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Hey Coach: Strategy and Tactics – Let’s Talk.

We have taken the opportunity to talk briefly about strategy in this blog and before we go any further we need to differentiate between the concept of strategy and tactics.

With our previous level of understanding of strategy already started we have to have a understanding of what tactics are. Tactics, basically, are the way we call the shots we have selected, to implement the specific strategy our team is playing. To simplify, if we have chosen to play a defensive strategy in the first end and a hit is called, we then get into the nuts and bolts of tactics:

  • What turn do we play?
  • What weight do we play?
  • How much ice do we take?
  • How does our sweeping effect this shot?
  • How does the specific player affect this shot?

This list can go on – and it should! The nuances surrounding one seemingly simple shot are extremely important.

I had the opportunity to put together a presentation on strategy with Brad Gushue about eight years ago. Our goal was to forego any traditional notions of teaching strategy (what shot to play when) and seriously focus on getting teams to understand what they bring to the table. In the presentation we created a list of over 40 skills that a curling team could have (i.e., line calling) and then had them grade themselves out of ten on each skill.

It is the realization of the strengths and weaknesses that affect the shot at hand that hopefully help guide the team and their coach in what their training and practice look like. It is extremely important that a team have a complete and honest understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. It is this understanding that will help guide you as you decide upon a team strategy and further on how you implement that team strategy, How you implement the plan is your tactics.

Teams generally make good plans. Frequently the ways the plans are implemented are something less (i.e. the tactics are inappropriate). If you feel that strategy is a weakness on your team, make sure it’s “strategy” that’s the problem and not “tactics”.

Yours in curling,
Paul Webster

Paul is the National Development Coach for the Canadian Curling Association and currently a Level IV Certified Professional Coach. He can be reached at pwebster@curling.ca