MVP Sports ~ Your One Stop Sports Shop
~ Canada's Top Bowls Specialists
~ Bowls, Curling & Golf

MVP Sports Logo

The Delivery Doc

Helping you get it right!

The Delivery Doctor will be posting as often as he can in this blog. Sometimes about bowls, sometimes about curling and more than likely also about golf. The Doc will also be posting insights after one of his frequent coaching stints, either at a club, with a customer or with a client athlete.

The Delivery Doctor will be pleased to hear your feedback as he has the ability to be both thick skinned and/or hard of hearing whenever the need arises. 


Bowls Resurrection - A Surgical Solution to the Playdowns - Part 1 of 3

There has been much discussion surrounding Provincial Playdowns over the years. A plethora of patchwork solutions get offered each year, and these days most of it seems to be spread through social media, the great water cooler of the internet. Most of the comments we see posted in social media, and that I hear from bowlers are centred around complaints of what is wrong with the system. Too many times there is no solution offered. Even where a solution is offered, most of them are simply reworks of a dreadfully broken existing system of play. On one thing though everyone I speak with can agree. The system is broken. So how do we fix it?

A brief history of the playdowns

Let’s go back a few years… ok… several decades! Next year will be my 49th year in Bowls but it has been many years since I have seriously taken part in the Provincial playdowns. Back in the old days we would often have upwards of 30 singles players show up on a Sunday to play a single knock out competition, up to 20 pairs teams on another given Sunday, and occasionally even break the double digit mark in fours teams for that district competition.

That was in the days when we had twice as many bowlers in Ontario folks! For those who don’t remember or who weren’t there you played your first stage (Fours) in one of 16 District Playdowns and if victorious went on to play a round robin with 3 other teams in one of the 4 appropriate Zone Playdowns. If you won there you showed up and played a 3 game round robin to determine the Provincial Fours Champion. Meanwhile the Pairs and Singles has gone through a similar process.

On the day of the Ontario Championships the Fours, Pairs and Singles Champions were all declared. If you won your District Fours and lost in your Zones that was it for you in the Ontario Playdowns that year. A little harsh but at least if you lost your District Fours you tried again in the District Pairs, and if you lost that you tried again in the District Singles. Three chances to make it through to the Zones. One chance to make it from the Zones to the Ontario Finals.

All in all five weekends were taken up with Provincial Playdowns and in the case of the Districts usually only one day was burnt as apparently we had more stamina in those days and played four or five games in a day. That left us with plenty of time and energy to play in other events both locally and province wide.

We had lots of time to support both our own club and those to which we travelled… and travel we did. We had time to pick and choose the competitions we attended, to pick and choose the level of competition we chose. In our case we chose to play at the elite level competitions at least a couple of times a month, travelling 6 hours per day and sometimes 10 - 12 on a weekend to bang heads against the best in the province. Why did we travel this much? Because we knew the best were going to be there, that every game meant something… and yes because of the love of the game!

Colts and Fillies were the Novice event back then and yes they were played in the same fashion as the “regular” Playdowns, and were declared on the same Ontario Championships weekend.

So, we had 4 events… Fours, Pairs, Singles, Colts/Fillies… with twice as many players and far more competitors than we have today! Because this only took 5 days to play we had open weekends when we could spend time supporting other club’s tournaments, where we could travel to various other tournaments throughout the province, and still be left with time to spend with family.

That was then and it seemed so simple!

Fast Forward 40 years!

These days we have events coming out our ying yang (whatever that means!), basically tying up each and every weekend throughout the bowls season. What do we have… maybe 23 or 24 weekends of play here in Ontario? And I’d harken to guess that over 80% of those are taken up playing some form of a Playdown! So… 16 weekends… not days… weekends. In some cases the Playdowns are run on weekdays, in direct conflict with a club tournament. Now that makes sense doesn’t it!?

We have: Fours, Pairs, Singles, Novice Triples, Triples, Senior Triples, Mixed Pairs with the possibility of Open Fours coming? I know I’m missing a few here so forgive me if I’m a bit confused. Why have we added so many new events when our numbers have dropped in half in the last few decades? Who has this serviced?

