Coaching Articles

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES REGARDING PENNANT GAME, LEAD, SECONDS & THIRDS & SKIP, WERE ORIGINALLY PREPARED BY BRUCE RALSTON, A NORTH BALWYN BOWLS CLUB NUMBER 1 SKIP A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO.  THEY HAVE NOW BEEN UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT IAN FEDER

THE PENNANT GAME

Planned, purposeful, deliberate and disciplined practice is an essential part of early preparation and must be ongoing to continually raise the standard of performance. As well as team practice, have your own individual practice each week.

In any team the greatest success comes from confidence and understanding among all members of the team. Be loyal to your skip and quietly motivate and encourage fellow team members. 

Bowls games are won by the team that puts down the least number of bad bowls. That number can be significantly reduced if proper attention is given to every bowl played. Too much emphasis should not be placed on winning, because in unfavorable situations, anxiety can creep in and spread throughout the team. Your self motivation should be directed towards playing well and at all times endeavoring to lift your performance, whether in front or behind.

Well regulated concentration will increase your chance of achieving maximum effectiveness with every bowl you play. Passive observation must be sustained when you are not actually bowling and this must give way to applied or active concentration when you are in possession of the rink. Don't be a chatterbox on the bank or rink and don't concern yourself too much with what is happening on other rinks.

Think positively and have no doubts in your mind at the time of delivery. Don't spend too much time analyzing your bad shots, as this will tend to build up a negative mental attitude. Positive attitudes have positive results and will help win games more readily than negative attitudes. Worrying about an opponent's good form, or about bad luck, the rain, the wind or the state of the green will detract from your power of concentration and hence the standard of your bowling. In fact a laugh at a poor shot or a shot affected by wind or green will assist the positive attitude.

Keep a scorecard of the results of your own bowls, finishing within a mat length (No1 side or 1metre for other sides), for your record and analysis later. Other points such as hand played, bowl finishing long/short, wrecked on another bowl, wind effect can also be recorded for future reference during the game and afterwards i.e. evaluate your success and aid further analysis. (For further explanation contact Ian Feder).

What you do at the mat determines the result at the other end. You have no control after the bowl leaves your hand. Your bowl does what you have told it to do. To achieve the best results it is desirable to stand behind the mat until you are certain of the shot to be played, decide on grass line and pace required, then position yourself correctly on the mat and carefully deliver the bowl with the high point of concentration on pace. If, having stepped on the mat, you are distracted for any reason, step off, regroup your thoughts and concentration before proceeding with your delivery,

After the break, take a few minutes to think about the game, consider how you can improve your performance or re-activate your concentration, even consult your scorecard. Then when it is your turn to perform you will be recharged and ready. The first few ends in this session of play are critical.

In any pennant match remember you are playing for the side. If your team is in a hopeless situation never throw in the towel. Those few shots you gain at the end of your game could be the shots that win the match for the side. 

LEAD

A good lead's worth is inestimable as he/she sets the trend of the game. If the lead's job is done well he/she provides his/her skip with a sound base on which to build the head.

The lead should ensure that he/she places the mat on a portion of the green allowing a clean take-off, having regard to both hands and the approximate location indicated by the skip. Don’t change the position for subsequent ends unless requested to do so by the skip. A lead should not try to set his/her own length and must be aware that he/she is as much under the skip's control as are the second and third.

The importance of rolling the jack precisely cannot be over emphasized. Games can be lost as a result of the inability of a lead to roll the jack close to the required length.

A lead must be a good consistent draw player as this will be the only shot that he/she will be required to play during the game, to get bowls as close to the jack as possible and in the zone. One on and one behind.  The lead must be able to draw equally well on both hands; a one handed lead is often a liability.

