Most sports, especially bowls, face immense challenges as work and social environments change and in what is becoming an increasingly professional era.
But Bowls North Harbour can take some assurance that with the appointment as its new secretary-events manager Shane Gibson it has someone who from personal experience and his own professional training is superbly equipped to meet some of those challenges.
Not only has Gibson been an excellent bowler himself, and is well versed in sports management, but he has also endured so much in his own life that anything sport’s administration will throw up will seem minor.
Gibson, in achieving so much on the bowls green, has been something of a medical marvel. In 2007 the then 30-year underwent both heart and kidney transplants.
These came after a lifetime of health battles which started with a rare blood disorder in his childhood. By 11 he had had a marrow transplant and various radiation and chemotherapy treatments so weakened his organs that before he was 30 he had suffered 12 heart attacks and had had 11 stents inserted.
He was on dialysis for 18 months and one of his proudest boasts has been winning the Birkenhead singles in 2006, beating such top players as Colin Rogan, Rod Mahon and Mark Rumble while on dialysis.
As a youngster he had been a promising tennis player and it was because of his health he switched in 2000 to the gentler exercise in bowls.
One of the great assets of bowls, he believes, is that it can be played by those who like him have had health issues and by men and women of all ages. It’s also perhaps the only one sport where on a given day an average player can occasionally beat a champion.
Gibson has had a good share of bowls success, having won several club titles and been a Harbour centre representative at both junior and open levels. But he also has felt first hand some of the frustrations the game can bring.
Despite having made six finals he has never won a centre title and his knockbacks have extended to national levels. In 2010 he and his Birkenhead club-mate, the late Rod Mahon, were narrowly beaten in the New Zealand Opens pairs final at Henderson and in the Open that year he also made the singles semi-finals and triples quarter-finals.
His bowls background has been supplemented by his academic feats: a degree in Business studies from Massey University and lecturing roles at AUT and Unitec in sports management and academic literacy. He also spent a year working as a development officer with Bowls New Zealand.
As a semi-fulltime employee with Bowls North Harbour Gibson says is fully aware that he will be working alongside affiliated clubs who almost without exception are run by volunteers.
And for the sport as a whole the most pressing challenge is that faced by even the major codes, trying to arrest declining playing numbers and memberships. “I believe Bowls New Zealand and Bowls North Harbour are moving along the right lines in finding new ways to help grow the sport,” he says.
It is only a personal viewpoint, he emphasises, but as with other centres in New Zealand some clubs need to think about their future and if need be to consider possible amalgamations.
That, of course, is something which can’t be imposed from above.
But while the challenges are formidable Gibson remains optimistic about bowls’ future. Given his background and experiences he can hardly be anything else.