Team England 2022 Chris Oates

Photo of Chris Oates

Team England 2022 Squad – we interview Chris Oates:

When did you first bowl and why did you take it up as a sport?

I first remember going bowling at about 10 or 11 years old, just with my mum, dad and brother. We saw there was a Saturday morning YBC so come along to that for a year or so and then I remember playing the South of England at Enfield as my first event. I went with my 1 ball and probably even borrowed a pair of house shoes while I was there. I loved the competition and what felt like hundreds of other kids there competing…from that moment on I just wanted to do more tournaments.

Who gets a shout out for helping you become the fine player you are today?

I don’t know about a fine player, ha, but I can hold my own on occasions and most of what I know is all down to Stevie T. I’ve been coached by him since I was about 14, if there’s a more passionate person about the sport of bowling in England I am yet to meet them!

A good solid record in events over the years starting with a 2007 Euro Fives win and 2008 singles wins in the U24 British Open and Adult Welsh Open. Would you say you are a better Singles or Team player and which format do you prefer?

I had a couple of good years as a young adult, and some of those wins weren’t bad pay days at all. Those were the good old days of the Welsh open too, the looking format! I seemed to lose touch a little after then and actually went through a couple of years of making round robins but never winning anything.

I’d say I thrive in the team events though, despite the length of time between shots being longer I’d consider myself a solid team player – over the years the team event successes have definitely outweighed my individual success.

You are certainly a great team player and your county Dorset have been very successful over the years. The format is now changing in the counties. Are you looking forward to winning for Dorset on the new Baker system?

Dorset county have had a lot of success in the counties over the years. I remember when I was younger just simply qualifying into the county squad was a massive achievement, as we’ve had some fantastic players over the years! I’ve been fortunate enough to make many memories with the counties over the last 15 years or so (some I remember better than others ha!).

Regarding the new format, I certainly think it will bring the playing field much closer which should make for a much closer contest when it comes to the finals. I don’t mind the idea of changing things up a bit – although as I had to leave the last county finals in Mansfield early, I was really looking forward to the long old slog of a weekend just one more time.

What do you remember about the trip with Team England to New Zealand for the Commonwealth championships in 2013, winning two medals must have been special?

New Zealand was fantastic, my first major event with an England shirt on my back. I got to enjoy that trip with some real experienced players, Wellsy, Kirsten and Lisa we’re all far more experienced than I was but they were all fantastic with me. And Jonny Z as coach, I’ve known him for years growing up – I couldn’t have been further from home on the other side of the world but felt so at home with them all! I remember telling Kirsten on the plane out there that I was a little start struck as I’d asked for her autograph many years before at a bowlers club in Enfield haha

Also, fun fact about that trip…my birthday is the 21st Feb and I spent the whole thing on a plane – we departed on 20th and landed on the 22nd. 

You mention there Kirsten, which other bowlers did you follow and look up to in the earlier years?

I’ve always been a fan of Stevie, but aside from Kirsten I used to really enjoy watching Tore Torgersen and Tomas Leandersson too. Always remember them in the various Weber cups and World Tenpin Masters on Sky Sports. I got all their autographs along with the USA when they played with Lasse Lintila, Scam and Gery Verbruggen!

The EMC delayed this year and despite being selected the dates and work means you will miss out. Disappointed I guess?

I am disappointed, I was really looking forward to another opportunity to wear the England shirt at a major championships, especially following the success we had in Aalborg back in 2015. It’s a real shame that the new dates have meant I simply can’t get the time off work for it.

On the flip side though, representing your country does come at a significant cost these days (and I wasn’t even fortunate enough to go on the trips where you only needed spending money in the not too distant past), and those who know me know I don’t really enjoy spending money – the cost for the trip following the changes was just beginning to stretch a little too far for me and can I even say I’m a little pleased that the decision was eventually taken out of my hands. 

When you are not on the lanes, what do you do for a career and hobbies outside of bowling?

I work for Nationwide Building Society, been there for 11 years and have been working in Projects for about 7/8 years now. But life tends to revolve around our little 4 year old girl, we’re waiting to find out which school she gets into for September and then there may be a home move on the cards for us too.

But when I can I like going to the gym, watching sports and boxsets and I also bought a set of golf clubs this time last year, I enjoy giving that a go (badly) too and wandering around in the sunshine for 4 hours (sometimes) with no-one to answer to haha it’s quite nice!

There have been quite a few long trips over the years, what Music gets played on your bowling travels?

Living down south everywhere is a long trip, ha, but if I’m the DJ for a journey I think there tends to be a variety of genres, and I’ll definitely be singing along if I know the words, or even just the sounds…but I’ll always fall back on some Michael Jackson, Rap and R&B.

What goals do you still have in the sport?

I’d love to go to another World Championships, I had the privilege to go to Vegas back in 2017 but I just didn’t perform. I think despite actually playing less now than I was then, I’d put in a better showing this time around.

Now if I won the lottery and money was no object I have a pipe dream to buy a bowl, turn it into a proper training facility something similar to Kegel in the states, pay players a salary and travel the world playing all sorts of events as a team! Now that would be good!

The sport has changed a lot since you were a junior, technology, equipment, lane patterns and more. String is the new future for bowling. Have you had much experience on them?

I don’t really mind the introduction of strings, I get that they’re so much easier to maintain having spent some time as a mechanic on free fall machines in Poole. I’ve only played on them once at Airport Bowl but I think the odd extra shot you carry evens itself out against the ones you don’t compared to free fall…I know plenty of people have a strong opinion on them and may even refuse to embrace it. You still get to the foul line in the same way and throw the ball down a lane with a pattern aiming for the pocket.

I bet a large chunk of those against them would consider entering an event that has a big prize fund.

A fun question now Chris and Hollywood comes calling for your Welsh Open win in 2008, who would you have play you in the movie?

Ha that’s a difficult question – I have no idea if they’d be right for the role but I’ve always had a bit of a man crush on Will Smith and Kiefer Sutherland…so I’d be happy if either of them were up for it!

Finally, To anyone wanting to play for Team England, what is your best advice to help them get there?

There are far better people to be getting advice from than me, but if anyone out there ever wants my opinion on anything I’m always happy to chat to anyone. That aside though, get yourself a coach you trust, be prepared to make changes to your own game, be patient, embrace the information available from others around you and practice practice practice!

Thank you Chris!

We have invited all of the Adult Team England squad for 2022 to tell us a little more about themselves, and will publish them all weekly.  You can read all of our athlete’s interviews on the Athlete Interviews page here..