most readers will not recognize.
While relatively unknown, Kos has a rather impressive resume having competed at events from Wales to China to Australia.
Kos has also represented Canada through the years, most recently, and significantly at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
By now you are likely wondering what sport Kos excels in?
The answer is lawn bowling which is played around the world, but in relative anonymity here in Canada?
But, why is that the case.
Even Kos herself admits to wondering that, especially given lawn bowling looks very much like a summer version of curling, and curling being rather popular in this country with events regularly broadcast on TV.
“We do compare lawn bowling to curling a lot,” Kos told Yorkton This Week, adding the sport also is similar in ways to bocce. “. . . It’s a more refine version of bocce.”
While curling is played on ice, lawn bowling is on grass.
“It’s almost like a golf green, but shorter than that,” explained Kos.
And, instead of rings, players roll their balls toward a jack, scoring for the ones closes to it at the end of an end.
The balls used in lawn bowling are biased which means they are unsymmetrical in nature. It is a very challenging game as one side of the ball is not proportioned and the ball travels in a curved path – much like a curling rocks moves down the ice sheet. The main objective of the game is to place the ball as close as possible to the target which is called as jack.
Kos said the biased balls “adds an element of skill” to the sport as players must learn how to throw that the ball curves to its target.
“It’s what I find so interesting about the sport.”
So why is lawn bowling not on a level with its cold weather cousin?
Kos said it is something she has thought about, especially since lawn bowling is far more popular in some countries. For example, in Australia the sport is seen like curling is here.
It’s similar is some European countries “where it’s more well-known, more recognized,” said Kos.
In Canada though lawn bowling is seen as something largely a recreation for seniors, admitted Kos.
“We’re trying to change the narrative,” she added. “It’s a sport for youth. It just happens a lot of older people play it too.”
While lawn bowling is often thought of as an activity for seniors here, Kos herself came to the sport at a very young age.
“When I was seven years old,” she said, adding her introduction to the sport was the result of her mother seeing an ad in a school bulletin encouraging young students to try lawn bowling.
Kos said her mother initially thought the ad was out of place thinking as many do lawn bowling is a sport for seniors.
However, “they were actually advertising for a youth program,” said Kos.
So Kos and two cousins went.
“After the first bowls, we were hooked,” she said.
Slowly, the sport is evolving to attract more youth, said Kos.
“I used to run a youth program at the club (Regina Lawn Bowling Club),” said Kos, adding watching youth start just holding the ball and soon “rolling it with such proficiency was a remarkable thing to witness.”
Locally, in Regina one of five clubs in Saskatchewan – two in Saskatoon, North Battleford and Moose Jaw -- Kos said they are seeing recreational play numbers growing too.
It likely helped to have Kos’ success to look at for encouragement.
“I represented Team Canada the first time when I was 14,” she said, adding she has been involved since. She is now still only 22.
Since then Kos has done well in spite of the sport not being widely followed in Canada, highlights including a silver medal in 2015 at the 18th Annual Tiger Bowls and China Open in women's four, and Bowler of the Tournament at the 2019 US Open.
Upcoming Kos will represent Canada at the World Singles Champion of Champions in November 2023, scheduled to be hosted at the Naenae Bowls Club, Lower Hutt in, Wellington, New Zealand.
As for the recent Commonwealth Games, Kos said it was an amazing experience.
“It was insane competition. I did my best to prepare for the tournament,” she said. “I was very fortunate to have had the experience.”