Teach like a bowling champion
From the past four seasons, I have learned a few valuable lessons from hundreds of thousands of paces up and down the rinks of bowling greens in North Yorkshire from Harrogate to Richmond. I have been competing in fixtures and competitions as a regular skipper and the occasional club captain as the Vice Captain of my club. I believe that the way I lead my team and club reflects many of my values and beliefs. I believe that if I take a thoughtful approach to create an equitable system, the scores will look after themselves.
These are my principles:
- I don’t buy into the cliche argument, “They are just not good enough”, as a reason not to enlist female players to lead our teams. No one can be a better player when opportunities to develop skills are denied and support to grow is not given. Investment is key.
- Being a skip is not just about playing the winning shots. As a skip, you need to know 1) your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, 2) the woods that your teammates use so as to direct their defensive, offensive and scoring shots, 3) how to read each new rink and adapt to its idiosyncrasies so as to advise your teammates, 4) how to read the games as they unfold and develop your responses and strategies, 5) how to stay calm and focused at all times (it’s a long game), 6) how to be encouraging and helpful to your teammates rather than being negative and critical even when they are not performing as you expect them to (mustn’t mistake sarcastic remarks as motivational comments), and finally, 7) how to celebrate even the smallest success of your teammates.
- As a captain, you are also viewed as the symbolic figure of your club, not just another competitor. Your conduct can determine how your club culture is perceived by other clubs. Graciousness, integrity and generosity make each game an enjoyable experience for all participants.
- When you lose as a club, you offer hope rather than deepen the sense of frustration and start pointing fingers of blame.
- When you win, you celebrate the success of your players by highlighting exactly what they have done that have contributed to the club’s success.
- Putting your teams together from the team sheets can reflect a captain’s values and beliefs. There are many considerations: 1) who are they, 2) who can work with whom, based on personalities, past game history and current relationship, 3) how do each individual’s skills compliment one another, 4) the order of players – who lead, who follow and who skip, 5) plan B, what do you do should situation demand before you swap match cards with the captain of the other club, and 6) crucially, apart from hoping to win, what do you also want to achieve from picking your teams in the way you do?
- As a Captain who puts the teams together, do you organise your teams because 1) the individual players have always played in those positions, 2) women are better as leads and men skippers, or 3) you want to provide opportunities for your players to discover and develop new skills?
- For me, my objective in this season is to raise the profile and develop the talents of the female players. I have started using them as skippers in matches. The results have been transformative in terms of boosting their confidence and improving their skills from casual participants to competitive players (next step, strategic). Winning gives us all a wonderfully warm and fuzzy feeling; however, there’s more than bragging rights during the post-match supper and raffle draw.
Do you go, “Oh, that sounds just like teaching”?
Yes. And no.