Between the Sheets: Don’t Do Complacency

As I write this blog Team Bernard has just finished up their 3rd event this season. It began with a win in our small Calgary Curling Club opener on Sept 10th (I had just flown in two days prior, from a two week African safari so I was a bit jet lagged).

Cheryl Bernard delivers a stone at the 2009 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings. (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

One thing we had agreed on at the end of last season was to not throw a stone this summer, so that we all had time to recover from a long season last year. So suffice to say – we were all pretty pleased with ourselves, my 10 hour time change and the fact that none of us had hardly thrown before the event didn’t seem to have much of an effect. We pretty much carried on from the end of last season. Easy right? Well the next weekend we head to Edmonton for the Saville Shoot Out. We lose our first, then our second and our THIRD game. I turned to the team after our third loss and said, “Should we panic yet?” We did manage to pull off our last two wins and then sat down for a team “chat“. We realized a few things were happening. Teams were very much up to beat us. Everyone wants to say they beat the Silver Medalists or Canadian or World Champion. I know we always did. But this was a healthy wake up call for us. We realized we had to maintain the elements that had made our team successful. We understood, that normally by this time in our season we had already thrown hundreds of rocks with coach Dennis- probably starting in mid July. We had worked with our sports psychologist Penny at least once and we had definitely been up to Edmonton to see Rob Krepps for our regular pre-season technical tune-up. So what did we do? We promptly emailed Dennis, Rob and Penny and asked for a mini camp the next weekend. And we started from the beginning (again). We had Rob & Dennis do a technical re-work for each of us. I remember reading that Tiger Woods would go back to his coach Butch (at that time) and have him work out all the kinks that had developed in the last tournament. So that’s what we did on ice. Then we spent individual and team time talking about what we had to continue to do and possibly improve upon mentally to have success this year. Which brings me to our second realization. We mentally had to find a way to get up for smaller events. Coming off a high from last year – playing in the Trials, then the Olympics and then The Players Championships – those were easy to get up for and to work towards, they are huge and exciting…so what could we do to get that back in some of the early season events? We couldn’t be complacent. Complacency is a killer. We had to find small individual goals to work toward in each game that we played – so we talked about what motivated each of us out there, and came up with our plan. Our final realization is that there is always someone out there working harder than you. So if you let your work ethic slip…even a little, that is the opportunity that another team (or another country) will take and surpass you.The Europeans have been getting stronger and stronger over the years – they are using resources we aren’t even using – to beat us. Its the same here in our country. Coaches and competitors are coming up with new ways – they are working harder on fitness in the off season and they are working harder on the mental, technical and strategic side of the game. We had to realize we ALWAYS have to be improving, because many of our competition have realized the same. Winning an Olympic Trials or a Silver medal doesn’t rid you of technical issues you worked so hard to correct. Those will always creep back in if you ignore them. There is no rest for the Champion and no rest if you want to be a Champion. So, the weekend after our mini-camp we headed to Vernon for the Twin Anchors Prestige Classic and beat the Russian’s in the final! It was proof that the hard work will pay off. It may not always be instantaneous but it will pay off. And even after that win – one day after arriving back home we were all out practicing – because even though we won, we weren’t perfect in Vernon and we knew we had to continue to improve. So for us there were some great realizations early in the season. And even if we continue to work as we always have, there are no guarantees. However we will all be able to look each other in the eye and know that complacency will never be an issue on this team.