Hey Coach: Let’s talk about Practise!

“We’re not talking about the game. We’re talking about practice.” A famous quote by one Allen Iverson, but it is truly applicable to our sport. I have the opportunity each year to participate in an Adult Curling Clinic conducted by the Alberta Curling Federation and each year we have a question period. Every year there is a question about strategy and I answer it with a question. I ask the participant “Do you practise”? The answer will always dictate what I can share with the curler. If he/she does practise we can then discuss what particular skill or skills they are trying to improve subsequently how that improvement can impact the type of shots they call in a game. If they don’t practise then much of what we talk about during the game is a tough sell as it will be truly hard for them to see long-term improvements. Practice for a club curler is tricky as most of us go out to our league games, deliver our 16 shots and hope that we play well. I have always said I would love to take the ‘hope’ out of curling and the easiest way to do that is with deliberate practice. Practise of a skill should breed confidence in that skill. How do you know when this happens? Well, I can tell you how we know when it doesn’t!

(Photo: CCA/Brennan Schnell)

When you are sliding out of the hack and you begin thinking to yourself “I’m a little wide, let’s try a brand new release”, that is when your confidence is lacking. Repetitive, successful practice of your set up and slide to a target should create confidence during a game. We want to ensure during a game that we release everything properly so that our Skip knows what is coming towards him or her. Unfortunately many club curlers grant themselves artistic impression marks and try to fix their slide with their release. Not you? Have you ever heard “hurry hard…..WHOA!” That was you sliding a bit tight and then fixing it with your release…..we all know what the outcome was. I shared in a previous blog about the impact of basics on Team Martin’s practice. They focus a lot on the basics and truly believe this underlies everything they do and the success which comes from it. Sliding in a straight line is pivotal to our game and should dictate how much of our teams and club curlers practise. I will share one drill with you now and then in next week’s blog three or four more that are very simple, but provide you with the confidence that your set up is going to hit the brush for you! Drill #1 – Target Practice Take some sort of target – plastic cup would work – and place it at the near tee-line. Set up in the hack with a rock lined up to hit the cup. Slide. Pay particular attention to where your rock hits the cup. Is it right in the middle? Slightly left or right? Do it a few more times. If there is a particular tendency then you may have to adjust your set up. Example – if you are always hitting the cup ‘wide’ then you may have to line up ‘tight’. The reality is that you are lined up perfect and your old line up was not perfect. Our line up, in curling, is one of the most important parts of our delivery. Get this right, make it your own, and it will make the next 20 feet so much more enjoyable! Yours in curling, Paul Webster Now go practise!!