How to get into our everyday games

Bowler Q&A


What is a jitney?

A jitney is the type of game we play most often at Cosburn. It’s very much like a pickup game in other sports. Whoever shows up in time for the jitney game can play.

There are no set teams in a jitney; the drawmaster forms teams that are more or less random. Most often, jitney games are trebles (three players per team) or pairs (two per team).

At Cosburn, we like jitney play because it’s flexible and social, and members get to play with different people each time. Unlike league-style play, with fixed teams, members can play as often or as seldom as they like, without obligation to other team members.


When are the jitneys at Cosburn?

We have open jitneys—when any member can play—on Mondays at 1 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Saturdays at 1 p.m.

On Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m., we have a women’s jitney; on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Toronto Rainbowlers has a jitney for bowlers who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender).


How can I join a jitney?

It’s easy! Arrive at the club about 10 minutes before the jitney starts (or earlier if you want to practise first), grab your bowls, and drop your draw card on the drawmaster’s desk. The card tells the drawmaster you want to be included in the game. The plastic draw cards are in the rack near the main door. If you don’t yet have a draw card with your name on it, you can use one of the guest cards.

The drawmaster will create teams and place the cards in one of the draw racks. Once the drawmaster announces “the draw’s up,” you can check the rack for your card—by its position, you can see which rink you’re playing on and who’s on your team. Head out to the green for your game.


Why do new bowlers play the lead position?

In most games, first-year bowlers will be asked to play lead—that’s when you’re the first person on your team to bowl each end. With few other bowls in play, the lead can concentrate on consistently delivering a draw shot (where your bowl simply comes close to the jack without touching other bowls). It’s the fundamental shot in any bowler’s skill set.

Playing lead is a great way to learn about the game. You can watch how the skip uses strategy in the game. Watch too how the vice measures bowls and communicates with the skip. Your vice is also a good resource to answer your questions and offer you tips.

The lead is a very important player on any team. Your bowls set up the end for your vice and skip—you’re building the foundation for each end. A lead who can get closer to the jack than the opposing lead is a huge asset to any team.


What if it starts raining during a game?

In a casual Cosburn jitney, we may play through a light sprinkle, but we don’t expect anyone to suffer through a downpour. Usually both skips will agree to halt the game for a few minutes to see if the rain passes. In a serious tournament, however, rain rarely stops a game.

Lightning is a very different situation. If there’s any sign of lightning, no matter how serious or casual the game, you must come off the green immediately.


Should I wear white when I bowl at Cosburn?

Only if it flatters your skin tone. There are no rules about what you wear for a jitney, except for the flat-soled shoes that protect the green. Most running shoes or sneakers are fine.


Are there other customs or expectations during a jitney game I should know about?

Lawn bowling isn’t as stuffy as some non-bowlers believe, but there are unspoken rules of good bowls behaviour. For the most part, bowls etiquette is about being friendly and respectful to other players. 

  • Before each game, shake hands with the other players and wish them “Good bowling.” Shake hands again after the game. NOTE: To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we ask that bowlers avoid shaking hands until further notice. Please bump elbows or simply nod when you wish each other “Good bowling.” 
  • Be ready to bowl when it’s your turn. When you’re on the mat, you can take a few moments to focus your concentration and get ready to deliver; at other times, keep the game moving at a reasonable pace.
  • Don’t do anything that could distract the bowler on the mat.
  • If the other team’s shot doesn’t go where intended or accidentally helps your team, don’t comment on it. It’s fine, though, to cheer a good shot by either team.
  • If you’re raking the bowls, leave them behind and to the right of the bowler on the mat. Collecting the bowls in one consistent spot is a safety measure, making it less likely anyone will trip on a bowl.
  • Stay on your rink, especially when you’re walking to the other end.
  • When the skips are bowling, you must stand out of the head and not block the bowler’s view of any bowl on the rink.
  • While the vices are determining the score after an end, you must also stand out of the head. It’s the vices’ job to determine the score.
An experienced bowler from the opposing team—who wasn’t a coach—kept pointing out flaws in my delivery. It made me uncomfortable. Does that happen often?

It shouldn’t happen, but occasionally bowlers can be too enthusiastic about helping new bowlers. We do ask members to refrain from over-coaching, especially during a jitney and especially if the new bowler is on a different team.

There are a couple of exceptions where some coaching is to be expected. Your skip’s job is to manage the team, which may include pointing out a delivery problem that is affecting a team player’s accuracy. Also, in the first few weeks of the season, the drawmaster will try to mix new players with experienced players, who can be a resource for the new players.

Occasionally a long-time bowler will suggest a style of delivery that is different than the current practice that our coaches teach. You can try it, but feel free to use the style that works for you.

If you find persistent over-coaching is a problem, try to deflect it with a comment such as “Thanks—I’ll work on that another time,” or “I’m actually concentrating on my aim today.” If it continues, talk to your skip who will pass the message on to the other player.


What happens during Cosburn’s holiday Monday jitneys?

On the five statutory holidays that fall during our season, we have special events for all members at the club. There’s usually food, and there’s always a jitney game or two.

If you want to join in the meal, sign up in advance so the volunteers know how much to prepare. There’s often a small extra charge for the food. If you just want to come by for the games, just put your card on the drawmaster’s desk, like any other jitney.


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