The Art of the Draw

As boring as it can seem, practicing your draw is the life blood of your game.  It can save you in key situations, it can protect you from bad results and it can be the dagger you need to crush an opponent.

Training or Coaching to play the draw seems like it should be a no-brainer — like practicing lay ups in basketball or hitting ground balls in batting practice.  It is the key, fundamental shot that every player needs to perform.

Sure, a drive shot for 4 points is always exciting and lots of players would rather play a take out than a draw.  What happens when you are down multiple shots and you NEED that draw to save your butt?  Are you confident that you can make the shot?  What if you need to move a bowl or jack inches? Simply playing into the head with weight will surely move it a lot farther…possibly to a larger disadvantage.

Have you heard the phrase “up and in”?  Lots of bowlers simply play weight into the head hoping for a result.  They roll the dice and hope it comes out in their favour — are you willing to gamble on a medal or a district/provincial/national title?  How about gaining skill and being able to play the shot you need when you need it?

There is nothing more exciting or beautiful in the game than seeing a well executed draw shot that gets the shot or wins the game.  Finesse and skill over sheer brute force and luck.  Watching a lead pepper the jack with bowls or set up a head over and over for their team is amazing to see and a skill that is lacking in the sport.

It also changes the face of the game if you have a team (lead especially) that has excellent draw bowlers.  If they continuously draw to the jack it puts pressure on the other team, it keeps pressure off your team and makes the game so much easier to manage.

Every shot (aside from the drive) is an extension of the draw.  Adding a little weight to push a bowl out means you are drawing an extra foot or two feet past that bowl, throwing a guard means drawing a couple of feet shorter on your draw line.  Having a good draw and practicing it should be a key part to your whole game.

Try a few of the drills I posted under consistency to see how you can control your draw, improve your line and weight and really learn to make those subtle adjustments that will win you games.


To Switch Hands or not to Switch Hands…..

Every time I play in a game, whether it is in a league, club event, or a championship event, I run into this conundrum when directing front end players, playing singles or leading for a team.

Do I switch hands?  Do I need to or want to?  Am I being instructed to?  Should I instruct my lead/second to switch?  When is it appropriate or necessary?  And so on.

During my many years as a bowler, this constantly comes up in discussion and EVERYONE has an opinion.

Whenever a discussion of this topic comes up in coaching, training or during play at the club I never get the same answer twice.  There are those that think they should be changing hands all the time to play whatever shot is more “open”, some change simply on a whim, some change if someone drops a bowl behind or in front of the jack on one side or another, and then there are those that rarely (or never) change regardless of what is in front or behind (some simply only play forehand or backhand and never anything else).

It is very interesting to watch games and see what various players do as the head changes during front end play.  I always note how a team plays based on the development of the end, if bowls are placed in front or behind and the times when someone (either team) locks a shot on the jack.  Do they get flustered and change hands/weight/line because they turn on attack mode or defense mode when something happens?  It can be a huge help when managing a head to know that if I drop a bowl anywhere in front, the player will switch hands.  Or knowing that a player will NEVER switch, so I can play a little short on one side and have the opposition push me up (if I’m good enough to place those bowls in the line) or just mess with that persons line and shot.

Sometimes it is simply a lack of communication and lack of leadership that causes changes in the hand played.  You can hear it all the time from skips – “Why did Jimmy play that side?” or “Why did Joey change hands??”  Hearing that is a “!” for me, especially when playing in higher competition.  There is something wrong or missing when a skip has no idea when or why one of their players changes hands — is someone not paying attention or listening? Is there just no communication at all?   At times it can be that no instruction is given and there is no communication to tell the front end to stay on one side despite any bowls in the way or changes to the head.

It can also be a lack of confidence that causes you to switch (or give instruction to switch) hands.  If someone drops a bowl 6 feet short on your preferred draw hand, if you have no confidence in your line and weight (or your skip doesn’t have confidence in the front end) you instantly worry about crashing into that bowl and possibly pushing it in to the head.  That front bowl turns from a 6 inch obstacle to a 2 foot roadblock.  Green issues aside (runs, draw, speed, etc.), if you are playing front end why change your side when one bowl is WAY out in front?  You should be able to adjust your line to get around or under a short bowl and you’d have to be way off on your weight to pound a short bowl 5-6 feet into the head.  If you have nailed down the line on a given side, why mess with it?

There are also times when you will see a front end player switch hands on every bowl, no real rhyme or reason.  Sometimes they throw a bowl wide on one hand, so they switch thinking they lost the line or something is wrong.  Or they lock a bowl on the jack and then want to completely avoid any contact with that bowl so they switch sides hoping they won’t dislodge the jack or push that bowl.

I have added a page to my “Training” section that is a simple drill to practice this “issue” called the hidden jack draw.  A few different types of heads that normally cause leads/seconds a great deal of stress and frustration.  If you practice these you may find they are not as bad as you think, give a few drills a try and see how you can improve the head for you and your team and stop stressing about bowls in your way!

I’m interested to know what people think about this topic and what they do as lead/vice/skip in various situations.  Do you try to stick to one hand and master it?  Do you regularly switch to take the most open shot?  Let me know and hopefully we can have some discussion on this topic – leave a comment!

New Year, New Outlook, New Blog

Over the last few years I have neglected this blog and left it to sit dormant.  Over the next few weeks I will be making changes to this blog and removing/changing/adding information to bring it up to date with what has been happening with myself, bowls in Ontario and bowls in Canada.

Initially this was meant as a way for me to share my thoughts, drills, training and other news about bowls with those that have similar interests.  At the start, I was just starting up on the High Performance Team and playing for Canada.  I was new to training, new to national/international play and just starting to get serious about bowls.  Now, as I have been training hard and playing hard, I find that I have more and more bowlers asking for advice, wanting to share in training and also asking for coaching in all aspects of bowls.

Because of theses kinds of requests, I have decided to re-vamp and restart this blog.  I will be attempting to keep it up to date and relevant with information about bowls being played (local, national and international), coaching references, training material and any useful information about the game.

I hope you find the blog useful and informative and even controversial at times.   There is no substitute for good discussion about training and coaching methods.  I invite you to read and review anything I post here and comment as to what you agree with and what you don’t.


Coaching Blog For Canadian Lawn Bowlers!