Hey Coach: Bad ice or bad equipment? Let’s start with the latter!

I have the opportunity in my chosen profession to work with curling athletes of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels however they all seem to be experts in complaining about ice; espeically picks!  When I hear these types of comments the first thing I look is the equipment they are using.  More times than not the equipment is just slightly younger than myself.  Not only can new equipment help keep the ice clear of debris from old hair brooms, rarely cleaned synthetic brooms, breaking down gripper foots or extremely old and deteriorating grippers (anti-sliders for those BalancePlus customers!) but new equipment can really help your game improve. Let’s start with the entire concept of equipment that is breaking down first, then we’ll talk about the ways new equipment can help improve your game.   I was practicing this morning at a local club here in Calgary with a team and having a chance to peruse the other people practicing I noticed two people using extremely old plastic brooms and one person with a set of Brooks curling shoes.  Both items have ceased being manufactured!  My biggest concern is with the brooms.  Answer this question: are you able to purchase new synthetic heads for the broom you currently own?  No, then you need to buy a new broom.  Yes, then please buy a new one, or at least use the club supplied nail brushes to clean the head you are using. Teams in our professional ranks swear by the effectiveness of a new synthetic head versus an old one; to them an old one is one that has been used  more than 10 games.   I have seen numerous ways people have found to clean their brush heads – dishwasher, tide, you name it……however what needs to be understood is that these broom heads are designed to be slightly rough.  If you feel your brush head and it is extremely smooth, or you sweep with it and you hear nothing….not the sweet sound of a brand new codura head (that’s the name of the material)….then please buy a new one as the sweeping you are doing is not being that effective. Grippers – both on your curling shoes and the slip over type for your slider – please have them replaced if they are shedding rubber.   With the advent of the synthetic head we have numerous picks these days from grippers that are breaking down.  I heard a great story from one of the CCA Business of Curling Seminars of a club in Ontario who upped every entry in their club $5.00 and supplied every member with a new gripper.   The curlers were happy and the ice maker even happier! Hair brushes – they definitely still have a place in our game today.  Please, please, please…if your pre-game routine finds you picking out the shedding hairs from your broom have it replaced.   The glue in hair brooms will not last a lifetime and when it breaks down the hairs will and do shed onto the ice. Now let’s talk shoes.   I have seen numerous curlers over the years who simply needed a slider upgrade and they had an unbelievable improvement in just one slide.   Personally I wear a set of BalancePlus shoes as I have grown up with them and I love the speed they provide.  I have a set with 1/4″ Teflon and I will regularly lend these out in a camp setting to people and the transformation in their slide is amazing.  Next time you are duct taping your shoes together take a peek at the slider – if it is extremely thing and/or has a number of gouges in it this is sometimes the main reason you are having problems with leg drive, balance and your overall feel for the game.   Grab a pair of new shoes to try with 1/4″ Teflon and you will find yourself sliding like Jill Officer forever behind the rock. We can all do ourselves a favour for our ice conditions and throwing ability if we look after our equipment.  I hear people complaining about the price of a new set of shoes with thick teflon however these same people have three $500 golf drivers in their garage from years gone by!  Let’s spend a little on our sport to help improve it all around!