Former Queensland police Sergeant Darryl Coventry is on a mission to create a national lawn bowling initiative which aims to provide support for both current and former defence personnel, emergency services personnel, front line medical professionals and members of volunteer organisations who struggle with their mental health issues. The ‘Bowls Gr8 for brains’ project was the result of Darryl’s own battle with post-traumatic stress and depression.
After 16 years of policing, Darryl joined Australia’s Maritime and Aviation Search and Rescue Coordination Centre and was directly involved in the planning and coordination of major maritime search and rescue operations both domestically and abroad. Although his career had been rapidly progressing, he knew something had changed for him internally.
“My career was booming, but PTSD was picking away on the inside and I chose to ignore it,” Darryl said.
It all came to a head in December 2013, when he suffered a major life change. “In effect, I had a total burnout,” Darryl said.
“For the majority of 2014 and 2015, I was in and out of mental health facilities. “My partner left me, taking both of our two young children and most of my assets in the process.”
Darryl says his story is not an unusual one among many of the country’s wounded warriors.
“Unfortunately during that period I lost a number of former colleagues and friends to suicide, I even had a few goes myself,” Darryl said.
“Then one day near the end of 2015, I walked into a bowling club.
“Bowls became my go-to, it was my therapy and it provided me with a way to relearn about real life every-time I played.
“It did things the medical system could not, It made me feel alive again.”
Now Darryl believes bowls can help assist the recovery of others in the same way it has helped him.
“Bowls helps you reconnect with society and this is important when you’re dealing with mental health issues, you can often lose your confidence and you start to feel isolated,” he said.
“Bowls gives you something to focus on and help divert the brain’s attention away from traumatic memories and brings people into the moment, it also allows you to communicate and bond with other people in a safe setting.”
Darryl said there is plenty of medical evidence supporting the fact that physical exercise, being in a social environment and focusing on activities are great pathways to recovery.
“Lawn Bowls is one of many activities that combines these elements and brings a gentler exercise option for those who may also be challenged with injury or disability,” Darryl said.
“Our aim is to take this nationwide, to create that sense of community for our veterans.”
The programme’s launch day will be on November, 1 at Lavington Bowls club.
“The day will stand as a celebration of our people, it will be an opportunity for them to try bowls and be supported by some of the best bowlers in Australia along the way,” Darryl said.
The free five-hour event will include basic coaching from professional bowlers (with bowls supplied), catering and free play which will include a presentation of prizes and awards. There will also be a provision of medical experts to teach and assist anybody should it be necessary.
After the pilot, in partnership with interested organisations, coaches and medical experts, Darryl says the project’s team will develop a two to three day a week bowling programme. This plan is being conducted in partnership with professional support from the Albury RSL and New South Wales Police amongst others as well as private sponsorship from within the bowls community. Darryl said his long term vision is to turn the project into a non-profit organisation, which he says will be pioneering as it will finally pool a network of support programmes into one focused point, this will afford people the opportunity to access to help while also playing an engaging sport. If you would like more information on how to get involved head to the ‘Bowls Gr8 for Brains’ Facebook Page (@BowlsGr8forBrains).