We look at participation and some try and compare total entries with other years, but what you have to compare is the number of individuals who actually participate, not total entires. Put up your hand if you played in 4 or more of the above listed playdowns this year. Put up your hand if you played in all of them. Put it back down, because you’re probably exhausted enough from all that travel. If you played in the District playdowns and made it through as a winner… or (gasp!) alternate and didn’t win at the provincial level then you have effectively blown off 14 weekends this year. What if you happen to win! You get to spend your kids college fund or your retirement fund travelling to some beat up green across Canada and bunker down in who knows what bed bug infested hotel (ok, that may be a bit extreme) to compete for one of our vaunted Canadian Championships. In the old days you could name tech Canadian Champions from the present year, the past year and many years before that. You could quote how many Canadians Jim Law had won. I wonder just how many can even remember who won the Canadians in this present year!

Think about it!

What were you doing before you got caught up in the mess that is now our playdowns?

I have spoken with bowlers who are absolutely wiped out by the amount of travel to playdowns/finals. To a person they wish there were fewer of these events so that they could stay a little closer to home and play in some local tournaments. Hmmm, yes, that would mean supporting their local clubs! What a novel idea that would be!


Categories: Bowls


Bowls Resurrection - A Surgical Solution to the Playdowns - Part 2 of 3

The Problem

This is part 2 of a 3 part discussion on the Playdowns in Bowls including: the History, the Problem and the Solution that is being offered to get Bowls back on track. If you haven't read part 1 then I would encourage you to read that first. We learn from our history... or at least we should!

The Problem

Nobody can claim there is a true rise in participation at the playdowns. No study will prove that what we are doing is promoting the game. I contend that none of our playdowns are conducive to finding and declaring the best bowlers in the province… and ultimately in Canada. 

Is it because there is no interest anymore? 

• This could certainly be the case. Bowlers are just plain tired of the constant travel and associated cost to sit through byes, to play non-competitive teams, to play teams who didn’t actually win the right to play there!

Is it because there are so many events that winning an Ontario Championship has much less meaning these days than it did in the past? 

• That would be an affirmative in my eyes. Back in the old days we had one chance… three if we played horribly in the Fours or Pairs. Nowadays you have seven chances to get out of your district. No wait, you can still lose and get a chance to play in the Ontario Finals. Wow… Ontario Finalist… and Ontario Champion… those words used to mean something!

Is it because of travel costs?

• I don’t think so. The relative cost of goods and services back then didn’t put any more of a % dent in my pocket than it would today.

Is it because of the increasing age of the population?

• Seriously? 48 years ago I was younger than the average age of the bowlers by… ok 48 years or more… and the playdowns were full of entries. 38 years ago I was younger than the average age of the bowlers by… 38 years. 28 years ago… I was younger than the average age of the bowlers by… ok, right again, 28 years. And now? I’m just about the average age. So, we’re not getting older on average. We’re just participating less. The old boys and girls back then didn’t seem to have a problem with stamina. They didn’t declare we had to play 10 end games because of heat. They didn’t say they were only playing “x” number of ends in a day. We are the same average age and now we have different rules? Ok, I’ll grant we might be a little more sensible today about our health but using age as an excuse for declining enrolment in playdowns is bunk.

Is it because there are fewer club tournaments to play in that bowlers go to playdowns instead?

• No! Emphatically no! The reason we have fewer club tournaments is because of the plethora of playdowns, and this could be the very reason we have to make a change in the way we think about what the playdowns are, who they service, and how they are played. IMHO, I believe the demise of the game started when we began adding more and more provincial events to the schedule. For those who have played the game long enough I’d like you to think about all the great club tournaments you used to play in, about all the great games you had in those tournaments. I’d like to you remember those tournaments and games because I’d hazard a guess that those tournaments are either no longer on your schedule or have been wiped off the schedule due to lack of entries. 

Who have we harmed in the process?


Plain and simple. Clubs who used to rely on revenues from district tournaments (some big events - double draws!) to help run their clubs. There used to be waiting lists (often started in the previous season) for these tournaments. Now? The tourneys have either disappeared or are run half full. Sad really. Why did this happen? Again, IMO it is because the bowlers who once supported these same tournaments are now travelling far and wide in an attempt to become an Ontario Champion… whatever that means these days!


