Bowls champion overcame mental block to realise dreams

Bowls champion overcame mental block to realise dreams

By Megan Armitage

Bowls England's Kirsty Richards overcame her fear of letting go to become an international athlete.

The 30-year-old from Leamington Spa represented England at the 2018 World Champion of Champions in Sydney after winning her first National Singles title the year prior.

But Richards admitted that she almost never stepped foot on the green in 2017 after a difficult case of the 'yips' almost saw her step away from sport.

"When I played in the National Singles back in 2017, I was suffering with a condition called 'yips'," she said.

"It's a mental thing where you cannot let go of the ball but it really affected my performance at the national juniors a week before.

"I felt really embarrassed as lots of people were there watching and I remember saying to my mum that I couldn't do that again and nearly gave up.

"But I told myself that I still needed to go to senior nationals and ended up going and winning."

Richards overcame her greatest challenge to clinch the national title and seal herself a spot on the plane to Sydney, where she reached the final and relieved the pressure she had put on herself.

She added: "I put a lot of pressure on myself and that is what fed into my 'yips'.

"As I've carried on, I've learnt to not put that pressure on myself and enjoy it more and more. Any medals that happen are a bonus."

Richards picked up the sport on a whim on a family holiday as a child and hasn't looked back.

The bowler has become one of the biggest advocates for encouraging more young players to get involved in the sport and break the stigma that bowls is for the older generation, with her idea of blasting music over the green just one of her plans to draw newcomers into the sport.

"Realistically, the young bowlers are the future and they are the ones who will stay in the sport," added Kernick, speaking as part of Bowls’ Big Weekend.

“It's about attracting them. No one is going to come if there's radio silence so we need to be playing some music and getting tunes on at national finals.

"If people are walking through the park and hearing music they're automatically going to be drawn in and want to know what's going on."

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