Let’s deal with singles play first.
When asked the question, “do you have a game plan for each match that you play?” My immediate answer is usually “no”.
There are however a couple of exceptions:
- If I know my opponent well, or more particularly the type of game he plays and I also know that he concentrates on dropping into a good rhythm and become “mechanical” in his delivery, I would attempt to negate his normal approach by good use of the mat and jack. In other words I would, as continually as possible, change the length of end by both altering the mat position or rolling the jack to a different length. This lesson I learnt in my earlier days when playing the quarter final of an Invitation singles event at my own club. An older and more experienced player employed these tactics, which proved to me that bowls is a thinking man’s(or woman’s) game. He trounced me 25-9.
- Again if my opponent was well known to me and I knew he possessed an outstanding ability on a particular length of end, I would attempt to play him on that strength right from the start. This was a tactic employed by the late, great Glyn Bosisto as he believed, as I do, that if you can beat your opponent at his or her strength, they will have no where to go. If my opponent does take the ascendancy I still have the opportunity to then change to his or her weaker length in an endeavour attain success.
Other than these two exceptions my only game plan is the obvious one, get my first bowl as near to the jack as possible. Should my opponent beat me to it and get their first bowl close to the jack, then my plan would still be to get my first (or even second or third) bowl as close as I can. Even if their bowl is in front of the jack and in the draw, I would try and draw my bowl right up to that opposition bowl, thus getting a good second shot and allowing me the possibility of playing a conversion shot with my third or fourth bowl. Just as you would in a team game however,you must have bowls in the head before you even think about attacking with anything more than say half to one metre of pace, depending on the lie of the head and pace of the green.
Unfortunately, because I played lead only once at pennant and never at Interstate level, I didn’t class myself as a “dyed in the wool” draw shot player and too often failed with my first bowl, most times coming up short. Should this happen to you, continue to think positively and use that short bowl to correct upon. I’ve always believed it was easier to correct on a short bowl than one past the jack but maybe it was because I had more practice at the former.
In a game of bowls you must never stop thinking. Be alert to changing conditions and, if not playing well, study your delivery and chances are you will find an answer to your problems. It’s a good idea to have a “check list” of about three or four of the different types of errors most likely to creep into your game, particularly if you are under pressure. My number one check point has always been my follow-through which tends to shorten when my concentration wanes or if tension or tiredness creeps in. In an earlier article I covered the aid of visualisation. Use this tool by vividly imagining yourself delivering the bowl perfectly, with a smooth rhythmical swing, seeing the bowl travelling down on the predetermined line and coming to rest on the jack. Practice this technique regularly and it will do wonders for your confidence.
Tactics in team play are always determined by the skipper but never discount any suggestion put forward by a member of your team.
Advice on team tactics in this article will be basic as positional play, including tips for the skipper, will be covered more fully in a later article which will be released leading up to the commencement of pennant.
Personally, if I’ve won the toss I will call for a medium length end and monitor the performance of my own players plus the opposition before planning a form of attack. The skipper must always remain calm, encourage his or her players and call the shots with great authority, thus letting your opposition players, including the skipper, know that you expect to win. No. 1 priority however is to defend before you attack, in other words make sure you have bowls in the head before you even think about playing a weighted shot. Be prepared to forfeit one, or even two shots rather than play a risky shot that could possibly lose you a 4, 5 or even 6. There are exceptions to this “rule” but those exceptions should only come into play when the situation becomes desperate towards the end of a game.
There are many more considerations to becoming a good skipper and prior to the later coverage of tactics etc, I suggest you should take every opportunity to study the methods of our top skippers of today.
Incidently , there is a new CD out and it’s a beauty. Produced by Fox Development Systems it is narrated by Craig Fox, a Sports Psychotherapist, and it is my belief that any bowler, man or woman, who desires to play WINNING BOWLS should own a copy. Craig can be contacted on Ph. 61 3 5428 8799.