Yes the same players are bickering and complaining and have been for years about how they are tired of all the playdowns, of how much time they take, of the number of meaningless games that have to be played (because of format), of the various ways that they are played throughout the province, of the lack of high level of competition at all levels of these playdowns. So is this really a competitive event? Are we attracting the competitive bowler here or are we just opening up the Ontario Finals to those who should be honing their skills in other tournaments before entering this next level of play?

The development process.

When is there time to practice? Time to coach? Don’t for a minute think that just because this is Lawn Bowls that we don’t need both coaching and practice. If you do then you should probably stop reading right now because you and I do not have the same love of the game at all! Bowls is a sport, especially at the competitive level and if we want to be regarded as such then we should start acting like athletes.

The growth of the game.

In its existing state there is no way we can possibly market our game properly. Not a hope in Hades. Without a product we can market to both sponsors and the public alike there is no real possibly to take our great game to another level. 

And that, folks, is the main problem with our game today. We are not marketable in our present state. We all know we have a wonderful sport. But we are the converted and Joe Public to this day still sees us a Dickie Dee salespeople… or painters. We are still seen as an old folks sport. We got left behind by other sports like tennis and golf and curling… all of which made major image changes decades ago… all of which made changes to their game at the highest level to attract the non-playing public. What have we done but add a bunch more of the same? Wow… that worked didn’t it?

Bowls basic needs

I’ve written about it and I’ve lived by it and I taught my kids at home and at work about it. I’ve always said, “If you don’t have a solution, you don’t have a problem!” If you don’t have a solution you’re nothing but a whiner, a complainer. I have little tolerance for those who complain without offering up a solution. I have a great deal of respect for those who offer a solution, but even more for those whose solution does not involve pushing a personal agenda.

We need to get back on track in Bowls. 

We need to promote our game. We need the grass roots player and administrator to understand that promoting the game at the highest level will have an immediate trickle down effect on membership in their local clubs. We need the competitive bowler to recognize how significant their presence can be at the local club level. We need both grass roots and competitive elements to come together, to recognize each others needs and we especially need them to put aside their own agendas and work towards a common goal. We need to make this happen soon. I am aghast at the number of clubs closing or in danger of closing due to lack of numbers.

We need to build a system of play that will assist with the development process. We need to include events that will allow players to progress, for coaches to become an integral part of the growth process and for the social interaction between grass roots and competitive bowler to thrive. We need to work on member retention and recruitment. Both are equally important. There is no sense marketing our game as the greatest game in the world if they think it’s not all that great once they get here!

We need to support clubs again. We should be working to build club and district tournaments up to their halcyon days, where securing an entry should be a concern, not an afterthought. Club and District tournaments are a stepping stone to provincial playdowns… or at least they used to be.

Most of all we need to drop our personal agendas and in the words of Apple Computing, we need to “Think Different!” We need to stop rehashing the same old, same old. We need to stop making the same mistakes. It’s time to get creative and to be inclusive of all the elements of our game.

In the next part we outline the Solution to a murky history and the problems we have created for ourselves in this sport. 

Categories: Bowls


Bowls Resurrection - A Surgical Solution to the Playdowns - Part 3 of 3

The Solution

The Solution

I have offered several solutions to both OLB and BCB in the past, both verbally and in writing. I keep on hearing the “oh, that’s nice but we could never do that because so and so wouldn’t want that” comments. The problem with that is that when I speak with those same so and so’s they see a lot of merit in the solutions. So what is the problem here… our unwillingness to change… our inability to be proactive? I think so! I have to admit that looking back some of the ideas I have proposed for discussion may or may not have been workable without a lot of due diligence, but considering where we are now they certainly would have been a better solution than the mire in which we have been stuck.

In the past few years I have been promoting and garnering opinions from many bowlers, both competitive and grass roots alike. These include bowlers both locally and nation wide. Most agree that the solution I am about to offer is both workable, inclusive and would contribute significantly to the growth of our game. It would go a long way to attracting serious sponsors and eventually lead us to partnerships akin to curling/Pinty’s or curling/Scotties/ or curling/Timmy’s. I use curling as an example because we are the same sport… but we just play on grass! 

