Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mailbag #2

The questions today come from the members of an adult male team. I felt they were universal enough to comprise a blog. Enjoy "Mailbag #2".

Q. What is the single most important "thing" I can do to improve my delivery?

A. I'm going to assume (that's gotten me into trouble in the past but I'll take a flyer one this) that you have or are learning a "balanced, flat foot delivery" (the industry standard as I send this). You've asked for one piece of advice and if that's your wish, here it is. When you enter the slide portion of your delivery and proceed toward the release point, you need to "feel" that the weight of your body is evenly distributed on your slider (side-to-side and front-to-back)! It's a phrase I use frequently in clinic settings and with teams of all skill & experience levels. When you slide as described above, two really good things occur. First, you will slide in a straight line. Hopefully, with a solid pre-shot routine, that straight line will be directed to the skip's brush. Second, you will maintain the velocity you generated from the hack for a longer period of time. That will allow you to monitor the speed of your slide and with it the velocity of the stone so you can add, with a "soft elbow" in the delivery arm (not a "bent arm"), as much "fine tuning" (arm extension) as required. If your rate of deceleration is pronounced, that can be a real challenge. Why make the most important aspect of the delivery of the stone any more of a challenge than it already may be?

I know you asked for one thing, but this IS my blog site :) so here's a bonus suggestion. I've written about this before. I see so many curlers use their "sliding device" incorrectly. For most, that sliding device will be a brush. Most curlers begin with that sliding device in a good position (45 degrees to the body [which places the head of the brush approximately opposite the back edge of the stone], hand on the top of the handle [about 3/4 of the way down, near the label] and brush handle across the hip [wood or plastic side down]) BUT, and here's my observation, as the curler slides, that brush position changes so that by the time the athlete reaches that critical "release" point, the brush handle is now 90 degrees to the body which literally twists the upper body and the last time I checked, the delivery arm is attached to the upper body. The result is a release that's not on the line of delivery, even though one's slide might be.

Q. What can I do to improve my mental toughness?

A. As a curler, that's an easier question to answer than if you were a golfer for example. The reason is "teammates". You have some, a golfer doesn't! Use that advantage and the best way to do that is to "trust" your skill set, the skill set of your teammates and "support" one another unconditionally! That's where you start. After that there are many modalities to bolster you mental toughness under playing conditions but for a club level curler, those are the keys. I find that "concentration" is wanting on many club level teams. Be more observant of your surroundings when playing. Watch where the opposition skip places the brush. Get in behind an opposing player when he/she delivers the stone so you can observe the line, weight and what the stone does under those conditions. Begin a mental cataloguing of stones played so that when you're called upon to replay a shot previously delivered by a member of your team or that of your opponent, you have a database of information from which to draw. Stick with your "communication protocol" (who says what to whom, where, when, how & why) so you don't distract one another. Enjoy the game, but get serious about your (sing & pl.) performance!

Q. What compensations must a team make when there is a mixture of left-handed and right-handed curlers?

A. That's a question I get asked from time-to-time and it seems to be posed more by left handers, rarely by right handers. Yes, I suppose it IS right-handed world! The stone does not know whether you're right-handed or left-handed nor does it care, so why should you? If you place the stone so that the midline of the stone is opposite the inside edge of the hack, regardless of the hack, the stone setup of a right-handed curler and that of a left-handed curler is essentially the same by the time both curlers reach their respective release points. Problems occur when a team has a curler (regardless of the hand that's holding the stone) who does not position the stone as described above. If everyone on the team positions the stone the same, regardless of hand or hack, this should be a non-issue!

Q. What's the most important area in which a club level team needs improvement, strategy & tactics, technical, team dynamics, mental preparation, physical and nutritional preparation...?

A. Wow, you've hit them all but again, if I have to choose just one, it's technical but perhaps not defined as you might think. I alluded to one aspect of a team technical check-up with my answer to the previous question, stone setup. There are four more. First, does the team use a "team grip" for both rotations and all weights? Second, does everyone on the team release the stone at the same place relative to the hog line? Third, does everyone apply the rotation in the same manner (2 o'clock or 10 o'clock to 12 o'clock) and fourth, does everyone have the same number of rotations (from release to stop) and that number should be "three"? The more a club level team does these five technical things the same the better it tends to perform!

If you have a question for me, don't hesitate to send it (billchpc@shaw.ca). If I don't have an answer for you I usually know someone who does and I'll get it for you!


  1. Hi Bill,
    Good responses, except that on left-handed vs right-handed curlers I felt the wording was a little light on info. Essentially a left-handed curler is a mirror image of a right handed one, so there are some fine adjustments (for skipper calling the ice). For example, both a lefty and righty's outturns should "track" slightly higher as they are thrown from slightly sharper angles vs each others inturns. This is because of the hacks and which side of them you start from. Important to remember when icing as a right-handed player can require slightly more ice throwing an inturn vs their left-handed teammate throwing the same shot call with their outturn and vice versa...

    1. Allow me then to be a little "heavier" in the info. I suspect your view on this matter comes from experiences you've had with teams where there is a left hander or possibly two. But you're right, there ARE more considerations notably "how the rotation is applied". If both r/l's position the stone as described, they will be very close then, when they both arrive at the point where they apply the rotation IF they move the gooseneck from either 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock to 12 o'clock the mirror imaging you mention in your comment will be complete!