"....Skips save the game"

It takes a certain set of both physical, mental and communication skills to be a Skip. Do you have the patience and strength of will not to show your disappointment or frustration to your team mates when either they or you are struggling with the game? Can you build confidence and positivity so that they do not become tense and stressed, which then effects their bowling muscles and posture? Can you gauge when players need advice and guidance of weight and line, but not distract those who are concentrating on the mat and are already committed to bowl?

The Skip should lead the team with confidence by being supportive of any special needs and by providing continual encouragement before, during and after a game. Everyone will play bad bowls and no bowler is likely to deliver every bowl just how they want it - the Skip's role is to play the best bowls they can and refrain from showing disappointment or enjoyment at bad bowls played by anyone. 

Body language can affect team confidence so remain focused on the game and your team. Remain still while standing at the head to avoid distracting your own team and the opponents. 

On top of these often misunderstood skills, are those of bowling with accuracy – to get in tight gaps and be closest to the jack, sometimes towards the end be able bowl with weight to remove opponents winning shots. Above all be able to understand how to build a head, how to compromise and have alternate strategies ready when your plans go awry, and have confidence that you are doing your best to help your team win each end and ultimately win the game. 

At start of the game

  • Collect your score card, pen and score card holder from the Captain of the Day. Either keep it to fill in yourself or give it to your Two if you are playing Fours. The score card can be done by any member of your team, as long as your opponents also do the score card in the same player's position.
  • As soon as your team assembles on the rink, introduce your team to your opponents. This enables everyone to find out who they are playing against.
  • Listen to the Captain of the Day welcome everyone, and state how many ends, and if trial ends are being played first.
  • Shake hands with your opponents and your team mates, wishing everyone a good game. Then walk to the other end of the rink with the other Skip.
  • Remember, if relevant, to ask your opposite skip if it is OK for playing "Threes Up" (see below) for (ideally) 4 ends. This also applies if you are nominating a different team member to do the measuring, rather than the normal Two/Three.

 First part of each end


  • If required, indicate to your Lead how far up you want the mat to be placed. It is a good strategy to move the mat up and down the rink if your opponents are winning and they favour keeping the mat at the same distance each end. However, if your movement of the mat effects your team mates as well, this strategy can backfire on you.
  • In order to help your Lead centre the mat, stand with your feet either side of the rink number and look down the rink to see if the mat is in line with the opposite rink number. Give clear signals to your Lead on how the mat needs adjustment (see Lead). Once the mat is in the correct position raise your hand to signal all is well.


  •  Then walk down the central line of the rink to where you want the jack to be bowled. Some Leads prefer having a distance to aim for and welcome you standing there. While others become nervous of "getting it wrong" with a Skip expecting them to bowl to their feet - they may over adjust the weight that they bowl the jack to where you are standing. If this is the case, stand slightly to the side of the rink's centre line until the jack has come to rest.
  • Pick up the jack (or use a Bowls Lifter) and walk towards the centre of the rink, watching your Lead closely for their hand signals as to when it is in the correct position. Then place the jack.
  • Move slightly to the side and approximately 1 meter behind the jack, making sure not to obscure the rink number behind you. 


  • Stand still, display positivity and confidence in your posture, and watch your players bowl. 
  • As the bowl approaches the head, offer encouragement and advice to your team mates (particularly those with less experience or confidence).  
    However, once their bowl comes to a stop, then possession of the rink goes to your opponent. You can only give information and advice to your team mates when they are standing on the mat and have yet to bowl


