How a Substitute Teacher Inspired Rising England Star

Rising indoor bowls star Stephen Harris told Fen Regis Trophies how the influence of a substitute teacher set him on his way to earning an England call-up.

Harris, 25, is hopeful of earning a regular spot in the England senior team after earning his first call-up as a reserve for the upcoming British Isles Championships, which will be contested in Belfast in October.

Harris already has experience representing his county at Under-25 level and admits that his first senior call-up is one of his proudest achievements and hopes to become a regular in the coming years

“I hope to become an ever regular in the senior England setup,” said Harris. “Being selected for the senior England team, only as a reserve first, but making it in the team for this season will be one of the best experiences of my life.”

“Instantly I Thought it Was for Me”

When discussing how he first became interested in bowls, Harris paid tribute to an old substitute teacher, Mike Ramsden, who was a bowls player and took the class to try their hand at the game at an open event.

From there Harris was soon hooked, and it wouldn’t be too long until he was getting noticed by teams in the local area.

“He (Ramsden) arranged for us all to go up one day for an open event so we could try it out,” he said. “Instantly I thought it was for me as soon as I started.

“I started to go up there more frequently for more experiences, mostly on a Tuesday after school. As I gradually got more and more practice in, league teams started integrating me into their games and that’s when it kind of really kicked off.”

As well as Ramsden, the Spalding Indoor Bowls Club man also gave credit to experienced bowlers Martyn Dolby and Graham Smith, the latter of which paired with Harris on the way to winning the English Indoor Bowling Association’s national pairs title in 2021.

“There has certainly been lots of encouragement from a lot of people,” he said. “Firstly, to Mike Ramsden for taking us on the open day to start with.

“Secondly, to all the helpers on the now distant Tuesday teatime practice, I learnt new skills from so many people.

“Thirdly to Martyn Dolby, for the help in starting my national and county competition adventure and again learning lots about the game from his own experiences.

“Lastly to Graham Smith, who ever since I have made the move to Spalding has helped further my game to where it is now.

“I could go on and on, but I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout my incredible journey so far.”

Stephen Harris
Stephen Harris with the Lincolnshire IBA county indoor singles trophy.

Playing Under a Legend

When Harris takes his place as part of the senior team later this year, he will be drawing on his experience of playing for England at youth level. The keen football fan, who follows both his local club Stamford and Manchester United, first represented his county at Under-25 level when he was called up in 2019 as a 21-year-old.

Managing the squad at the time was bowls legend Andy Thomson MBE, a three-time world indoor singles champion and 1994 Commonwealth Games pairs bronze medallist. The experience of playing under one of the greats of the game, Harris said, was “exciting”.

“It was very exciting for the whole team. I learned so much from him.

“I remember he had a little chat with me on the morning of the second and final day of the series in Aberdeen.

“He was very complimentary of my performance in the first two games the day before and said carry on what you’re doing, which was a nice compliment, especially from such a person as Andy Thomson.”

Making his international debut at the British Isles Under-25 series, playing against Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, was a proud day not only for Harris but for his parents, too, having made the 600-mile round trip to Aberdeen to cheer him on.

“The trip up there was special,” said Harris. “The atmosphere while I was playing was incredible for us all to take in.”

The future certainly is bright for Harris who hopes to add more national and international titles to his already impressive list of accolades, as well qualifying for the World Indoor Bowls Championships. With time on his side, you would not bet against Harris boasting an incredible trophy haul when he is finished.

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