The following solution is the nutshell version of my solution. There are many details I would be willing to work out with a committee of like minded, progressive people in our sport. Or you can just sit there, stir the sludge we’re in right now and watch our sport go further down the drain.

The Playdowns

Ontario Playdowns - The Majors

  • will be contested in Fours and Singles only
  • will be competed for by players who hold an Ontario Membership Card, and need not be members of the same club (applies to Fours teams)
  • will be competed for in sections at two regional centres, the format of which will be round robin to declare the top 4 teams coming out of that region
  • the top four teams from each region will advance to the Ontario Finals
  • the Ontario Finals will be a round robin between the 8 finalists, with a subsequent paige playoff system used to declare the Ontario Champion and Runner-up
  • all competitions, both regional and provincial will be held on greens running SRPM 13 or better, but no faster than SRPM 17
  • greens surfaces will be level and true
  • the use of greens protectors will not be allowed during play at any time
  • teams will declare a club team coach prior to the start of play, the coach shall accompany teams to the provincial finals and may be used as the team alternate
  • Singles will be contested in sets, in sections as outlined above. 
  • Singles will be contested under the same parameters of play as outlined in the Fours
  • The winners of the Fours and Singles will earn the right to compete (a birth) for a spot in Bowls own version of curlings Roar of the Rings, competing against members of the National Team. The winner of our RotR will represent Canada at the upcoming World Bowls or Commonwealth Games in their respective event (either Fours or Singles)

Novice Playdowns

  • Can be contested by bowlers not having previously won a regional event in Fours or Singles
  • will be contested in Two Bowl Triples
  • will be competed for by players who hold an Ontario Membership Card, and need not be members of the same club (applies to Fours teams)
  • will be competed for in sections at two regional centres, the format of which will be round robin to declare the top 4 teams coming out of that region
  • the top four teams will advance to the Ontario Finals
  • Winning teams will be awarded Gold Silver or Bronze medals at the end of play
  • will be held on greens running SRPM 13 or better, but no faster than SRPM 17
  • greens surfaces will be level and true
  • the use of greens protectors will not be allowed during play at any time
  • teams will declare a club team coach prior to the start of play, the coach shall accompany teams to the regional finals but may not be used as the team alternate if they have more than 5 years of Bowls experience or have been a regional champion in any event, or a past Ontario Champion as declared prior to 2017

Club Playdowns

  • Club Teams will consist of three different pairings: Men’s 3 Bowl Pairs (M3bP), Women’s 3 Bowl Pair (W3bP), Mixed 3 Bowl Pairs (Mx3bP)
  • games will be played in sets of 3 with 5 ends played per set
  • players must have a current Ontario Membership
  • players may only represent the club to which they live the closest (easily verified through google maps data)
  • clubs will have a set period of time to declare the club winners who will comprise their Club Team 
  • clubs will post for entries and will play off in a round robin format to determine the club representatives for each event (M3bP, W3bP, Mx3bP)
  • the three teams (M3bP, W3bP, Mx3bP) will play their inter-club games as a team event. Points will be awarded for sets won and in the event of a tie the total club team shot differential will declare the winning team
  • In the first inter-club match Club Teams will play the club next closest in proximity to them (ie Cobourg’s first match would be with Port Hope) This would be determined at the start of the season by participating clubs who would have met the entry deadline date. An alternative to this would be to simply award byes to clubs who have no opponent (ie if Port Hope had declared a team but Cobourg could not declare a full team then Port Hope would be declared the 1st stage winner)
  • Home advantage will alternate from one year to the next if the greens of the host team has greens running a minimum of SRPM 11.5, else the club with the fastest reading will be declared the host club
  • at completion of the first round of play, the winning Club Team would play the next winning Club Team (proximity declared in advance and according to entries)
  • this format continues until there are 16 Club Team Champions
  • the 16 Club Team Champions will meet at a venue that tests out at an SRPM minimum of SRPM 13 and no more than SRPM 17
  • The 16 teams will participate in a double knockout play down over two days to declare the medalists

