Friday, October 25, 2013

Mailbag #3

At a recent cash spiel, a perplexed athlete stopped me in the curling facility's parking lot and asked to talk with me about "hitting the brush". It seemed that her skip felt line of delivery had become a challenge but the athlete "thought" she was on line.

I commiserated with the athlete as you should be the first one to real realize that you've "missed the brush", not the last or worse, contend that you indeed had hit the brush!

After a few questions on my part it seemed to me that "eye dominance" was a factor in the dilemma, perhaps the out-and-out cause of the disconnect between player & skip. I hoped the athlete would contact me with the success or lack thereof of the advice I offered. What follows is that feedback and my response. For privacy purposes, I'll call her "Sally" (what ever happened to that name?).

Hi Bill 

I really appreciate our discussion regarding this right hand / left eye dominance issue.

I've been working on keeping my rock behind my left eye per your suggestion and have been finding that I'm getting more consistant feedback from my skip that I am hitting the brush.

Through practice I've just discovered on my out-turn (counter clockwise rotation) that if my alignment is off I tend to deliver from my right shoulder (right eye) which is not my dominant eye.

Can you suggest any specific drills I can do to work on this issue in general?

Thanks in advance!


Dear Sally, 

I'm pleased for your sake that our brief chat helped! 

As I recall you were "opposite side" dominant (right handed and left eye dominant). This proper positioning of "rock-to-body" during the "slide" portion of the delivery is something the body will do correctly/naturally assuming (whoa, that's always dangerous) no one, instructor or teammate, not understanding the critical role of "eye dominance", has unintentionally mislead you. In other words, as a curler slides, the body already knows your eye dominance and it will encourage you to get your sliding foot in position relative to the rock according to your eye dominance. In your case that sliding foot to rock alignment will be such that your sliding foot will be "behind" the rock. Your mantra then could be "follow the rock"! 

For a  curler who's "same side" dominant, he/she will slide so that when viewed from the front, you will see a good portion of the sliding foot. That's because that individual will need get get the eye that's on the same side of the body as the hand that's on the rock, behind the rock.

This is all about "targeting"! 

Everyone is "eye dominant"! And, eye dominance can vary according to distance between the individual and the target. That's why when testing in curling, I always have the athlete standing on the boardwalk at the home end with the target (usually a sheet numeral or letter as the target) because that's the distance with which we're dealing. Also, eye dominance can be trained to be either eye although I'm not sure why one would want to do that but I'm guessing there ARE reasons. 

But, you asked about a drill. Here's one hat has helped many, many curlers at all levels. It's based upon an observation I made very early in my curling career. When we know what rotation has been selected by the skip, we make accommodations with our body positioning, grip, hack foot placement etc. just because it's a clockwise or counterclockwise rotation. When one does that it gives rise to favouring or reluctance to one rotation over the other. Not a good thing! So here's the drill (& I need a name for this). 

Get someone to stand about 5m beyond the near hog line, holding the brush with "both hands" (i.e. no rotation indicated). You then line up to that "line of delivery" (from behind the hack), assume the "hack position", position the rock so that the middle of the rock is opposite the arm pit and (here's the key element) position the gooseneck of the handle so that it's at 12 o'clock (the so-called "neutral position"). Then the brush holder raises a hand to indicate the rotation. You then move that gooseneck to either 10 or 2 o'clock (whichever matches the rotation indicated), raise your hips and delivery the rock to the brush. 

I think you can see the value in this drill. It removes all those unconscious, subtle but destructive "accommodations" (picked up over seasons of play) to return the curler to that "pure", unencumbered delivery with the dominant eye and body positioned appropriately (as determined by the body's natural instincts). 

Give this a try and let me know how it goes!


NB - if you've not done so, please go to my previous post  of 10/22/13 entitled "Quiet Eye -A Home Assignment". I'll be drawing conclusions on the amazing research conducted by Dr. Joan Vickers of the University of Calgary plus what actor Alan Alda (of TV's  M*A*S*H fame) learned at the University of Aizona. It will change how you mentally prepare to execute a curling shot. It certainly changed, in a profound way, the approach I take in assisting curlers with the only challenge that really counts, making curling shots!

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