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How a marker can be helpful, not prohibitive.

A marker in a singles match is pretty essential. A game cannot progress satisfactorily without one. However, a marker can make or break a game despite being โ€˜neutralโ€™ in their role. I have spoken before about the standard of marking and the efforts being made to improve the skills of these willing volunteers.

Throughout the year I hear horror stories of how a marker has lost a player a game by giving the wrong information or moving jacks and bowls whilst measuring. These sorts of stories send shivers down my spine. There is one aspect of marking that causes a great deal of debate among players and officials, namely the answering of playersโ€™ questions.

The duties of a marker are detailed in Law 55 in the Laws of the Sport Crystal Mark Second Edition and Law 58 of the Laws of the Sport of Indoor Bowls. The wording specific to answering questions is essentially the same in both codes. The marker should โ€œ…answer any specific question about the state of the head which is asked by the player in possession of the rink.โ€ So what constitutes a โ€˜specific question?โ€™

One of the most common questions asked by players is โ€˜what is the position?โ€™ Is that specific enough for a marker to answer? Or should they simply ignore it? Well, I think it would be foolish to ignore it and not give an answer and I do know that the majority of players will be expecting to hear how many shots a player is holding or down.

Purists will argue that the question is not โ€˜specificโ€™ and the law therefore does not allow the marker to answer it. They argue that the onus should fall on the player to ask the right question in order to get the answer they are looking for โ€“ I am sure there are a few of you reading this thinking the same as me!



Let me give you another example of a question, the answer to which divides the player and marker community.

Have a look at the photographs. One is the view of three bowls from the mat perspective and the other is the same three bowls from above. Now, a conversation between player and marker could go like this:

Red player: Am I holding one?

Marker: No

Red player: Am I one down?

Marker: No

Red player: Who holds shot then?

Marker: Blue

Red Player: So I am one down then?

Marker: No

Red player: Well how many shots are against me then?

Marker: Two

The result is a very irate red player. This is an actual conversation; I am not making this stuff up. I hope that most of you will agree that this is a ridiculous dialogue to be having on the rink. But the marker has answered the โ€˜specific questionsโ€™ and complied with the letter of the law.

In my opinion, I would expect any decent marker to say the following:

Red Player: Am I holding one?

Marker: No, you are two down.

There are, however, a lot of players and markers who disagree with this answer โ€“ what is your view?



It is clearly important to not give too much information and that, I believe, is the intent of the law. It would clearly not be acceptable for a marker to say: โ€œYou are two down and you should draw on the backhand.โ€ So where do we draw the line with our answers?

Marking courses will be held throughout the world and it would be nice to think that the same guidance is being given to those learning this important skill. Alas, I fear that a consistent message is not being delivered and the risk is that players will end up with mixed messages from those that are standing at the other end of the rink looking pretty