Bee the Volunteer that Inspires

By Matt Stevens
May 21, 2021

The point is not to pay back in kindness, but to pass it on – Julia Alvarez.

After winning the Queensland Ladies Classic on the weekend, Bianca Flanagan is one person we would like to highlight in recognising the amazing volunteers in our sport #NationalVolunteerWeek.

“When I was younger, I was very fortunate to have some amazing people who volunteered their time and knowledge to help me achieve my dreams”, explained Bee. “This is something I will always be grateful for and mostly the reason I began volunteering to start with”.

Winning her first national tournament and achieving a perfect 300 game at just 15 years old (now has seven), Bianca has experienced a wide range of bowling experiences on her journey through the TBA pathway. A 10-time Queensland State team member for Junior, Youth and Adult competitions, a 9-time Australian team member collecting an abundance of medals on several trips overseas (two gold and two bronze) and making the 2013 USBC Queens Matchplay finals the main highlights.

Bianca’s volunteer resume in the sport is just as impressive, if not more, than her achievements as a bowler. Bee’s volunteer journey began as a Youth bowler with a position on the sports development sub-committee then spending some time on the TBA Board of Directors.

Over the years, Bee has spent time volunteering with local and state associations, coaching and managing local centre teams and athletes, a member of the TBAQ Adult committee, coaching the South Queensland President’s Shield team and now an assistant coach for the Junior National Training Squad (NTS). Her efforts fuelled by a genuine passion for the sport and a desire to help those that play.

“It was a way for me to influence the sport and provide assistance in a way I felt myself and other bowlers wanted,” said Bee.

Working for TBA for 4.5 years as National Education Officer, Bee left TBA to seek a career change in recent years. Now, Bee spends her time as a registered nurse in acute mental health inpatient facilities.

“I love it”, answered Bee when asked how she is finding her new career. “It’s given me purpose for the first time in a very long time. Every day is different, and I am always learning new things. People come to us in the worst times of their life. Doing what I do has allowed me to help them try to get themselves back together”.

It is no surprise the career change involved a focus on helping others. The desire to help others is a consistent ingredient in the makeup of volunteers. For Bianca, it is part of her DNA. Bee’s life is now different from what it once was, spending less time bowling yet still finding ways to impact the sport.

After the career change, Bee felt an absence of the benefits she has grown accustomed to enjoying.

“When I stepped away from TBA and decided to make the career change I did, I missed having that impact on the sport. I love bowling. I probably always will. I missed having the impact and connection with the elite level”.

In 2018, an opportunity to recommence involvement appeared.  The National Training Squad program was changing. The NTS split into specific groups with dedicated coaches for each group – Junior, Youth, Adult and Senior.

“I felt it was a way where I could continue to create and support the sport,” said Bee. “I truly believed with the composition of the management team we had for the Junior NTS; we could have an impact on kids’ lives. Not just bowling, but their lives”.

The Junior NTS management group has been intact since its inception in 2018. Spearheaded by Shane Bernhardt as head coach, Team managers Jaime and Dee Taafe, and assistant coaches Bianca Flanagan and Simon Pearce, the group provides fantastic service shaping the next generation of bowlers. For Bee, the role is one she is honoured to have and does not take lightly.

“Not only are these junior athletes the future of our sport, but they are learning about who they are and what they want from their lives,” said Bee. “The kids at this age are at their most raw and authentic selves. In some cases, we have an impact on who they become as people. I can say that because that’s how I feel about my journey into junior and youth bowling”.

The large volume of coaches, managers, and fellow athletes Bee engaged with on her journey helped shape who Bee is today.

“They taught me more about myself and life than I ever realised at the time. This is one of the main reasons I coach, I volunteer, and is the reason I continue to do so”.

The sport of bowling has technical, mental, and physical parts involved in the coaching curriculum. With all individuals learning and absorbing advice differently, it’s the coach’s job to tailor their approach with the athlete increasing chances for success. When this eventuates, that’s what makes volunteering worth the effort.  

“When you put in that time, and you watch the moment it falls into place, that light bulb or penny drop moment where you see all the work they have been putting in is paying off – that moment right there is what makes everything worth it and drives me to learn and share more,” said Bee.

From decades of experience and commitment, Bee is well placed to provide advice for those contemplating entering the volunteer space.

“Find what you are passionate about,” said Bee. “If you are passionate about what you are doing, then you will be more inclined to enjoy the experience. Be aware of what you can and are willing to give, do not over commit. It’s better to give 100% for a small amount of time than 60% for larger amounts”.

The QLC title on the weekend saw Bee achieve a dream that has been in development for nearly two decades. Now, Bee narrows her focus on her new career, bowling specific events for specific reasons and coaching the sport she loves so dearly.

“I want to keep creating opportunities for juniors moving forward. I want to help shape the athletes of the future and working with the kids to continue to put more pressure on us ladies”.

The point is not to pay back in kindness, but to pass it on – Julia Alvarez.

TBA recognises the tremendous value and vital role Bianca, and the many others who have similar stories, provide our sport. We thank you for all you do for the sport!