BOWLS - Kirsty Richards admits banishing 'yips' helped her achieve international stardom - The Leamington Observer

BOWLS - Kirsty Richards admits banishing 'yips' helped her achieve international stardom

Leamington Editorial 30th May, 2024 Updated: 31st May, 2024   0

LEAMINGTON Spa bowls star Kirsty Richards says banishing her ‘yips’ demons laid the foundations for her ascent to international stardom.

The 30-year-old represented England at the 2018 World Champion of Champions in Sydney after winning her first National Singles title the year before.

But she admits that she almost never stepped foot on the green in 2017 after a difficult case of the ‘yips’ – a mental affliction that prevents sportspeople from performing a repetitive task in front of an audience – almost led to her exit from the sport.

Richards, speaking from Royal Leamington Spa Bowls Club on Bowls Big Weekend, said: “When I played in the National Singles back in 2017, I was suffering with a condition called ‘yips’.

“It’s a mental thing where you cannot let go of the ball but it really affected my performance at the national juniors a week before.

“I felt really embarrassed as lots of people were there watching and I remember saying to my mum that I couldn’t do that again and nearly gave up.

“But I told myself that I still needed to go to senior nationals and ended up going and winning.”

Richards overcame her greatest challenge to clinch the national title and seal herself a spot on the plane to Sydney, where she reached the final and relieved the pressure she had put on herself.

Richards added: “I put a lot of pressure on myself and that is what fed into my ‘yips’.

“As I’ve carried on, I’ve learnt to not put that pressure on myself and enjoy it more and more. Any medals that happen are a bonus.”

Bowls’ Big Weekend took place between May 24 to 27 and is a national project aimed at increasing the amount of players involved in the sport.

Over 700 clubs opened their doors to offer free taster sessions to the public with the aim of growing the sport of bowls.

Richards picked up the sport on a whim on a family holiday as a child and has not looked back since.

The bowler has become one of the biggest advocates for encouraging more young players to become involved in the sport and break the stigma that bowls is for the older generation.

Her idea of blasting music over the green is just one of her plans to draw newcomers into the sport.

Richards said: “Realistically, the young bowlers are the future and they are the ones who will stay in the sport. It’s about attracting them.

“No one is going to come if there’s radio silence so we need to be playing some music and getting tunes on at national finals.

“If people are walking through the park and hearing music they’re automatically going to be drawn in and want to know what’s going on.”

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