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Bowls In Focus : February 2011
28 Bowls In Focus Special Projects Special Projects Kate McLauchlan Ashes Loss, Gospel Truth! Ihope all you bowlers took note of how our Aussie cricketers unfortunately were a major contributor to their recent defeat by the English cricket team. One scribe summed it up as ‘10 reasons why Australia lost/ were bowled over’ and these were; 1 preparation, 2 indecision about line up, 3 bowling plans, 4 work ethic, 5 partnership bowling, 6 converting starts, 7 wrong end of run outs, 8 response after missed chances, 9 lack of partnerships and 10 making hard decisions. Why am I talking about cricket in our bowls magazine? Simply because of the relevance of these pointers from cricket, so let me explore these reasons in (lawn) bowls talk relating it to the difficulties at our club, group, state and even national level of bowls. As someone who has coached at all these levels the parallel that exists between Aussie cricket and us is eerie, and a concern if we do not heed the lessons to bowls. 1 Preparation The England cricket side competed in first grade traditional cricket while Australia played ‘bash’ games in the lead up to the test series. In bowls our bowlers and the teams, squads and clubs they belong to all play games, which is perceived as practice, in readiness for the next important event. You know the type - the turkey triples skip getting ready to lead in our important club pennant game later this week. That is not preparation. Here we are in 2011 with all sorts of important events occurring and bowlers still adopt, and are allowed to adopt, an inappropriate approach to preparation for the format they are due to compete in next week (end) for our team. Preparation involves structured training suited to our playing positions in the team to ensure the preparation includes a ‘hardening of the arteries’ of tactical and mental skill needed to win these important events. Within Australia at least, the bulk of the major elite events occur these first few months of the year however the player preparation is inadequate and too often irrelevant to the formats. 2 Indecision about line up The cricketing scribe made reference to the market driven approach from Cricket Australia. Seems a perceived parallel to BA from an outsider view. Our Delhi 2010 team appeared as a far different team to that fostered early 2010 on the website. The marketing people need to be harnessed a bit for the sake of the credibility of the selectors, players and coaches. Hype is hollow without results. 3 Bowling plans This is where the England cricket side did well. And their bowls counterparts in Delhi 2010 also did so well. It seems their cricketing bowlers know what is expected of them, they got on with deliveries that equate to bowls by strong head building and their skips are supportive. Do Aussie lawn bowlers get to set their own objectives, and, apply them? Do any of us bowlers in our club teams get that opportunity? In Delhi 2010 the Jersey pairs teams had set in concrete their game plans and the expectation of their respective lead bowlers. Did they win medals? No! Did they perform well - compared to their written and agreed objectives, yes extremely well, for which we were all so proud for them, of them. 4 Work ethic As we cricket fans know, the English team altered their team composition to suit the venues. And those in the squad, despite not being in the team initially, continued to train as diligently as the selected team members. And Tim Bresnan their bowler was rewarded for his team spirit and diligence. I am not convinced that work ethic and team ethic abounds in bowls. And I think it is because we are an older fraternity and it is too much effort for us to go back on the training track after a day of competition so as to reinforce/correct what we need to do tomorrow. Is this touching on the reason why bowls is not perceived as a true elite sport - we are as a fraternity too old to be bothered to put in the hard yards and blow it if any young Turk/gal who dares show the initiative to do so. Well, for me hurrah these rebellious Turks - even more so if you rebellious rascals are like me, a golden oldie not prepared to accept the mindset of the mindless majority. 5 Partnership bowling The English fast bowlers worked in tandem so that one of them got the Aussie wicket - which got the wicket was not a concern so long as they saw a wicket tumble. Here is the rub for me about bowls. All those bowlers who move on because the selectors did not make them skip, or not have them in the top side. Or the skips who think the world revolves around them and their deliveries and not the team contributions. Grow up! Oops too late, I forgot we are all older now, less tolerant, less prepared to be the selfless team member, less prepared to work at honing your skill in the role assigned you for the good of the team, club. All you want is to skip. In Delhi 2010 I called our sports psychologist over to watch the demeanour of the England pairs skip in action. Sheer wonderment. Totally in control, assertive, yet comforting, regardless whether she was playing well or they were struggling. Watched team bowlers from other countries and knew there was little ‘partnership’ and not surprising, no medals. Bowlers need reminding the front end team lays the foundation for a good bowls team. 6 Converting starts What is it about focus? Australian cricketers bat out of the blocks. Okay, then a fizzer. In setsplay bowls events, it continues to astound me the number of occasions players/teams win the first set convincingly only to reverse that situation the following set and then in 47% of cases lose the three-end tie break. If we bowlers and the support squads could address that issue, maybe the players who start well could hold sway to win, more often. 7 Wrong end of run outs Now obviously we don’t have this in bowls. However my parallel for bowls is the notion of ‘bad luck’. Where the opposition, having bowled a dreadful delivery, turns your head from shots up to being down may be a case of where could you have minimised that option for them. However, it all pans out even in the end; that is not to stop us all from training to see if a better way of protecting a head is available so that our ‘run of outs’ is fewer than the opposition. 8 Response after missed chances The cricket scribe was referring to the ‘hang dog’ look/vision the Aussie cricketers showed when we fluffed a chance. That happens in bowls too. Composure after a disastrous end is an attribute we can control and display. Let’s say our team drops a five shot end. Well we do play 25 ends in pennant competition so why not keep it in perspective. Also why not break the pennant into 5 X 5 end mini games for the rink team and in the case above we may lose one of the five mini games. That does not prevent us winning the other four mini games and overall the rink success. The inability of players from many countries at Delhi 2010 to understand and apply that principle had me wondering how so many of them even got to Delhi. Is the standard worldwide that dismal! 9 Lack of partnerships Although the article I read was about cricket, I take a U-turn here and refer to the need for bowlers to initiate their own partnerships. For example to choose playing partners with whom you know you are going to win more often than lose; I do recognise that geography and cost are factors here so common sense prevails. Consider though, if you want to soar with the eagles, don’t mix with turkeys. But what happens if you are lucky enough to be at state/national level - sorry not lucky, good enough - and selectors indicate you will team up with others. Why not go the whole hog - seek these teammates out, train together, go in extra events together, seek support (financial) from your state bodies to do so. Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained! 10 Making hard decisions. Selectors. All about selectors. We probably read and heard the chairman of Australian cricket selectors comment post series. Wow! Compare the English situation where they saw one fast bowler get wickets but at a heavy run cost. He was replaced whereas the Aussie bowlers were held onto until the story was - Ashes to Ashes. In Australia we are all familiar with the pre Delhi 2010 saga of selection. The main decision selectors need make from club to international level is this - choose your best side first and last. And dear club or Group playing selector, that best side may not include you. Now that is not a hard decision, it is the RIGHT decision. Nevertheless, at club to international level there are bound to be players who seem unable to win in the big events and that is as much because they are the ones not able, or prepared, to consider applying the earlier nine reasons and/or points covered in this article to highlight our Ashes cricket demise. Is that happening at your bowls club too! The gospel from the Ashes, dear bowler may be - we in bowls can be like the Phoenix rising from the ashes (lessons). Hope you enjoy the read. PS: Over the next handful of editions I shall cover these topics - coaching elite levels; self-belief; measuring and focus; poor performance; tactical ‘myths’ and finally high performance leadership. Tiger Tales Tiger Tales Lachlan Tighe
March April 2011