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Hey Coach: Lessons from our Olympians in Vancouver

Welcome to the first post in our new “Hey Coach” blog on Curling.ca!!! My name is Paul Webster, I am the CCA’s National Development Coach and am currently Level IV certified. I have had some tremendous opportunities in coaching over the last six years and would like to use this blog to share some lessons that I have learned from those opportunities. Most of these lessons have been learned by simply watching and listening to how our top teams operate.

I have learned from my experiences that it truly is not an accident that the current top teams in Canada are the top teams; they work hard and continue to do so. If we turn the page back a couple of months ago we all bore witness to some incredible performances from our Canadian Olympic curling teams. Both Team Bernard and Team Martin have some very easy practices that you can learn from to ensure your team makes some strides this season.

Team Bernard at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Let’s start with Team Bernard and specifically their lead, Cori Morris (nee Bartel – congrats Cori and Sean!!). I have to admit that I have a tonne of respect for Cori as she truly has worked harder then most athletes to get to the top. Cori is the person who you see at the club at 10pm at night by herself throwing. She is the teammate that follows the advice from her sport professionals (personal trainer, nutritionist, sport psychologist) to the letter. Cori was not the Tiger Woods of our sport who was instantly blessed with all the talents in the world and could take a year off and still be at the top – she works hard, so hard that she can rely on repetitive practice to ensure her skills are top notch. It has been extremely rewarding to watch Cori develop over the last six years I have been in Calgary. She has always been a good player, but through sheer determination she has taken her skills to the next level and has become a world-class front end player – both in shooting, sweeping and teamwork. Lesson to be learned – work hard. Seriously.

I read a quote the other day from Bruce Jenner that said:

“I learned that the only way you are going to get anywhere in life is to work hard at it. Whether you’re a musician, a writer, an athlete or a businessman, there is no getting around it. If you do, you’ll win-if you don’t you won’t.”

It sounds so easy, right? The problem with a lot of teams in our country that are looking to take the next step is they are not willing to make the tough choices to ensure they are doing everything possible. Don’t take the above quote verbatim – when Bruce says “If you do, you’ll win” it may not be the world champoinships, but the respect of your teammates and more importantly, yourself.

Cori’s sheer determination and hard work should be an easy example for the young players and teams out there. If you’re trying to get to the top do not try to invent a plan to get their – steal one from the top teams and players and make it your own!

Team Martin at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Now Team Martin. The lesson I want you to learn from this foursome and their coach Jules Owchar is that of focusing on the basics. I believe a number of the fans that watched this team practice in Vancouver prior to the start of the Olympics were amazed at how simple their practice looked. A lot of focus was put on line up and sliding straight, and then they would make some shots. In the four days of practice leading up to the games they would always start practice by sliding through two rocks; rocks that were extremely close together with about a 2cm gap for the rock to travel through. In those four days I only saw one slide where the thrower hit the rocks with his throwing rock! It truly was a testament to solid mechanics and ensuring that this is not taken for granted.

The delivery in curling is truly simple but it can become complicated when you forget to focus on basic mechanics. You want to go into an event trusting your delivery and the only way you can do that is to ensure your practice made you perfect. So many club curlers are working on their mechanics mid-slide, thinking they are inside or outside and they ‘fix’ it by adjusting their release. When you watch out teams on television you should be able to notice the consistency of their slide and release. Hitting the broom should be checked off your to-do list once you sit down in the hack, it should not be something you do as your deliver a rock!

Lesson to be learned from Team Martin – focus on the basics and shot making will become easier. Do not put the cart ahead of the horses….or something like that!!

I look forward to our journey together this season. I have had a number of requests for certain topics to be targeted in this blog and I will try to cover them. If you or your team are looking for some advice feel free to contact me at pwebster@curling.ca.

Yours in curling,
Paul Webster