  • As the head develops begin to strategize and plan contingencies, particularly if you or your opponent Skip has a tendency to fire and move the jack (therefore, at least one back wood should be asked for). 
  • Offer clear instructions on where you want your team mates to bowl to. One option is placing your foot on where you want their bowl, or using your bowls cloth as a marker. However some players find these indicators distracting. If doing this means that you are in front of the jack, you must move behind the jack as soon as the bowl is delivered.
  • Watch to see if any of the opposing team have a weaker side to bowl on. Some players are more accurate on either their backhand or their forehand. Use this knowledge to your advantage. 
    For instance, the opponents Lead only bowls forehand. If your Lead also plays a forehand shot so that it is in the opponent's way, the opponent becomes flustered and has to play backhand (badly) in order to avoid hitting your Lead's bowl nearer to the jack.
  • Some players struggle at particular lengths of the jack. Watch what your team can do and what your opponents struggle with. Ask your Lead to bowl the jack to your team's advantageous positions.
  • Another strategy that can cause opponents concern is asking your Lead to move the mat further up the rink. Add to this a maximum length jack and you can cause a great deal of "trouble" for your opponents (but only if your team mates are well practised at achieving this strategy). Mixing up the length of the mat and jack are other ways of breaking opponents winning streaks.
  • Ground conditions can also have a factor on what strategy you adopt. Wet heavy greens can cause many players to lose their accuracy and strength/stamina to bowl long, particularly in the later stages of the game. Fast dry greens can result in too many bowls landing up in the ditch, in which case short to mid length jacks are a safer option. 
  • If any bowls that are not touchers go into the ditch or are no longer in play, pick them up and put them on the bank.
  • Once both Two/Threes have bowled their bowls, change ends. 

Changing ends

  • Use this brief opportunity as you walk past each other to quickly and quietly explain to your Two/Three how you see the head progressing; your strategy; or any instructions you want passed on to the rest of your team. 
  • Try to give eye contact and a reassuring smile to any of your team mates who are obviously feeling disheartened or nervous of your reactions. Give sincere praise where it is due, too. When players are tense and stressed their bowling stance is less efficient and are more likely to make further mistakes - it is your job to help them feel relaxed and confident in their abilities.


  • It is amazing how different the head looks when you are standing at the other end of the rink. A good memory of what you have just left can be a great advantage! 
  • Sadly some of the most challenging times being a Skip is standing on the mat and trying to work out how to save the end, particularly if you have a wall of bowls in front of the jack and the other team has at least one shot wood. This is where your experience and bowling skills come to the fore. Should you attempt to fire into the wall and get your bowl close to the jack (a risky tactic as rebounds can easily occur)? 
  • Sometimes damage limitation can be the best strategy in order to cut down the opponent's shot total rather than attempt to get shot wood and fail.
  • Protecting your team's shot wood is also a consideration. What is the other Skip going to try to do to win the end? Do you have back woods in case they fire the jack further down the rink? 
  • As you bowl your last bowl, you may need to ask your Two/Three for information in order to decide the best strategy. For instance - “how far in front/behind was their/my last bowl”; “which is home, which away”; “which is the safest line so that I don’t knock the opponents bowls closer to the jack”; “which is shot”, “shall I fire, and which way?”….. 
  • Try your best and remember there are plenty more ends to play that you and your team can win.
  • Once all the bowls are played, pick up the mat and place it on the bank. 
  • Turn and wait to see what the Two/Threes conclude is the winning shot(s), then signal to them that you understand the result, writing the score on your scorecard (if you are in charge of it).
  • If the score board is at your end of the rink, change the scores and ends appropriately.
  • If you won the last end, repeat the above, centering the mat. If you lost, stand to one side so that the other Skip can sort out the mat and jack placement.


  1. Lead and Two play their bowls while Three & Skip are at the other end, discussing the formation of the head. 
  2. Then Three walks down to the mat to bowl while the Lead and Two walk the other way and stand behind and to the side of the Skip at the head. 
  3. After Three has bowled their 2 bowls he walks back to head while the Skip goes to the mat and bowls their 2 bowls. 

Although "Threes Up" is very rarely done because the game does take slightly longer, this is definitely a great way for Threes to develop and learn from experienced Skips, particularly when playing Umbrellas or Friendlies

When agreed by both Captains before the match, "Threes Up" can be done for some of the ends, or even the entire game. 

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