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Indoor Lawn Bowling Scores With Disabled

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Lawn bowling has come to Temple City High School--by way of Tasmania.

The result has been a new enthusiasm and boost in morale for students in the school’s adaptive physical education class, especially among those who aren’t able to compete in more traditional organized sports.

What they are playing at this San Gabriel Valley school is a scaled-down, indoor version of regular lawn bowling. Few of the more than 10,000 lawn bowlers in the United States are aware of this indoor adaptation of the sport, although more than 70,000 of the quarter-sized playing surfaces are in use in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s a competitive game in which most of these young people with a variety of physical handicaps or learning disabilities can become proficient enough to hold their own with anyone,” said Allen Langdale, who coaches the bowling sessions three times a week in the campus gymnasium.

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How the game found its way to suburban Temple City involves Arthur W. (Bill) Newlon, 66, a retired U.S. Navy captain who lives in Arcadia. After friends introduced him to the game, Newlon became fascinated by lawn bowling and its mystique and soon took on distributing lawn-bowling equipment for an Australian company. Among the background material the company sent him was an Australian magazine article describing how the smaller indoor version of the game had been introduced in Tasmanian schools--including a school for developmentally disabled children.

Friend Recruited

So after learning about Temple City High’s adaptive physical education class, Newlon approached the school about offering indoor lawn bowling. To assist him in the project, Newlon recruited his friend Dick Cross, a member of the Santa Anita Bowling Green Club in Arcadia County Park.

Five boys and five girls are enrolled in the class. John Fenton, 17, a senior and defensive tackle on the school’s football team, serves as student aide. On a recent morning, Fenton helped Newlon and Cross unroll the green playing “carpet,” which is 6 feet wide and 30 feet long. (Regular grass greens measure about 120 by 120 feet and can accommodate eight games simultaneously, since the bowling lanes or “rinks” used during a game are only about 15 feet wide.)

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The informal class routine now involves a minimum of one-on-one instruction prior to choosing sides for brief games of pairs--two players on a team.

The precision-designed bowls used in regular lawn bowling have a built-in bias. In rolling the bowl toward the target jack, a player has to judge how far right or left to aim. Although the indoor bowls are smaller than those used outside, the same challenge of a curving course has to be conquered for success each turn during a game.

Bane of All Beginners

To cope with this factor, which is the bane of all beginning lawn bowlers, 16-year-old Ricardo Mero, who is blind, is aided by feeling and noting the direction of a “guide” object his sighted instructor points in the right direction and places on the mat beside him before each roll, if necessary. After the first roll Ricardo usually corrects each succeeding bowl based on reports from his instructor or teammates telling him where the previous bowl went.

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Before the experiment with bowling, adaptive physical education activities at Temple High stressed racquetball, basketball and weight training. The latter two continue to fill the Tuesday and Thursday periods.

“Where possible, the weights program is aimed at correcting physical problems,” Langdale said. “The basketball doesn’t involve full court games. Mostly the ones who can do it just shoot baskets or play a little two-on-two.”

The indoor lawn bowling game, coach Langdale said, “gives these students a chance to compete in a sport which is being played by thousands of people who are not handicapped. It gives them motivation for sharpening their skill.”


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