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Changing the game

When it comes to bowling, Rebecca Van Asch, the CEO of Bowls Tasmania, was definitely an early adopter who has developed into a leader, triple world champion and game changer.

As a 10-year-old girl, Rebecca decided rather than sit around and watch her Nan playing bowls, she would also like to start competing. This made Rebecca the only junior girl bowler who had to compete against the junior boys.

Eventually a few more girls started playing bowls and Rebecca was selected for the first junior girls’ team to represent Tasmania at the national championships. Rebecca has represented Tasmania in open competition for 13 years and played about 165 games for Tasmania and about 168 games for Australia.

Rebecca is now focused on preparation for the Commonwealth Games 2018. Her selection for the Commonwealth Games followed her becoming joint Tasmanian Athlete of the Year with rower, Sarah Hawe.

Had the bowling attire of a white dress for women not changed, Rebecca might not have continued playing.

“Bowls has modernised and now has colourful balls. The game is more modern and vibrant and we are treated like athletes,” Rebecca said.

Bowls has also given Rebecca career opportunities.  After graduating from university, Rebecca worked in administration for Bowls Tasmania. She appreciated working for sport the she had grown up with, and supporting the changes and developments that have become part of the sport.

Three years ago, Rebecca was appointed CEO of Bowls Tasmania.

Rebecca is currently one of 10 sportswomen selected for the Australian Institute of Sport Change the Game program. The program pairs 10 elite female athletes with 10 business professionals for a period of 12 months for mutual learning and personal development opportunities.  BlueScope Australia is Rebecca’s mentor.

“Change the Game is an exciting opportunity to go outside one’s own ‘bubble’.  It’s good to be paired up with mentors, speak to other athletes, hear about their training and how they manage the work, life and sport balance,” she said.

When Rebecca visited BlueScope’s Port Kembla plant, in New South Wales, she noted the corporate environment employed a lot of tactics that have parallels with sporting teams, such as working together and working off each other for a common goal.

BlueScope has paired Rebecca with one of its women leaders.  Rebecca is impressed to be learning more about her mentor and observing her team leadership, as BlueScope is predominantly a male workplace manufacturing products for building and construction, automotive, whitegoods and manufacturing applications.

Back at Bowls Tasmania, Rebecca is keen to build women’s participation in playing bowls. Rebecca has worked with WomenSport to build the women’s program and has coached women in bowls.

“Bowls offers a lot of opportunities and is a sport for all ages.  Working women can fit bowls around their work, and the sport has become cooler and more appealing for younger people.”

Rebecca is also keen for bowls to run multicultural programs and programs for people with disability. The first multicultural Come and Try Bowls program was piloted in southern Tasmania in 2017, with Rebecca wanting to extend the program to the north in 2018.

“Bowls is a sport you can probably play forever and be as social and competitive as you like.”

With the Commonwealth Games starting on 4 April 2018, Rebecca is dedicated to her professional commitments and training. Bowlers must complete drills and fitness requirements, send monthly reports and constantly report to the manager.

While it’s challenging training as a full-time athlete and working full-time, Rebecca is disciplined with time management, has set a strict calendar and also blocked out time for family life and down-time.