Alex Scott of Saskatoon, SK is a member of Bowls Canada’s marketing committee and shares this post with the goal of sparking a conversation and encouraging readers to share their thoughts.
In every sport you have athletes who have perfected their mechanics to the point that it’s unflappable. The robotic nature of these mechanics cannot be ignored. They are robotic because they have put in a million hours of work to perfect their golf swing, their basketball shot, their tennis swing, their LAWN BOWLS DELIVERY. And they just GET IT. Tiger Woods. Ernie Els. Jack Nicklaus. Some of the most fluid, beautiful golf swings I’ve ever seen. Effortless almost. I’ve never seen someone as naturally gifted as Roger Federer. The way he dances around and hits the most viciously placed back-hand I’ve ever seen is must watch television. Andrew Luck threw such a gorgeous, mechanically sound football. There are natural phenoms in this world who just get it. Alex Marshall. Karen Murphy. They just get it. And when things do need to “change” it happens quickly and organically. A fine tuning if you will. Mechanics at its highest peak.
But then you get the athletes who really had to “make it work” because that was the way they had always done it. Have you ever seen Jim Furyk swing a golf club back in the day? He actually stutters mid swing! He won a US Open doing that. Recently retired QB, Philip Rivers, looked like he was shot-putting the football every time he threw it. Highly successful NFL career spanning 17 years. What about David Bryant, you know, arguably the greatest lawn bowler to ever play? He started on the mat in a crouching position; literally a complete squat while aiming his bowl at his target line. He won a bajillion world titles making it his own. Are they phenoms in their own right? Absolutely.
So, the question I ask you is this: do “standard mechanics” even matter if you’re getting the results? Sure, there are those with atypical mechanics who achieve success, but if you had to choose between someone who is “doing it right” vs. someone who looks like they’re about to fall off the mat before delivering a bowl, who are you going to choose? It’s a legit question because numerous coaches in almost every sport value mechanics above all. If you don’t fit this mold then they’ll move on. But there are other coaches that are more results-based: win and I’m in.
So, what do YOU value more? Are you swayed one way or the other? Do you de-value results more if they occur with an atypical athlete? If coaches intervene with mechanics with a high caliber bowler who’s been playing like that for 10 years, will it set them back 3 years or will it unlock even more potential? Sure, you can add in team chemistry, strategy etc. to your success but the basics of bowls is to roll a bowl close to a jack. What DO YOU look like when you do it? Is it weird? Is it fluid? Does this conversation even matter? Please. Let’s discuss anyway….
Terry O'Neil · March 6, 2021 at 3:50 pm
Well Alex you opened up the cookie jar now.
I think it may be a combination of both players in a team game like fours.
Give me Steady Eddys for lead and second to set up each end.
For the backend I like shot makers who have the imagination and ability to play the quirky bowls needed to convert dangerous situations.
I have seen many steady backend players who just will not try the tough shot or who are unable to see the advantages, choosing to play safe.
We all go off the boil on occasion, but you can be in real trouble if the Eddys loose it, because they don’t have the odd shots in their minds which can bring them back into the game.
Give me Tiger and Alex Marshall anyday.
billmccollam · March 6, 2021 at 7:24 pm
It is an interesting question – though I’m not convinced it matters.
It just depends on context. If it’s a new bowler that hasn’t yet become successful – then naturally a coach would strive to get them back to basics and work on the delivery fundamentals. If it’s a successful long term bowler – then they probably aren’t looking for coaching.
I guess there is a middling ground – where a long term bowler wants to improve and is coachable. In that case – I guess its just a question of how far back in fundamentals are they able to go.
I just think there is a certain aesthtic to a fundamentally sound delivery – and it’s a lovely thing to see. I watched a youtube Scottish tournament once where one of the final competitions included this fellow that would deliver on his off -foot. He was pretty effective – but gosh it was painful to watch.
Bill Pearson · March 7, 2021 at 9:43 am
Great question and one i fixate on regularly. Selling bowls in Sun City Arizona, i come in contact with newer bowlers looking to upgrade their bowls. Typically they have had lessons where they are taught to throw bowls. As club bowlers, they love the socialization but hate their bad outcomes. When i fit and sell them bowls, i work to enhance their techniques and the basics to maximize outcomes.
All of which leads me to the point, a great athlete can adapt a style that works for him/her, the key typically will be the delivery is a constant, even if the form is uniquely their own. For the masses however, good technique will most often result in better bowls.
We’ve all watched good bowlers with bad technique throw quality bowls. The question i would ask is, how much better could they be if they perfected better mechanics? I would argue a lot. Anyone that has read R.T. Harrison’s 1952 book How To Become A Champion understands the nonsense behind the idea there “is only one right way to bowl.”
Lawn bowls is a game of evolution, change and adaptability. The longer we play, the more we evolve to fit the problems with aging. Fortunately, those of us living in Sun City Arizona enjoy the best greens in North America. Bowling on great surfaces, where pace and play-ability are exceptional, demands better technique. In my opinion, great mechanics is essential to improving the skill set of most bowlers.
John Aveline · March 14, 2021 at 5:32 am
Hey Alex – this question is really good one. My first thought is that quirky mechanics work just fine, until they don’t. If I’m coaching someone who is successful with atypical mechanics, I leave it alone, but make a mental note. Typically, at some point, quirky will hit a wall and the athlete will reach out to someone for advice. That is the time to make adjustments – when the athlete wants them.
Just my thoughts. Stay safe!!
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