A helpful guide on how to prepare for a new season. Make the most of the time you have to get your game back in shape fast.
The start of a new season is incredibly exciting, especially for those who don’t play all year round. You want to start the season with a bang, but quite often it can start with a fizzle.
How can you make the most out of the preparation time between the greens opening and the opening games of the season? How to do get ready at a time when the greens are at their hardest to practice on.
You want to feel as prepared as possible for the first round of games, so you are confident you can play to the best of your abilities.
In this guide, I hope to give you a few ideas on preparing for a new year, and how to structure your practice time.
Before you begin you will need to be aware of the biggest issues facing bowlers at the start of a new season.
You may be out of practice, especially if you don’t play indoor and outdoor or you aren’t playing all year round. If you do play on a variety of surfaces than you will likely have issues adjusting to the weight required. It is just as tricky to remove weight as it is adding it
If you are playing in the UK, or anywhere with particularly wet winters and springs, then you will have to contend with the conditions of the green.
This time of year they will be at their heaviest and this will need to be accounted for in how you prepare.
Do you practice to be able to play the weight? Or do you plan to get a solid technique that will see you through the rest of the season?
You may have notes on things you wanted to improve on from last year. I always recommend a post-season review. What went well? What went wrong? What would you do again? What would you avoid doing? And what can I do to improve?
Now is the time to review your notes from last year and to think about what you are going to do to improve.
Finally, the biggest issue is the time constraint. There is usually no more than 2-3 weeks between the green opening and the first competitive games of the year. You will need to prioritise what you want to work on, and you may need to be realistic about what you can achieve.
Expect your first few roll-ups to be pretty rough. If you haven’t played since the end of the previous season, then you have likely spent 6-7 months doing no bowling at all. You will certainly be out of practice, so it’s important not to beat yourself up if those first few sessions go badly.
Your main focus should be on re-building your “muscle memory”. Muscle memory is massively important in lawn bowls, as its a repeated task which requires consistency.
“Muscle memory is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition, which has been used synonymously with motor learning.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_memory
In simple terms, this is training your brain so that it doesn’t have to think about a specific action. For example – we all have those days where we just turn up to the green for a game and you just “bowl”. Everything comes out right, and you hit your line every time. This is muscle memory in action.
Once you have that foundation in place, you can then build up to adjust to the weight. You will want to do this slowly, so you can maintain control.
Only once you have your muscle memory, and your weight-adjusted would I recommend doing some “game-specific” practice.
No matter what your goals are for the season ahead, its important to get a plan in place to get you into a position where you can play to the best of your ability.
There is plenty you can do to prepare before the greens are even open. Here are a few ideas on things you can start on a couple of weeks in advance.
Research key improvement areas. Check your notes from last year. When you wrote them the issues were much clearer. Use this to jog your memory on what you were struggling with.
Now is the time to research online, or by talking to fellow bowlers on how to improve on these weaknesses. You want to be prepared with a list of ideas to try, and some drills to measure improvement.
Begin your visualisation routines. If you practice visualisation before games, then now is a great time to work those mental muscles. Just like we prepare our bodies to have the muscle memory to play, we must also kick start our minds to visualise properly.
Refresh your pre-shot routine. It is amazing what you forget. Something, as engrained as your pre-shot routine, can get hazy, or even forgotten completely. It is vital that you write down your routine, and any key cues you use. Use this time to review your notes ready for your first practice.
Book roll-up sessions. Even if your club doesn’t require you to book a rink (although many do), it’s great to book slots in on your own personal calendar. This way you can plan ahead and organise your bowling around your other responsibilities.
I would look to get at least 3 1-1.5 hour practice sessions in a week in the build-up to a new season. This should provide ample time to work on your basics and to incorporate any new elements to your game.
The aim of this drill is to get you back into the habit of setting up on the mat again.
Place a mat a few meters from the ditch. Place a small marker, such as a disc (use another mat if you can’t find anything), around a yard in front of you between the mat and the ditch on what would be your normal line.
Practice rolling bowls in your delivery motion, aiming to roll over the marker each time.
I would recommend spending some decent time with this exercise, and I would recommend doing it for 10 minutes before each practice.
Once we are comfortable with how we set up on the mat, we can look at getting our line consistency.
With the grouping drill, you take your first shot, then with the subsequent 3 shots, you aim to get within a mat length of the first. Ideally, all of your shots should be within a mat length of the centre line
This is a great drill of focusing in on your natural length. I wouldn’t worry about how far your bowls are getting at this point. It doesn’t matter if they only end up halfway up the green, weight control is not the focus of this drill. There is plenty of time for that later
As we move through the basic elements of bowling, we can start looking at our weight control. Now is the time to worry about hitting full-length jacks on a heavy green!
As with the grouping drill above you take your first shot, then with the second bowl aim to get it a yard beyond where the first finished. Do this with each subsequent shot – i.e. the third should be a yard on from the second and the forth a yard on from the third.
Repeat this process in reverse order by taking a yard off each shot for the alternate end.
Be sure to include any situational drills you like after this point. Just be sure the situations you practice are ones you are likely to face once you start playing.
For example, if you are a lead, you may want to draw to a bare jack. Or you could practice with a bowl in your eye-line, or on your delivery line.
If you are a skip, you can start to look at weighted draws and drives, as well as drawing to a hidden jack.