Hey Coach: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Just Steal it!!!

I had the great opportunity this month to be able to help out as an assistant Coach with Team North America at the Continental Cup. I have to admit this may be the most entertaining event in curling – especially for the players! My main role was looking after collecting and collating all the rock information so we, as a team, worked together to ensure we threw the right rocks at the right time – in order. The rest of the time I got to watch a lot of great curling and I want to share some thoughts when I was doing that.

2011 World Financial Group Continental Cup

I begin the first thought with this picture (right) that was shared with me from a former junior player of mine from Ontario. He points out that a number of junior and young women/mens teams should take note of the intense concentration of Mark, John and Ben as they watch Simon Strubin of Team World. It should be noted that Simon is a lead…….that is how much Team Martin watches each and every shot. There are a number of teams out there who play competitively and have aspirations of being the best and improving and what they simply need to do is watch what our top teams do on television. Don’t reinvent the wheel – just steal it!! This may be the start of the game, it may be the end – the point is the intensity that Team Martin has when watching one of the first shots of the end. A lot can be learned by watching your opponents – learning the ice, getting set for the next shot, getting a sense of the time thrown, any changing ice conditions etc. The point is if the best team in the world is doing this – why shouldn’t you? When watching a television game pay a lot of attention to the descriptions of strategy by both the announcers and the team itself. We are one of the only sports on television that mic their athletes so you get some insight into what our top teams do, and more importantly, why they do it. Strategy is easy on paper – it takes years to be comfortable with a game plan however it can be sped up by using television games. Example? Watching Cheryl Bernard on her Olympic Trials and Olympic run may be the best example we have had in a long time of scoreboard management. Too many times we have teams that say, “With hammer we want to take 2 points, without force to 1.” That means you win every ten end game 10-5? Wouldn’t that be great? The key to watching Cheryl is that she didn’t mind gambling with rocks and that she had an extremely distinct plan. She likes to score in the even ends – especially late in the game. They would be extremely happy to be tied with hammer in the 10th end and would maneuver after the 5th end break to do this. They may, with a 2-3 point lead, even maneuver in the 6th end to do this! It was extremely well planned. If our reigning Olympic Silver medalists have a plan – why don’t you? And….why don’t all four players have it memorized?? Lastly I want to talk about the sweeping we see on television. When you watch the next game really try to take an in-depth look at what our top teams do. I want to provide you with some questions you could answer when watching:
  1. What type of brush heads do they use?
  2. If they use a hair head, what sweeper uses it? Does this change?
  3. On the majority of perfect shots, are the sweepers part of the equation?
  4. On the majority of draws that need less then 50% sweeping, when/where was this sweeping done?
  5. Did they clean the majority of rocks?
I could go on and on!!! I want you to look at the questions, answer them and then discuss them with your team. For example I was at a competition about a month ago where I saw a young team using two hair brushes on good ice conditions (not frosty). I shudder to see this with the knowledge we now have on sweeping technology. This team is saying that they truly do not need to maximize sweeping with their choice of broom. Why? Well hair brushes are easier to use. They provide less resistance so maybe they felt they didn’t have the fitness yet in their young careers to use synthetic…..but I would argue with that. If our top teams are using two synthetic heads in the majority of their events – who are you not to? I’m fired up. Love this sport. Paul