Neil Dalrymple, the latest recipient of the La Trobe Business School sponsored Vicsport Victorian Sport Administrator of the Year Award, has done exactly that.
Dalrymple’s passion for sport can be traced back to a childhood where his sporting endeavours as an up an avid cricketer, footballer and golfer took him abroad.
After years of playing, Dalrymple decided to jump ship and begin a career in sports administration in 1987.
“I’d been playing cricket overseas, mainly in England, for two winters and then I came back to Australia and got a job with the Australian Cricket Board (now Cricket Australia),” Dalrymple says.
From his first job at Cricket Australia, Dalrymple’s work over the next twelve years would see his hard-work and dedication spread over a number of organisations.
He worked as the CEO and National Development Officer at Softball Australia for eight years, was appointed CEO of Northern Territory Cricket in 2004 and worked in the role until 2006 before returning to Cricket Australia for a two-year period as the Community Cricket Manager.
It was in May of 2007 that Dalrymple moved into his current role as Bowls Australia CEO and after ten years at the helm, his commitment was rewarded with the La Trobe University sponsored VicSport accolade.
During his time in the top job, Dalrymple says the constant need to evolve has expanded his horizons.
“It’s definitely changed over my time. Certainly trying to create shorter versions of the game have been a real focus.”
“That need for change is based on a lot of evidence, similar to twenty-twenty cricket, because if you don’t adapt and shorten your sport and game format to something that can fit within the space of an hour or two then you are going to struggle to get new participants,” Dalrymple says.
This creative change, Dalrymple explains, is brought upon by the misconception around the age of people that play bowls.
“I think it’s (bowls) positioned as a sport for older people and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s obviously a large number of older people that do play bowls but I think from a media perspective we can try and change that by making it a more attractive game to a younger audience.”
“Now that could be for 40-year-olds, 50-year-olds or 20-year-olds. The fact is that the average age of our Australian team now is about 30 so that alone is helping to change that outside perception.”
One shorter version of the game is the Australian Premier League and was introduced around four years ago with the competition broadcast to a live audience on Fox Sports. Dalrymple believes this media coverage is helping shift outsiders thinking of bowls.
Along with creating shorter versions of the game, a number of structural changes have taken place over Dalrymple’s time at the top with the replacement of state association development officers to regional bowls managers employed by the national body. This centralisation has in-turn allowed Bowls Australia to receive more funding from the Australia Sports Commission.
After years of hard work at the helm of Bowls Australia, Darlymple’s acknowledgement at the VicSport Awards was “thoroughly pleasing”.
Neil is currently exploring study and professional development opportunities with the La Trobe Business School for himself and his staff using the scholarship money offered with the award.
“Given I was a finalist I thought I was a reasonable chance and I felt that I’d had a good year and it was also great recognition for not just the last 12 months but for the contribution I’d made over a number of years.”
With over 20 years of experience within the sports industry, Dalrymple’s advice to anyone wanting to follow a similar path is to come in with the right attitude.
“A strong work ethic is important. A lot of people want to get somewhere quickly but I think sometimes you have to put in the hard yards so you’ve really got to enjoy what you do.”
“For students, I think the most important thing is to get voluntary experience. Get into organisations and offer your services because building your resume is very important as that experience shows you’ve done the hard yards and in turn good opportunities will come to you.”