Once you’ve played bowls for a while, you will likely have wondered “how do I get better?”. Is it from practising new types of shots? Or is it just endlessly practising bowling to a jack?
The truth is you can get better, without endless hours bowling to a jack. Nor do you have to start learning every shot in the book.
In this guide I will take you through my steps at how to identify what to work on, and how to best approach improving as a lawn bowler.
The first step on improving your game is to identify your weaknesses. Without an assessment of your game, you won’t know what to focus on in practice.
Weaknesses must be based on the type of game you play. For example, if you play lead often, you should focus on issues with your draw game, or jack delivery. There is no point looking at how well you play a firing shot, as you won’t often play this in your usual game.
For a weakness to be beneficial it has to be specific, and something in your control. For example “I rarely get the shot against my opponent” is a bad weakness to note down, as it isn’t specific or controllable (as you can’t control how your opponent plays).
A better weakness to note might be “I miss my line 40% of the time. This affects my ability to consistently draw to the jack”.
Once you have your list of weaknesses you can move on to getting a plan in place.
Focus on one thing to improve at a time
Before you can get stuck in, its first best to prioritise your weaknesses.
The best way to improve is to focus on one thing at a time. Trying to improve 3 or 4 thinks at a time forces you to spread your time and attention – where as you will see greater improvement if you give your full attention to just one thing.
By prioritising your weaknesses you can get a list from “most important” to “least important”. You can order the list any way you like. It could be ordered based on
- the frequency of the issue – focus on the issues that crop up most often
- the impact of the issue – something may only happen rarely, but when it does it can be a big problem
- how much the issue annoys you – it might only be rare, and not particularly impactful on the outcome of a game, its just something that really annoys you!
How you order you list is up to you, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
Focus on the basics
Lawn bowls is a game of basics. In the vast majority of cases your weaknesses can be boiled down to one of the following fundamentals:
- line control
- weight control
Working out what category your weaknesses fall into is the first step in working out how to improve it.
How to practice better
A pet hate of mine is how most bowlers practice aimlessly. How often have you seen someone go for a roll-up and they just roll a jack and try to draw to it. End after end.
This is unhelpful for a couple of reasons:
- it’s unrealistic – how often do you get to draw to a bare jack without an opponent getting in the way
- it’s unfocused – there are many more shots than just the draw shot. When do these people practice the other shots?
- it takes ages – many bowlers work, so finding the time to practice like this is hard
Aims to practice
Before you even start your practice you must have a clear idea on what you want to improve (which you will now have from the analysis done above), and how you will go about improving it.
There are 2 main ways I recommend players practice:
- free practice
- practice drills
Lets take a closer look at each.
Free practice is great when you aren’t quite sure how to improve on a particular issue. In free practice you are free to try anything, without judgement. Its a time to get curious about how you bowl and how to solve the current problem.
When you get to the green, have a clear idea in your head about what you are trying to solve. Next, have a think about how you would approach the problem – usually focused on the fundimentals listed above.
After a few minutes, you should have a couple of ideas. Maybe it’s aligning your feet differently, or how you hold your stance. Keep going through this list, as you go think out loud “what if I tried ….”.
Give each idea a couple of bowls, and observe the result.
This can be a frustrating approach to improving – however bowlers who work out problems themselves will have a better understanding of what they did to get there, and can then use that going forward on any future weaknesses.
Once you have a good idea on how to improve, its time to practice with intent.
Using a few simple drills can help solidify the improvement in your mind. It also enables you to try the new ideas out in realistic make scenarios, so you can transfer what you learnt into competitive games easily.
For more information on this, read my guide on practice drills for lawn bowls.
Understand your role
Finally, a really good way to improve your lawn bowls game is to study and understand your role in the team.
By knowing what is expected of you, and what success looks like in it, you can focus on the outcomes.
Knowing your role gives you clarity in your mind on what you need to do, and can give you confidence that you are playing your part in helping your team to win the game.
If you want more information on what the different roles are, you can see my guide on roles in lawn bowls.
Improving your game isn’t just about spending hour after hour rolling bowls to a jack by yourself. It’s about working out your weaknesses, based on what you do most often, and building up the most important skills piece by piece.
By making changes to your game based on this, you will see a greater improvement to your game.