House Call: Slow Play is Poison

Each time we met them in the round robin we cringed. Not because they were rude or especially skilled but because they were slow. Every end was like an experiment in tediousness. I would do my best to cope but I found myself obsessed with trying to speed up the game. I’d even snap at my teammates to pick up their pace. Meanwhile my opposition would plod along and by the end of the 5th end we’d all be begging for mercy. I don’t think we ever won a game against the ridiculously slow team. I also don’t think we ever fit in eight ends… or even seven. It felt like our opposition won the game by wearing us down.

Slow play can be tough on everyone. (Photo Michael Burns)

As much as I’d like to say this is an excellent technique to employ if you want to win games I must protest. Slow play is poison. In general, two hours are provided to play eight ends. This should be more than enough time. Remember you are not playing in the Brier (besides… the Brier has a time limit too). Every shot doesn’t require ten minutes of debate. The following ideas will help you and your team to be part of the solution rather than the problem. You need not employ every idea but try to put as many as possible into practice.  Be on the ice five minutes before game time. This allows for handshakes, warm-up slides, coin toss and still allows you to start on time.  Sweepers should get out their own player’s next rock if they are able to get to it faster than their player. Think about courtesy and efficiency. If your second has to get his slider on, why not get his rock out for him while you’re waiting.  Do not pull out the opposition’s stones. Teams often throw their rocks out of order and you may not know what the order is. Also, pulling out rocks creates a tripping hazard.  As soon as the opposing player has released her stone, the next player to throw should move quickly to the hack so he can be ready to throw as soon as his skip takes control of the house. The sweepers can watch what happens with the opposition’s rock. The thrower should be cleaning the rock and setting up so she is ready to go when her skip takes control of the house.  At the beginning of an end, if you do not have hammer, your lead should not help to put the rocks away. The lead should find his first rock, get in the hack, clean the rock and be prepared to throw as soon as the skip is at the other end.  Curling is not a democracy. Front end players should not provide input on strategy unless asked. Be prepared to contribute when asked but otherwise, keep it to yourself. Even the thirds need to exercise restraint when it comes to giving advice. Not only does second guessing undermine the skip, it also slows down the game.  Other than at the end of the game, rocks do not need to be put away in order (this one is hard for many people to let go of). Simply putting the rocks neatly in the corners and not worrying about number order saves a lot of time. If you are compulsive about putting rocks away in order, skips can help by putting rocks that are out of play in their appropriate place as the end progresses.  Rocks don’t have to match up with the colour of the rock boxes until they’re put away at the end of the game. It will not affect the game so there is no need to waste time switching corners.  Skips must stay focused on the next shot and not be chatting with the opposing skip or players on adjacent sheets.  Skips could call a simpler game. Simple strategy usually means simpler shots with a higher execution rate which is good for our confidence as club level curlers. It also means there is less likelihood of having a million rocks in play which leads to complex, multi-option situations where too much deliberation about the next shot occurs. Fight the poison. Stop slow play.