Every training session should have a goal of improving either your technical, physical or tactical game. Use my recommended drills and exercises to help your game today.
In order to be at our best when we play, we must practice, practice, practice! But what are the best ways to improve? Should you focus solely on skill work? Is there a place for physical and mental training? And what drills will have the biggest impact on your game?
In this article, I hope to give some ideas on what you can incorporate into your practice sessions.
In this guide, I have split up the exercises based on:
- Warm-ups. How to get your body and mind ready to play
- Stretching. Ensure you stay injury-free
- Individual drills. Drills you can practice on your own to improve your skills
- Team drills. It’s great to practice as a team. Improve your team performance by practising and playing “as one”
Warm-ups are incredibly important. It is often the most over-looked element of training and game preparation but can have one of the biggest impacts on your game.
First, I would suggest a physical warm-up. This can be something as simple as a brisk walk. About 5-10 minutes around the green should suffice.
Secondly, I would recommend going through your delivery motion, but with no bowl. This is great for engraining new changes to a technique – I would recommend exaggerating any new element at this point, as once you are in a game the change will be less pronounced, as your focus will be on the shot. For example, I have had issues with not releasing the bowl near the ground, I was not getting low enough. During my warm-ups I would do these motions but focused on brushing my fingers along the ground, to ensure I was low enough.
This is also great at tuning in your mind. If you practice visualisation, then this will pair great with it.
Now we have got warmed up, and our body and mind are ready, we need to get our technique locked in.
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.
Stretching is a great way to prevent injuries. Keeping our muscles loose and ready to go ensures they are prepped for the game ahead.
Here are a few stretches that you should look at.
Bowling practice is much more than practising line and weight – although that is a big part of it!
Whilst grouping drills, and drawing to open jacks are the basics, I won’t be covering them here, you can read more about weight control drills here.
In this article, I want to cover some of the game situation drills you can do. Why are these important? Because there are many common scenarios we face in the game, it’s best to practice these, so you’re not “winging it” in the middle of an important game.
The situations that I advocate practising occur just as frequently in singles play than drawing to an open jack. They also occur at the business end of an end where a single delivery will matter.
In situational practice, you will imagine game situations, and the deliveries you bowl will change depending on the situation you are playing to. For example:
In this practice simulation, you would play as you would if you were down 5 shots with 3 ends to play. Deciding this now is great, as it saves mental energy when you get into this situation in a real game.
Place the jack – and if you can find a spare set of bowls – place our imaginary opponents bowls down to build the head. Place the mat where you would normally do in this situation – this could be a high mat for example.
Bowl as you would want to play. This will likely be aggressive driving shots or focusing on accurate draw shots.
Another situation would be to practice covering back bowls. In this example place your imaginary opponent’s bowls on the green. We want to imagine you need to “cover” them in case of jack movement.
You can make this as easy or tricky as you like. For example, you can group them together, or you can spread them out. You could keep them close to the centre line, or move them wide, so you have to adjust your line.
The situation every skip hates! A head with a bunch of short bowls blocking draw paths.
This is a great one to practice as this is a very common situation (at least at the level I play at!). Getting used to bowling with bowls in your eye line – especially those at an incorrect weight – is tricky. Often bowls naturally group together, and getting your mind to ignore these bad bowls is important to fix these situations.
To set this up I would place a jack down and the two short bowls on each hand (four in total). Then try to draw within a mat length of the jack. Play two shots on the forehand and then tow on the backhand.
Drawing to hidden jacks is a common scenario. This will only require the jack and a single spare bowl to practice.
Team practice can be great for taking your performance up a notch. If you are planning on playing any county, regional or national competitions then it is best to practice as a team. The main goals of these sessions are to improve your communication and tactical skills.
One of the main benefits practising this way to develop a “team length and mat position”. Locking down what you all work best at with help you work as one.
As a skip, you don’t get long to make a decision and to relay that down to your teammates.
This drill is a mini-game of 7 ends. Find a team to play against – this drill will be good training for them too. After every shot, start a stopwatch. The skip is given 10 seconds to decide what is best to do and communicate it back to the team.
After the game have a conversation and grade the decisions made. Did they help you win the game? Did the decisions favour the playing style and skills within the team?
This is an extension of the drill above. Play the mini-game over 7 ends as before, however, this time it must be played in silence. All communication must be done using hand signals and body language.
After the game, have a sit-down and talk through any confusions, and explain what you were each trying to say.
Whilst this isn’t intended to be how you will eventually play in a real game, this will provide better insight into your teammates. This will also help you learn to communicate faster, and with more clarity. The first time you try this I would recommend NOT deciding on a common set of signals. You want this to evolve so you can recognise each teammate’s natural body language.
Bowls England has a great series on you to improve your fitness. They have three levels, ranging from level 1 for beginners and those with mobility issues – all the way to level 3 for those with a good base fitness
There is an endurance element to lawn bowls. Especially if you play in day-long competitions. Running and walking regularly helps build up this fitness.
5K is a great distance to train for, especially for beginners. If you are new to running I would recommend the NHS Couch to 5K. If you want to push on further after that, it will only benefit you. 10K is a fantastic distance, as you will likely be running for the duration of a short singles game. This base fitness of running will help keep your energy levels up through a hard game.
Physical training is mental training. I believe training hard gives you extra mental fortitude in tricky, and tense game situations. It should not be overlooked!