During the trial ends watch every bowl go down and together with your skip, select the most reliable side of the rink to play. Very few rinks behave similarly on both sides and by playing backhand one way and forehand the other, the lead is able to
perform more consistently. Wind effect and green conditions will be similar both forehand and backhand.
However, it is in order for the lead to bowl "around the clock", that is, backhand both ways or forehand both ways, if conditions warrant this, e.g. wind conditions, trueness of hand.  Avoid chopping and changing hands, when you have found the good hand stick to it and don't be forced off it. If your opponent drops short on your hand, play, as though the bowl was not there. Such a bowl is never in your eye; only in your mind if you are not giving proper attention to your draw shot. A bowl is rarely in the way, even if it is, it is surprising how one can drift around or inside it. Even a collision with it can often result in a good shot.

No one can expect to get shot every end, but for a well played game it must be his/her aim to get two close bowls every end. A good lead does not try to play lead and second. If your first bowl finishes close to the jack, do the same with your next bowl. No head is safe with only one bowl near the jack. So leads concentrate on getting both bowls as close as possible in the zone. Leave positional play to the second.

If his/her opponent has drawn a close shot a good lead will not start poking at the head. On no account try to run your opponent’s bowl off the jack or the jack down to your bad first bowl. Remember the lead has a clear cut job to do and this is to get two bowls close to the jack, and if not first shot a close second. Any bowl finishing from 45cm short of jack to 90cm beyond jack is a useful bowl. A proactive lead who has perfected the ‘yard on’ shot may play this shot to dislodge his/her opponents bowl and gain a psychological advantage.

Don’t fiddle with the mat and always roll the jack very carefully to the spot indicated by your skip.

Intense concentration must commence with rolling of the jack to position. Don’t allow any distraction between rolling the jack and playing your first bowl (except aiding the skip to align the jack), and also between first and second bowl. Watch the jack and your bowls. Rolling of the jack is an additional bowl, i.e. you have virtually 3 bowls.

When you have delivered your first bowl of an end don't stand anxiously to deliver the second; but think strongly of that delivery. If it is a good one, strive to recapture the feeling. If the bowl goes wrong, calmly work out why, but be calm and positive about this. On no account think negatively; "I am bowling badly today”.  

After playing both bowls do not become a non playing member of the team and lose interest or allow outside factors to take your concentration from the game. Always be ready to encourage your team mates, even handing them their bowls. 

SECONDS & THIRDS

To become a proficient second or third the full range of shots must be practiced.

Give particular attention to your weaknesses and remember you may be called upon to play any shot on your backhand or forehand.

The basis for all shots is the cultivation of a well grooved delivery. The delivery action is the same for all shots but the speed of movement is varied in keeping with the pace/weight of shot.

Seconds and thirds should not step on the mat with a preconceived idea about the shot they will play. You can only expect good results at the other end if your procedure at the mat end is correct, precise and consistent . Your total attention must be given to the shot being played; and that is the shot required by your skip.

To be a good second or third in a team of four demands all round versatility; that is a command of all shots. Besides drawing to the jack in its original position you may be asked to draw to a bowl, draw to a vacant position/spot , draw to a displaced jack to any width or length including the boundary line and the ditch. In addition to positional play you will be required to play shots over draw weight with a view to wresting a bowl, trailing the jack, pushing a bowl in for shot or running through a bowl to obtain shot. With all these shots, precise pace control is essential.

The various shots are not easy and players will need practice to become proficient in playing them consistently. Practice is essential as when faced with a particular shot in a match, recall how you performed that shot in training/practice. (Just like mathematics or arithmetic or physics where you did sufficient examples so that in an exam, you recalled the example that you did during the year and how you solved it).  

