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It’s September – are you sliding through ropes?

This time of year is somewhat magical in the world of curling as all types of curlers are leaving the green acres of the golfing world and heading out to the local curling club to get the season started.  Those of us that are lucky enough to live in some of the larger urban centres have had ice for the last few weeks. There are even clubs in Canada that have had ice since July!

I know there are times when you sit and watch the Scotties Tournament of Hearts or the Tim Hortons Brier and say “I know I could make that shot!” And I agree with you… our top teams make our game look extremely easy.  What I want to shine some light on in this article of BC Bound is that our teams all go right back to the basics at the beginning of the season and this notion in itself may help hundreds of league curlers out there in bettering their game!  Trust me, there are times when those people on television decided to “remake their swing” like Tiger Woods.

I have used the term on numerous occasions “what looks good in our sport usually is”.  Curling, like golf, has a pretty simplistic motion, that if done seamlessly can make a tonne of shots.  I must say that there are numerous deliveries I see on my tours of curling clubs across this country that are a little displeasing to the eye; and we all wonder why we can’t pull out 95% in a game when Mark Kennedy can do it on a regular basis.  While not wanting to get into a technical analysis in this blog, I do want to make the point to all of you that even three or four practices with a local instructor will help you tremendously and if you can get to see yourself on video, you will be amazed at what you see and the positive changes that result.

I had the tremendous opportunity to work with Team Shannon Kleibrink this past weekend as they began their season with a full team practice weekend here in Calgary.  The entire team was there of course (Shannon, Amy Nixon, Bronwen Webster and Chelsey Bell), their team coach Brent Syme, Saskatchewan curling guru Ron Meyers and myself.  They have put together a team to help them reach their goals.  Now you are probably thinking the weekend included a lot of talk about game situations, strategy and sport psychology – and yes that was included – however a lot was simply breaking down their curling delivery so they could realize small areas of improvement.

I know I get somewhat nervous when an Olympic medalist is sliding at me and I should only want to say ‘really good Shannon’ but you know what – there are always things these athletes want to improve and more often than not, they are harder on themselves than we are as coaches!  I was there to help with their video analysis sessions using a system called Dartfish (www.dartfish.com).  This system has revolutionized how we do delivery analysis in our sport and if you have a chance to work with it, jump at it!

Ron had set up a series of drills for the team to ensure they broke down their slide to the very basics (this included sliding through ropes!)  And let me tell you, they were learning new things and ways to improve various aspects of their performance.  This is in stark comparison to the club players practicing on the others sheets who had decided that throwing a bunch of rocks would prepare them for the season!  If you have a chance to see a top athlete in our sport practice, jump at the chance to watch them and better yet, ask them some questions about what they are doing, how they are preparing, and more importantly, why they are doing it.   Some of the best information I have on practicing, work ethic and delivery analysis has not come from courses I have taken, but from athletes in our sport such as Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin and Jennifer Jones.   They are at the top for a reason and it makes sense that the rest of us follow suit!

As I said before, what looks good in our sport usually is, and I simply wanted to make the point that our top teams do not always spend glamorous hours on the ice getting to the point of looking good.  That said, getting there definitely is a journey; one that hopefully will end in a trip to the podium.

Yours in curling,

Paul