The Perfect Bowls Tutorial to give Barefoot Bowlers.
Bowls tutorials are a crucial, yet often a miscalculated step by bowling clubs. When people come to your club as part of an event or a barefoot bowls party, there is a high change that a majority of them have not bowled before. Us as bowlers, can often get so excited about our sport that we want to tell them everything. Don’t do that, you’ll scare them off but more importantly they will lose interest throughout your tutorial. Remember that the important of the tutorial is to get them bowling and having fun, whilst respecting your greens and your club.
Think of a this like you would an ‘elevator pitch’ for a salesperson, you’ve got about 2 minutes until the lift stops, or in this case until you lose their attention. You know what it’s like – people have often just arrived, they have a drink in their hand and they’re catching up with friends and family that they probably haven’t seen for a while. For them, this bowls tutorial is just something they were told “they had to do”. So your goal as a club now, is to make this tutorial quick, fun and informative.
Insightful tips, before the tutorial
So what is the perfect bowls tutorial, and what information is too much? Let’s break it down into steps. If you’re looking for handbook or a ‘how-to’ training guide for your staff or volunteers, feel free to use these 5 simple steps.
Before we jump into the 5 steps, let’s cover 2 highly recommended setup suggestions.
1. Don’t put the bowls out, before you’re their to run the tutorial.
If you can avoid it, don’t put the bowls out until you’ve had a chance to do your tutorial. Some clubs aren’t fussed if they start bowling on their own, but some are protective of their greens, and for good reason! They’re the central point of your club.
2. Gather everyone (or a large majority) of the group before you start.
If you don’t do this, you’ll have people coming back from the bar or toilet midway and they’ll ask what’s going on. The group will start telling them, and they’re lost before you’ve even started.
Six simple steps as a script, to giving the perfect bowls tutorial
Now, when you’re group is ready to bowl head out there and get front and centre. It’s go time!
Stand on the green and have everyone huddle around you as best they can, either on the bank or the green (depending on the club). Once they’re all there and you have their attention:
1. Grab a mat and a jack, leave the bowls on the bank (or the edge of the green) for now.
“This is the mat, you can place the mat anywhere on this line, that lines up with your rink number ‘#’. You’ll see a rink number on either end, your rink numbers today are ‘#’ and ‘#’. Once you place the mat down, you’ll need to roll the jack (this little white ball) to the other end. Once you roll it…”
[Now, don’t roll it to the other end yourself – that will take too long and distract from your tutorial. Do an example towards the end you’re at by rolling it out of your hand no more than a metre.]
“… to the other end of course :), you keep the distance of the roll and just line it up with the rink number line on the other side. If it goes in the ditch, try again or just put it on this ‘T’ marker. Now you’re ready to play.
[They don’t need to know that there is a minimum length, or that they get two attempts at rolling the jack before it goes on the ‘T’. Keep the game accessible and stick with the basics, so they can get out on the green and try our great game for themselves.]
2. Grab a bowl. The intrigue is growing, this is what they came here for!
“Every bowl has a big circle and a little circle [point to them for the group], the weight is at the little circle. So whether your decide to direct your roll to the left or to the right, the little circle always needs to be facing the jack. It’ll turn itself back in. I’d suggest aiming for the outside rink markers on either side to start with. It’s not perfect, but that will help you get a feel of how the bias, or weight, in the bowls work. When you’re bowling you just need to keep one foot on the mat at all times like this.”
“When rolling the bowl, it is extremely important that you don’t drop them. Our surfaces are fragile so please help us keep them in good condition. When you bowl, you need to bowl and ROLL the bowl like this”
[Show them without rolling the bowl, otherwise they’ll be distracted until it stops and then you’ve invited commentary and chatter amongst the group. But you’ve still got your house rules to announce and they come last, so if nothing else – they remember your club rules.]
4. How to play. They’ve got the details, now they want to battle their friends!
“To play you’ll have two bowls each, or four for smaller groups. This helps keep traffic down for you on the other end to get through. Split into two groups and pick a position, like 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Then, you’ll play in your positions whilst battling the player on the other team in the same position. So, your 1st, their 1st, your 1st, their 1st, then your 2nd, their 2nd and so on; until you’ve all bowled. Then you all go down to the other end and it’s time to score.”
[We’re not going to tell them that the 4th is a captain and they stand at the other end to direct the other bowlers. That’s far too lonesome and serious for that matter, for a social setting. Don’t bother explaining that in pennant there is four v four, where we use two bowls each. Whereas triples, doubles and singles all use four each. Their focussed on getting a bowl in their hands and giving it a go, so let them do that.]
5. How to Score. For the competitive ones in the group, you have their full attention again!
“There are two ways to score, the social way or the competitive way. If it’s all just for fun, closest to the jack wins that end for their team. Or the actual way to score is closest still wins, but every bowl is worth a point for your team, until the oppositions’ bowl cuts you off. So if you have the 1st and 2nd closest but the opposition has 3rd closest, they’ve cut you off at 2 points. Whoever wins the end, that team gets to roll the jack to try and set the ideal distance for their team.”
“I’d suggest playing first to 10 points for now, then you’ll see who’s keen to play and who’s just keen to hangout and drink.”
[Don’t worry about telling them that in pennant its 21 ends, or that intraclub comps for can be first to 21 points, etc. We as bowlers love to play bowls for hours, they just want to give it a try. Put them on their way and in an hour’s time, most will be done with bowls and onto your bar selection.]
6. House Rules. They’re keen, they’re ready, now hit them with the house rules.
“As you may have guessed, it’s no drinking on the green and its shoes off to play (or flat shoes depending on the club). You can carry the drinks around the green on the banks, in-between ends. Losers carry the drinks is a nice way to make that process bearable! Now don’t drop the bowls when playing, make sure you roll them for us please and above all have fun guys. I’ll be around if you have any questions throughout. Thanks!”
Job Done. Now you can step back and give them the space to enjoy the game amongst themselves!
Don’t lose sight of why the Barefoot Bowlers are there
Just remember, the goal of every bowls tutorial for barefoot bowlers is to make it quick, fun and informative. If you take too long with explanations, they will start talking and joking between themselves. Very much like a group of school kids, and once you’ve lost them – you’re no longer the fun teacher because you’ll find yourself asking them to ‘stop talking and listen’. Now you’re the strict teacher. So keep it light-hearted but above all, let them know that they’re welcome and you want them to have fun!