The third must never try to take over the game or thrust his/her ideas onto the Skip. If the head has been altered, the experienced skip will ask for details or instructions. When asked, reply as clearly or concisely as possible, but do not go into great detail. If you are in doubt or do not want to let the opposing skip learn your tactics or instructions, do not give instructions verbally, but ask the skip to come and look before playing. Remember advice given without request is interference and the interfering third is a nightmare to the his/her skip

When your skip’s bowl has come to rest and the opposing skip has possession of the mat/rink, don’t move about the head to see who has shot, unless you have an understanding with your opposing third. I like to allow the opposing third to indicate if his/her skip has achieved shot. Also when your skip is on the mat ready to deliver, don’t suddenly decide to study the head with a view to offering advice as any distraction at this point in time is fatal,

Always carry out skip’s directions to the letter, even if you don’t agree or have other ideas. Never condemn, even to yourself, the opinion of the skip when a particular shot is requested and never step off the mat after playing a poor shot and say ”I didn’t see it that way”.

The one thing the third must padlock into is to get that saving shot for the team or at least ‘Get Second Shot’. Never allow your skip to cross over 4 or 5 down. Never have in your mind "if I miss it he will get it". That is negative thinking, it is the duty of the third to produce that saver. Get Second shot. The third is like a vice skip, looking after the front end. Measuring is an important job for the third, a steady hand and propping a leaning bowl prior to measuring for shot, assessment of who is holding shot.

SKIP

A skip must be courteous, tactful and encouraging, a tactician and posses leadership qualities. A skip must be ready to compliment good bowls but not condemn bad bowls. Complaining bitterly to a player because he/she fails to get the shot required will be counterproductive. Harmony in a team is essential, once it is shaken, defeat will be the result.

Don't broadcast advice from one end of the rink to the other, and beware of unconscious gestures of disgust, frustration and displeasure. Actions such as these will adversely affect the morale of your team and loss of the game will follow. If anyone persists in making the same error a quiet word on passing should be sufficient to rectify the mistake.

It is not necessary for the Skip to tell a player, on the mat, that his/her bowl is too narrow or too wide. An intelligent bowler will know this before it becomes apparent to Skip. Indicate to your player how short or long he/she is with his/her first bowl, if not an embarrassing distance away, but only after his/her opponent has delivered their bowl.

It is the Skip's task to control his/her team as to tactics, mat position, roll of the jack and shots to be played. Don’t allow team members to dictate length or shots to be played. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your own players and opposition. Modify your tactics accordingly. Practicing as a team will greatly assist your knowledge of your players’ capabilities.

Study the head carefully, there may be a number of alternatives, and first impression might not be the best. Always give clear and concise directions without any sign of indecision. Never give a choice of shots requiring different paces. A choice of hand may be given if open for a draw on both sides. However, even then, it might be preferable to give a precise direction, as frequently there is an optimum spot for the bowl. In addition, a definite instruction should aid your player’s concentration.

There must be a purpose with every bowl played. Don’t run into the head and hope something will happen. There should be a preference somewhere, e.g. a better result could be obtained by running through one bowl as opposed to others. Think about and ask for the percentage bowl.

For these lightly weighted shots, or over draw length/weight shots, there will a preferred weight depending on the disposition of others in the head. Always indicate this by showing, using your foot, where the bowl would finish if unimpeded.

Give your player a second chance at a shot if he/she has made a reasonable attempt with his/her first and there has been no significant alteration in the head to warrant a change.

Don't attempt to call a team member on a shot beyond his/her capability. However, it is your responsibility, together with the side coach, to organize special practice to overcome such deficiencies.

At all times remember no head is safe with only one bowl near the jack. Get a second shot or another bowl in the head. Don’t be too greedy and neglect the need for a bowl to cover the opposition shot or possible shot.

Always place your foot on the spot where you require the jack. Your lead's high level of concentration commences with the rolling of the jack and this precise objective will assist in this regard. Do not change your lead's hand for his/her second bowl; or side of rink unless it is evident that he/she is playing an untrue hand.

If however having lost the last 4 ends in a row, make a change. Change the hand that the lead is playing as you cannot alter the mat position or jack position and you must change something.

Directions can be by hands, feet, visual or voice. For visual, use your hands above your waist for long and below your waist for short bowls with your hands apart the distance long or short.