In all sports there are players that excel at what they do and are not only gifted but have that special something that make them winners. I am lucky to have lived through an era where I have watched the likes of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry (snooker), Tiger Woods (golf), Phil Taylor (darts), Roger Federer (tennis) and Michael Schumacher (F1) to name a select few. All are prolific winners in their sport and will have provided many a young competitor something to aspire too over the years. Personally I have great admiration for not only their will to win but also the sheer determination to keep coming back for more.

The importance of having a target to aim for and also learning from players who have played at the highest level is crucial to the development of your own game but so much can also be taken from those players who may not be world beaters but give you the basics of how you will start to model your future.

There are 6 people who I believe have shaped my own career in bowls and each and every one of them still to this day play a part in every game I play. At 10 year old I was given one piece of advice from a gentleman named Ted Hall who said that if I was ever in trouble in a game of singles I should get the mat right up the green and play to the 6ft mark from the ditch. “you will be amazed how many players hate playing near the ditch” was the advice he gave and I have applied this so many times over the years. Without a doubt it has turned many a game in my favour and I would love to shake his hand today and thank him for this little jewel of knowledge.

At club level I first played for Barley Mow BC where I was taken under the wing of Brian Collings and he was very much instrumental in the way I play the game today. He was a multiple club Champion and his attitude on the green was how I feel any sport should be played. He was as competitive as they come but this did not come at the expense of the way he treated others whether it be the opposition or his own players. He understood that nobody stands on the mat and tries to play a bad bowl. If you don’t play it the first time you would always be encouraged to get it with your next bowl or on the next end. There was never any pressure but he had the respect of his players that they knew he still wanted the best from you. This I believe is so important as it is hard enough to beat your opposition without putting added pressure on your own players. He also gave his opposition total respect whilst having a laugh and showing complete sportsmanship. The same man did not suffer fools however and was never afraid to give his opinion or put someone in their place if it was justified.

Les Revell

At County level I was lucky enough to play lead in the C Team for my skip Les Revell. As a young player I was really happy and proud to be considered for Durham County and that hasn’t changed to this day. It was quite daunting at the time as this is a step up from club level but from day one Les made me feel very welcome and although he was now at the twilight of his career he understood that I was beginning mine and he gave me nothing but encouragement and support.

To this day I still see him and am very thankful for what might seem a simple thing but one that made me very much at ease in what could have been an intimidating situation and could in some cases destroy the confidence of any young player.

Jimmy Lambert

Gary R Smith

At around 16 I was becoming a little frustrated with the game and was thinking about giving up but received a phone call from Jim Lambert who had heard about my thoughts and asked me to go and have a chat with himself and Gary Smith. Jim was a former international and Gary a current England player and this was to become a defining point in my future in the game. They both convinced me to move to Sunderland Indoor Club where I would be playing amongst a large group of very good players whom I would learn from and constantly be pushed to play at a high level. How true this was and to top it off I also got the opportunity to play in national competitions with both Gary and Jim.

These two players are in my opinion two of the greatest to pick up a bowl and I have learned so much from both of them. What Jim doesn’t know about the sport is not worth knowing and just watching how he would construct heads or identify attacking shots during games was fascinating and I have adapted this into my own game over the years.

Gary on the other hand could draw onto a pin head and is the most consistent draw bowler I have seen playing the game. He can demoralise the opposition by playing killer bowls from what would sometimes appear to be desperate situations and in most cases a lesser player would probably be playing the hit and hope firing shot.

Both are still very much a part of the game and are always there for advice whenever I feel I am struggling with an aspect of my game. It is one thing I have never been frightened to do as I am not one who thinks I have mastered the game and after 28 years I still learn from every game I play.

The final piece of the jigsaw for me comes from the man who introduced me to the sport and has been my biggest supporter ever since. Every bit of success I have had is as much for my dad as it is for myself and making him proud is what spurs me on every time I compete. He gave me a framed picture with the words “Don't look down on someone on the way up as you will meet them again on the way down”.

Yet another great piece of advice and is the reason I treat every one I play with equal respect and always will. I am forever thankful to both my mam and dad for their endless backing and taking me to my games in the early days and my dad still loves to come to my games when he can.

