When we started talking about Little Rockers in the fall, we noted that the program was primarily developmental and most of all fun. In order to break up the routine of regular curling, we would introduce a day of drills and fun activities. By changing the routine from week to week, curling is kept fun and interesting. Here are some of those ideas to share with you.
First of all, drill stations are manned by on-ice volunteers who know what the kids are suppose to do. If the young curlers need help, the volunteer can offer assistance to correct any faults. The stations are organized so the flow of curlers moving from station to station is clock-wise. This way the curlers do not collide with one another as they move from one station to another. If possible, the curlers in each group should be the same age for social reasons. The number of curlers in each group should remain small, let us say 4 to 6, so each curler can maximize the number of chances they have to perform the skill at each station and not standing around too much. Duration of time at each station is to be no longer than 10 minutes, so the kids do not become bored at any one station.
Practice slide, is simply that, practice of a nice slide. Concentrate on how to find balance and sliding straight. Short compact slides are used here. This is just sliding forward from the hack; no rock or back swing action.
Towing, ask the Little Rocker to position themselves in the delivery position without their brush. Holding their hands in front of them, they grab onto your brush head. Slowly at first and then a little faster, walk backwards pulling the Little Rocker with them holding your brush. This way the curler gets the idea of proper body positioning for a long slide, in a controlled situation.
Draw shot, again this is straightforward. Simply ask the curler to make a draw shot to the rings. Here they are finding draw weight to place a rock on the rings. You need the full length of the ice surface, so two volunteers maybe necessary to co-ordinate this drill. If you have it set up, for the younger curlers, use the half sheet arrangement.
Timing and cadence, is used to allow the curlers to develop the rhythm they need for a good slide. This would require the on-ice volunteer to review and recite the cadence with each curler, from stance position to forward slide. This can be done at first without the rock and then add the rock later.
Turns, allow you to work with the curlers on their grips, turns and release. Line half the group with a rock on one sideline. The other half of the group is on the opposite sideline, across from a mate. The adult volunteer will demonstrate proper grip of the handle and the two turns to those with the rocks. Then ask them to gently throw to their mate the rock with a proper turn and release from a squatting position. Their mate will receive the rock and have the volunteer repeat the demonstration for them. Then they throw the rock back across the sheet to their partner. Different turns are used and the process is repeated for practice, until time to change stations.
Long slide, is where the kids slide for distance, while still maintaining good form. Have available markers of some sort, like paper cups or mini pylons. With each curler, mark where they stop on the first attempt. Then with the second slide, see if they slid further and change the marker as necessary.
Hit, is obvious what to do. Place a rock at the far end in the rings and ask the curlers to play a take-out on it. You’ll need a full sheet of ice (or half sheet if necessary for the younger kids) and maybe an extra helper to keep track of rocks travelling down the ice sheet. This drill will illustrate to the young curlers the weight they need to remove other rocks from play.
Two-rock slide, allow the curler to slide from the hack with two rocks, one in each hand. This will give them the sensation of sliding further than they would normally be able, for the extra weight in the rocks will drag them a little further down the sheet. Do not release the rocks. For some extra challenge, have the curler slide toward the skips broom as a target, being held at the near end.
Sweeping, is a drill the whole group can do at once. Take a few moments to demonstrate proper gripping of the brush and brush head action. Then line the group up on the centre line to move down the ice sheet, brushing the line. You can even pair the kids up with partners, one acting as the brusher and the other pushing a rock slowly down along the centre line. The brusher will practice their technique of staying in front of the rock while brushing. With both of these brushing drills, the curler is working on footwork as well, gaining confidence moving down the ice while brushing.
Tune in next week when we talk about changing some of these drills into fun activities.