Traditionally there has always been a president at a lawn bowling club with two vice-presidents: one gentleman and one lady. The Ladies’ President was until recently an important and influential position, but with the blurring of roles in recent years the duties of a Ladies’ President have been forgotten in many clubs. And yet she plays an important role, and her duties must be done, if not by her than by someone else. She is perfectly positioned to take charge of these duties, however. These add up to keeping the lady members happy and involved. Here is a round-up of her duties:
The Ladies’ President is the softer face of the club and should be the face of welcome too. During tournaments and where teams and players visit the club, she should greet players at the door and point out where entrance fees can be paid, where the cloakrooms are and announce that tea is waiting for them – that kind of thing. The Ladies’ President has a public liaision function at such times.
The kitchen in a bowling club is more than a place for making tea and preparing meals. It is an income earner for the club. Bowlers jump at the chance to enter tournaments at clubs with a record of good catering. Usually the Ladies’ President is in charge of the kitchen. It is her duty to involve as many members as possible in running the kitchen. These can be men too, but in the real world it is the ladies who do the work in the kitchen. A tight and happy kitchen crew is a great asset to a club.
The renting of the bowls club facilities often fall to the Ladies’ President as this often involves the kitchen and its equipment. Sometimes the club does the catering too – for a profit, or course.
Nothing tastes better than a nice cup of tea during the break at social bowls (or during a competition). Until recent years there used to be a tea-time roster so that the ladies knew who would be on tea duty. This has largely fallen from favour as members do not want to commit themselves to a slot during the week. However, a Ladies’ President should do her best to involve everyone in presenting tea. Even some men have been known to pour tea…
Traditionally the Ladies’ President, or someone deputised by her, made the announcements at tea-time – announcements such as competition results, upcoming competitions, club plans, birthdays, etc. Whatsapp has obliterated this function, which is a pity but it is a reality. Where announcements are made at teatime they should be well-planned: say everything that can be said on Whatsapp and more. Allow members to make comments and ask questions during announcements.
In my opinion, this is a vital role for the Ladies’ President. When a member is ill at home or in hospital, it is she who should phone and visit the member. A Whatsapp is not sufficient. Where there is serious illness or a slow recovery from and operation, a card and flowers are in order, paid by the club (or picked in a member’s garden if you are lucky). Until a paid-up member dies, he remains a full member. Another important area is retired members. They may no longer be members, but if they were part of the club for twenty or thirty years then they should be considered part of the club. A call or a visit now and again is in order, and then a report back to the club on their welfare.
In practice, the Ladies’ President has to make sure that the cloakrooms are kept in good order: clean, smell free, adequate towels, soap, toilet rolls, etc. This should not be left to cleaners or other members, particularly during tournaments. A quick tour of the cloakrooms, at least by someone designated, is an important duty. A first aid kit for the ladies, kept in the ladies cloakroom, is much appreciated by all. This is quite apart from the club’s First Aid kit, which is usually held in the office or behind the bar.
A club where the ladies are united is a happy club. Obviously people do have their friendship circles, but where cliques develop this can lead to unhappiness in the club, especially when it comes to apportioning duties and the selection of league and other teams. It will take all the social skills of the Ladies’ President to unify the ladies. There are also shy people among the ladies who should be encouraged to enter competitions. The Ladies’ President should herself invite such a player herself to join in the fun.
The men in the club tend to overwhelm the ladies in the club when it comes to planning and decision-marking. This is a natural tendency, but if it is allowed to persist then the ladies start to feel sidelined and excluded. It is up to the Ladies’ President to work for the cause of the ladies in as many ways as possible e.g. not letting the men play apart from the women incessantly; not forgetting about Ladies’ Days, which are popular and played by both men and women (it’s a nice touch when the men do the catering, or at least part of the catering, for the day); and celebrating the achievements of women members e.g. tournament places, passing of technical and coaching courses, etc.
If a lady wears inappropriate clothing (skimpy or the wrong club clothes or any other variation) then the Ladies’ President should take the player aside to mention this. Other inappropriate clothing could be a ragged T-shirt instead of a golf-shirt with a collar; tight jeans or shorts; sandals or shoes that could damage the green. But clothing is delicate matter. One does not want to chase away a 15-year-old due to inappropriate clothing. Only members who should really know better and who really present a unappealing sight should be cautioned.
Five areas of financial management are vital for the Ladies’ President:
- Petty cash. There should be detailed record-keeping with signing and countersigning. The Ladies’ President works with the Treasurer
- Committee-agreed rental ratecard for renting out facilities e.g. whole club, whole club with cleaners, braai area only, braai area and one green, braai area including braai wood, etc.
- An inventory of kitchen and housekeeping equipment, which should be updated every six months or so
- Budgets. These include general housekeeping and kitchen consumables as well as inventory replacements e.g. teaspoons, plates, kettles, etc. Make sure there is sufficient budget when it comes to planning for the year ahead.
- Kitchen staff. Often clubs have part-time or permanent workers. Like it or not, it’s the Ladies’ President will end up managing such staff. As every, keep your own detailed and countersigned records of hours worked, wages paid, etc. Don’t leave it to someone else.
Conflict among lady members does not often happen but when it does it can be nasty. If the Ladies’ President feels that getting in the middle of this just makes matters worse, she can ask to the Committee to select a couple of committee members to talk to the members along with her. Funnily enough, the conflicting parties are often grateful afterwards for the conflict coming to an end. So don’t be shy about finding a way to shut it down a conflict that just causes unpleasantness all round.
The secret of developing a sense of satisfaction in your work as Ladies’ President is the secret of low expectations. Don’t expect to be thanked very much. Don’t expect your expense to be paid always (such as petrol, stationery and your spare time). Don’t expect to be briefed on what to do.
And DO expect others to try and drag you into their duties. Firmly resist this. You have enough to do in your own area of operation.
Forget about these irritations. Remember instead that it is a privilege to serve the club. It is the flip side of enjoying the work of others in the clubs you visit and all the work of other Ladies’ Presidents in your own club that you have enjoyed.
Lead my example: wipe the misery off your face and greet everyone with a happy smile. But be strict and fearless, and keep your hand on every aspect of your department. Good luck!
How things are changing
I discussed the above recently with a Club President who described how her club committee operates:
“We no longer have a split committee we are one committee and always have at least two representatives of the opposite sex to represent each gender. My current committee is President, Vice president, secretary, treasurer are all females, one female competition secretary, one male competition secretary, three lady selectors, three male selectors, two additional lady committee members and two additional male committee members.”
The men / women divide in clubs has gone – in this club at least – with the women doing most of the heavy lifting. This is a reflection of the blurring of sex and gender differences.
Only time will tell if this makes for happier clubs, and particularly happier lady members, which should certainly be the aim.