Four-time lawn bowls world champion 'Shoey' shares his best tips

Ian ‘Shoey’ Schuback is the current undefeated four-time lawn bowls World Champion. He shares his best lawn bowl tips here.

Q. How did you get into lawn bowls?
I received a broken jaw after being ‘king hit’ playing Aussie rules in the Latrobe Valley football league and had just watched the first series of the popular Mazda Jack Hi bowls series and the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games on ABC TV. I shifted to Queensland and had my first game of bowls at the Coolangatta Bowls Club in 1982.

Q. How important has lawn bowls been in your life?
I began playing in 1982. I was fortunate to be selected to represent Queensland in my second year after which I quit coaching tennis and fully devoted my time towards improving my game. I was then selected as the Australian singles representative in my 4th year at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, where I met Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, who hung the silver medal around my neck.

Four years later, at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Game, Trevor Morris and I won gold for Australia in the men’s pairs event. My goal was to be the most professional player in the world and become world champion. As luck would have it, I exceeded my goals, although I believe you make your own luck in life. I retired after playing bowls for 15 years and winning over 70 major titles.

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Shoey bowling in action

Q. How much time have you spent involved with lawn bowls?
Following my playing career I spent 16 years as the expert commentator on the popular ABC TV Super Series bowls with a weekly audience in excess of 300,000 viewers. This kept me involved in the sport and I enjoyed my time as an ABC commentator as much as when I played the game. Then, to have the honour and privilege of coaching the Australian men’s and women’s bowls team to their best ever performance at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games really provided yet another wonderful opportunity to put something back into the sport I love. Being awarded an OAM for my services to the sport of bowls as a player, commentator and coach was one of the most humble feelings one could ever imagine or experience.

"The secret to playing accurate running shots is to always play this shot with the same speed."

Q. How does it feel being an international record holder of four world titles?
At the time of winning a world title, the feeling is one of total exhilaration, albeit for me it was just a fleeting moment. I never ever reflected much on what I had achieved or won. Any victory just recharged my desire for the next upcoming challenge. In fact, with the exception of my two Commonwealth Games medals, I never kept a trophy or media article about any of my achievements, as I only focussed on what was coming next.

Q. What did you think of the Australia movie Crackerjack with Mick Molloy?
I thought it was a great movie, which accurately depicted the old fashioned image of the sport of bowls. Some of this still remain today. I recalled a massive reaction after I appeared on Andrew Denton’s Live and Sweaty television show on the ABC where I told a story about a women throwing her bra at the lady President of a bowling club after being told she couldn’t wear a bra with a small amount of pink lace barely evident.


Watch the trailer for the hilarious movie Crackerjack

Q. What are some great tips for our readers who are already into lawn bowls?
Most players just play for fun and enjoyment and that’s fine. However, if you want to improve you need to find a good coach and seek out several valuable role models and mentors who can help fast track the learning process. Unfortunately, bowls is a sport that can never really be mastered and this is its real attraction. Bowls is really a never-ending apprenticeship.

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Q. Is it a fun social game?
Bowls is a fantastic social game that has no barriers regarding gender, strength, fitness, age etc. Although it’s often depicted as an ‘old persons sport’, I believe it’s more a young person’s sport that older people can still play.

If you’re not prepared to allocate regular periods of time and effort to practice, or to learn how to train your mind by testing the fit of that competitive mask during practice, be content with your current performance, and simply head out and enjoy the game!

Q. Tell us some lawn bowls gossip…is there drama going out out there?
There’s always drama and gossip going on in all sports. The sport of bowls is a fraternity, it’s like one big family and most families have plenty of drama. The higher up the ladder you go, the more drama and politics there are. Players nowadays are somewhat more professional than years ago, but the administration of the sport clings to many traditional rituals and strongly held beliefs. Since ABC TV dropped its coverage of bowls on free to air television, the participation rate has significantly decreased and this is quite alarming as many bowling clubs are being forced to close their doors.

"It’s not how good you look that counts, it’s all about where the bowl finishes."

Q. What are the most important qualities a lawn bowler needs?
Depending on the level of play, I think the most important quality all players need is a real good sense of humour. Too many players take themselves and the game too seriously to their own detriment and the people around them. There is plenty of luck in bowls, good and bad, so all players need to remember that it’s not important what happens to you, but it’s really important as to how you react to what happens to you. I think bowls’ is the friendliest sport in the world where participants can travel the globe and make friends wherever they go, all because they play this wonderful game! 

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"Knowing when you attack and when to defend can be the difference between victory and defeat."

Q. Last advice?
Failure will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough! Playing any sport is not about winning or losing, it’s more about doing something you really enjoy and the myriad of opportunities to discover many valuable and long-lasting friendships along the way!

"There is rarely a definitive shot to play, because you can often decide to play a low-percentage shot and still achieve a dream result. However, it is far better to choose a shot that will provide two, three or even four chances of success in preference to choosing a shot that offers only one chance of success.

Examine the choices made by top players, and you will soon realise that winning is as much about good decision-making as the ability to execute those decisions - it’s about playing percentages and giving yourself multiple opportunities."

Shoey's top 10 training tips

  1. Don’t just roll up
  2. Always train in a competitive state of mind
  3. Train more than you play
  4. Try to train a minimum of three to four sessions each week
  5. Know the value of different types of training
  6. Improve your skills with block training
  7. Sharpen your game with random drills
  8. Get some tough match play before tournaments
  9. Keep a record of your training results
  10. Be prepared to put in the hard yards if you want to be a champion!

What sports do you enjoy playing? Have you tried lawn bowls? Join the conversation below!