Benefits of this system of play

  • it is inclusive in that it allows players of all levels (grass roots in the Club Playdowns, competitive in both Club and Provincial Playdowns and also-rans and newbies in Novice Playdowns) to participate.
  • it encourages participation and integration into the local club by competitive bowlers at the club level
  • it solves the perceived problem of parachute teams in provincial play and allows for competitive players from smaller clubs to play in the fours event with players from other clubs, not matter the location within the Ontario boundaries.
  • it encourages coaching and player development at both the club and competitive levels
  • it offers sponsors a viable product that they can associate with (see below why this would work)
  • It keeps the Club Playdowns reasonably local for the first few rounds and thus encourages participation while cutting down on the associated costs in time and money
  • it creates rivalries between clubs - a key missing ingredient for any sport that has been missing in ours
  • encourages bettering our greens, which in turn will promote better bowling, which in turn will lead to better retention numbers throughout the sport, which in turn will make recruiting an easier task

Sponsorships and Awards

For the past two years I have asked bowlers and bowls administrators alike the following question. I would ask you to ask yourself the same question right now. Once you read the question you have only 8 seconds to answer.

Scenario #1

Pretend you are a major sponsor… Travelocity, Starbucks, Home Depot, Desjardins Insurance. You will ask the bowls governing body (Provincial or National) the following question and you expect an answer within 8 seconds (although you would not tell them they have a time limit)

The Question

I would like to get involved with sponsoring a high profile event in your sport. What is your best event that would give me the greatest overall exposure for my company? 

The Answer

Now this is the sad part. 

Every time I asked this question over the past few years I have received:

  • hums and haws
  • a list of all the (handfuls of) events that we call our championships
  • a blank stare as if they didn’t understand the question

Not once did anyone, or could anyone in all honesty declare a best event… the sports best event… not the one they personally liked playing in the most. There is a huge difference!

Now lets ask that question again, given that we would be using the 3 types of playdowns as I have outlined above.

Scenario #1

Pretend you are a major sponsor… Travelocity, Starbucks, Home Depot, Desjardins Insurance. You will ask the bowls governing body (Provincial or National) the following question and you expect an answer within 8 seconds (although you would not tell them they have a time limit)

The Question

I would like to get involved with sponsoring a high profile event in your sport. What is your best event that would give me the greatest overall exposure for my company? 

The Answer

Very proudly the answer would go something like this:

Wow, that’s great news. We actually have three very distinct possibilities for you (here is where you briefly outline the 3 different playdowns: 1 - The Majors, 2 - Novice and 3 - Club Team). Because of what your company represents, however we believe our Club Team Event represents your best bang for the buck. As a travel company we think this grass root level to provincial champion event will reach the largest audience for you. Your company would be in the forefront from opening day when the clubs announce the dates for the “Travelocity Club Championships” right through to the actual Ontario (or Canada when they follow suit, as they will) Championships. 

In return we know that through your affiliation with the various hotels, restaurants and airlines we could come up with a very attractive prize package that would also garner us some airtime for both Travelocity and Lawn Bowls. Can you imagine it! The Canadian Travelocity Club Team Champions not only are Canadian champions but they’ve also won (each member) an all inclusive trip for two for (destination tbd by Travelocity in agreement with OLB and/or eventually BCB). Runner-ups (medalists) would receive complimentary hotel stays and/or restaurant coupons. Each member who started at the grass roots level would also receive a coupon from a participating hotel or restaurant chain to the value of their nominal entry fee.


It’s not brain surgery folks… but our sport certainly needs surgery, not bandaids. This is a very viable solution I have offered here. I am willing to work with those who believe our sport is in trouble and are willing to use this solution as a framework for resurrecting our great game.


Dan Milligan

“The Delivery Doctor”

MVP Sports

Categories: Bowls

Copyright © 2012 - 2020 MVP Sports - Your One Stop Sports Shop! All Rights Reserved.
MVP Sports - Sole Canadian Distributor for Taylor Bowls, Scotland since 1985!
MVP Sports - Sole Canadian Distributor for Verdemat Portable Carpets, England.