My advice for any new players would be to always take advantage of knowledge and watch and learn all of the time from those who have been there and got the t-shirt. Pedigree is invaluable and I’m sure if you were to speak to any top player they would all have someone or a group of people who have been influential during their career.

No "I" in Team

There is nothing more satisfying in any sport than being part of a team that has that winning formula and not only play for each other but create an atmosphere that makes you want to pull the shirt on and give your all for the cause at every opportunity.

Over the years I have been lucky enough to play at both ends of the spectrum in teams that look great on paper but very rarely if ever succeed, to the afore mentioned that seem to just click together and success follows. It may seem strange to say I have been lucky to have played in teams that have little or no success but without this experience I would never have identified what I believe are the pitfalls and general failures of unsuccessful teams.

I fully appreciate that talent and ability play a big part in winning an event and this alone can be enough but I have also seen many a player/team who has so much ability but continuously fall short due to a poor attitude or are blinkered to their own frailties. This is where things start to get very tough for team selectors as it becomes a balancing act between players that can play together and potentially leaving a talented player out of the squad due to the negative impact they create.

There is also the scenario that you pick a rink full of players who are maybe the best in the club/county but aren’t necessarily a lead, second etc and maybe all predominantly play skip but you feel the quality they possess or player aura will see you through matches. In my experience of seeing this in competitions and doing the same thing myself it generally doesn’t work out. It is very hard to replicate what dedicated front end players give to a team as a good lead will consistently give you bowls in the head but also I feel you can have a situation where negativity and poor morale can creep into the rink. Top players have different styles of play and their own opinions of how shots should be played and can on occasions give off enough of a negative vibe that it can affect the shot you play. This can seriously affect the harmony between the players as you can start to doubt your own choices and question whether your teammates are criticising your decisions resulting generally in poor execution of a shot.

Having played for Durham County both indoors and outdoors for over 20 years I have been part of a very strange situation that sees our Liberty Trophy indoor team win the championship on a regular basis (Record 11 times) yet our outdoor Middleton team have underachieved for many a year with our solitary success being in 2000. Now for all I appreciate the two formats are very different and the county has had some exceptional indoor players over the years it is hard to accept that a county the size of ours with probably 70% of the same players outdoors should struggle as much as we have.

This became an issue I have had to deal with since taking over the manager position in 2015 and is one I am still struggling to conquer but have maybe made some of the mistakes I talked about earlier. I have potentially fallen in to the trap of selecting who I believe are the strongest players but ultimately some don’t play for the team and cant look at the position of the overall situation and encourage where necessary. Apart from a time around the 2000 success there seems to have always been a culture of making sure their own result is positive rather than consolidating a situation to ensure the overall result is the right one.
This is something that hasn’t been noticeably evident in our indoor team and we have always been renowned for being extremely strong at the end of games which comes from belief and fighting for each other.

Durham's 2000 Middleton winning squad

In 2016 I have seen 2 teams that will be competing for team of the year and both epitomise my ideal requirements for a successful team. The first is Leicester City FC who shocked the football world after winning the Premier League and the other was the GB ladies hockey team at the Rio Olympics. Both of these teams were not expected to achieve what they did but the evident team morale and the sheer determination to give everything they had for each other reaped the benefits and to see the delight and celebrations that followed made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

I was lucky enough to be part of a similar situation this year when playing in the international series for England. I don’t think I have ever been part of a 24 man team that not only gave everything when playing but also were very much a team off the green and that includes the reserves. To hear a team mate congratulate a shot you have played from 3 to 4 rinks away not only boosts the morale of the player but also shows that there is genuine togetherness as a group to get the best result. I am also a big believer in continuously keeping the opposition on their toes and under pressure and if their concentration is drawn to something happening away from their rink then it can create the illusion of domination in a game. This may not always result in a win but it is easier to go into your next game with a team that believe in themselves than one that has negativity running through it.

I certainly hope to help create a winning team mentality both as a player and a manager for as long as I’m still involved competitively and will hopefully continue to identify and learn what it takes to achieve this.

And its a goodnight from me and a goodnight from him......

David Bolt


Disclaimer- Any views expressed in this blog may not be shared or connected to either the Sunderland & District BA / The City of Sunderland IBC.


Site last updated : Tuesday September 18, 2018 1:11 PM