Fast track your game development with purposeful practice



Time spent on the bowling green can mean many different things to different bowlers.  From catching up with mates while ‘chucking’ down a few bowls, to specific drills performed to fine tune a certain technique and everything in between.  Obviously not everyone wants to become the next Alex Marshall, but for those of us who want to make the most of what precious time we get on the green, purposeful practice is the tool to take your game to the next level.


What is purposeful practice? Regular ‘rolling up’ or practice may involve mindless repetitions, whereas deliberate practice focuses attention towards a specific goal of improving performance.  Purposeful practice also involves an element of systematic approach.  Regular practice still has its benefits and helps to reinforce and maintain basic technique during the early stages of improvement.  However, if you ultimately want to overcome plateaus in performance, be more competitive and nail that backhand drive consistently than planned purposeful practice is the only way.

The key to success with purposeful practice is feedback!  Receiving immediate feedback while performing skills/drills on the green will enable you to adopt and further understand your actual ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’, rather than predicting what your perceived abilities may be.

The best method of introducing an immediate feedback system while performing specific skills/drills is through a scoring system.  Taking this approach on scoring the outcome of each bowl you deliver in relation to the skills/drills goal, will allow you to not only compare results on the day of practice but also over time.  Patterns in strengths or weaknesses can be highlighted in such things as; jack length, green conditions, matt position, weather, rinks played on, forehand and backhand shots.

A basic example of a scoring system which is widely used within the bowls community, would be the use of the matt length to determine a score.  E.g., If the bowl delivered falls within a matt length of its target, then a point is scored.  If the bowl unfortunately finishes more than a matt length from the target, then the score is zero. Alternatively, you can go further with this approach and also use the matt width to increase scoring opportunities.  You can be creative and implement your own scoring system and approaches, however sometimes the basic approach with just the matt and a piece of paper/phone to note down scores, can be the most effective. 

New approaches to practice can incite growth, development and overcome lulls in performance.

How to start

Step 1 – Select one of the fundamental skills you can improve upon; Draw shot, Up shot, Drive shot, Cover Shot

Step 2 – Adopt scoring system, E.g., 1 point for each bowl that falls within a matt length of the target or 3 points for each bowl that falls within a matt width of the target

Step 3 – Note each bowls score after each end and document whether it was a forehand or backhand shot

Step 4 – Make session notes on such things as; rink played on, green speed, date, weather conditions etc.

Step 5 – Collate scores over a timeframe you have specified (more data will give a fair reflection of your average performance) and highlight ‘strengths’ or ‘weaknesses’ by using where you have scored the most or least

Step 6 – Adjust and plan purposeful practice sessions to focus on highlighted weaknesses and/or technique performing that skill


Developing your game and taking that next step to play at a more competitive level or achieve some success doesn’t happen overnight, or without some thought or planning involved.  Taking the time to implement some basic purposeful practice sessions can pay off substantial dividends.  With just a small adjustment in behaviour and mindset towards ‘rolling up’ or ‘chucking down a few bowls’, your all round game could go from ‘roll up king/queen’ to ‘club champion’ in no time.

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“Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation.”

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Author - Simon Lyttle

Author - Simon Lyttle

Simon is the founder of The Bowls Academy. He represented Ireland before permanently moving to Sydney and establishing himself at one of Sydney's strongest clubs, Taren Point. He has won multiple state pennants, zone and club championships and is a current zone 13 representative.

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