Monday, November 11, 2013

Virtual Coach Programme - Team Introductions (and a really good question from the women's team)

Allow me to introduce the two "Virtual Coach Programme" teams. Both are club level teams with very clear outcome goals. The women's team is from Canada in Southern Ontario and the men's team is from Switzerland (I get to practise my Kitchener-Waterloo version of German). The men's team is somewhat (diplomacy rules the day) older than the women's team for whatever that's worth. The women have taken my suggestion and have adopted pseudonyms. I have watched this team play and will actually be able to spend some on ice time with them soon as I travel back to BC through S ON. I'm in Charlottetown as I write this post.
The men's team and I have "Skyped" to answer some questions and will be doing so again soon. Who knew when I started this coaching/instructing more than two decades ago that I'd be conferring with a team thousands of kilometers away on something call an iPad and in doing so, we'd hear and see one another in real time?

Women's Team

We are a brand new team which was formed to compete in the zone playdowns for "Women's Intermediates" (40+ age group in ON). We are all friends who have either played on a previous team or played in bonspiels together at one point throughout our curling careers. What we lack in technical skills, we definitely make up for with our positive team dynamics! Our major outcome goal for our season is to qualify for the provincials. To help us achieve that we are playing together once a week in a league at our curling club and competing in some cash bonspiels throughout the fall. 

Loni (Lead)

Playing lead is by far my favourite position on a curling team. I love the challenge of throwing lead rocks and I very much enjoy brushing.  Although my actually ability to brush the rock is not the greatest, I take great pride in attempting to improve constantly my ability to judge the weight of the rock. I have been curling for 14 years. I did not start the game at a young age unfortunately. What I lack in experience, I make up for in enthusiasm. I believe I have a very positive attitude on the ice and I always believe we can win the game, no matter the ability of the opposition or the score. Until the game is over, I always believe we can find a way to win.

Lexie (Second)

I started curling in high school and played several different positions on my school team. I gave up curling when I went to university but came back to the game about 10 years ago. I have played in various leagues at my local club and have played in a few provincial curling association competitions. Second is my favourite position on a curling team. I love the opportunity to throw lots of hits and I enjoy brushing. I am very excited about this team - we are great friends on and off the ice - and I am looking forward to learning lots this season.

Ellen (Vice)

I have been curling for over 20 years. I played competitively as a junior (women's and mixed) and have spent my adult years curling at both the club and competitive level. I skipped a competitive women's team for a few seasons, but the bulk of my experience lies at the position of vice. It was a debate whether Janet or I would skip the team, however, I strongly believe we are in the positions that best utilize our strengths.

Janet (Skip)

This is my first year playing skip ever! I enjoy a new challenge and love throwing the key shots in games. I have been honing the strategy aspects of the game while playing on the provincial competitive circuit for the past two years. I've been curling for 7 years and have always regretted not starting to play the game sooner in life. Having said that, I've spent most of my winters in a rink and enjoy both the social and competitive aspects of the game.

Men's Team

The core of this team was formed in the 2008/09 season with two members added, one in 2010/11 and the other in 2011/12. They are all experienced curlers with an average of about 10 years experience on "pebbled ice" (not sure what ice was used before that). Each member of the team is motivated to be the best teammate he can be but each asked me a different question in our first give-&-take via email. The team's goal is to finish in 4th place or better in their group (again, I'm sure they'll tell me what "group" means at some point, perhaps "league").
The team does practise on a regular basis if memory serves from our emails.
The team has sent me video files so I have seen each player's delivery and have responded with comments. This team is dedicated to improve but from their bio's, it's clear they play as much because they simple enjoy the experience (best reason in the world and it's the same for the women's team). Let's meet the players.

Hanspeter (lead)

This is Hanspeter's 14th season playing on pebbled ice and has been with the team for 3 seasons, with the 2013-14 season being the fourth. Hanspeter is a football (i.e. soccer) fan of FC Bassel and enjoys classical music, reading (about politics) and is a model railway enthusiast.

Silvan (second)

This is Silvan's 3rd full season with the team. He sings in a gospel chorus, enjoys fine wine and hiking. Silvan is  a left-handed curler.

Thomas (third)

Thomas has curled since 1973 but only on pebbled ice for the last 15 seasons. He along with skip Walter, is one of the founding members of the team. He enjoys soccer as well. FC Thun is the team he supports but also is an active skier and cyclist. Like his teammate Hanspeter, he enjoys music.

Walter (skip)

And I might add, from our  emails, Walter is clearly the managing general of the team (and I say that with respect). He is the question & answer man on the team and he asks really good questions. He keeps me on my toes! Walter has much curling experience, we'll just leave it at that. Although he did not so state on his bio, I know from our emails that he relishes discussions about strategy & tactics.

And now the question (actually, a question and a comment) that was sent by Lexie, the second on the women's team.

I have a question for you after our recent cash spiel.
I feel one of our biggest challenges is the different delivery styles of everyone on the team. It makes it difficult for the brushers to judge the weight & for the skip to place the brush when there is no consistency among the deliveries. I know there are many elements to the delivery that we could adjust. Knowing that we can't all commit to hours of practice, is there one element of our deliveries on which you would recommend we all focus so that we can at least start to get some consistency?

Since I have seen you (pl.) play, I agree with your assessment that each of you has a delivery style. First off, that's certainly not unusual so no need to jump off any tall buildings or hide sharp objects from the four of you! Clearly it's why I'm pleased that we can spend some on ice time together soon but that doesn't help readers who see a similar situation with their team so let me comment on your observation and concern about delivery differences.

You've used the buzz word that's on the lips of all curlers, consistency. Even if you don't aspire to shoot in the 90% range when you know a solid 60% is a good night for you, you get frustrated with the peaks and valleys of your performance. I'll begin with a non-skilled based item that will work wonders but only if you do it every time you are about to deliver a curling stone. Visualize the successful completion of your shot. Keep that picture in your mind's eye then make a copy of the picture in real time. In other words, "follow the picture". If you did your homework re. my post on "Quiet Eye" and saw the videos, you'll know what I mean. Second, know how to establish line of delivery. It starts with you standing behind the hack (good time to take that picture) and aligning your hips (the most reliable body part) so that the hip line is perpendicular to the line of delivery. Then when you get into the hack, make sure those hips are still perpendicular. If you slide to that the weight of your body is evenly distributed on your slider, you will slide, not only straight, but also at the skip's brush. But of course all of what I've just suggested means diddly squat (oh spell check will have fun with that one) if your grip, rotation and release are not sound. Apply the clockwise rotation with the gooseneck starting at 10 o'clock and the counter clockwise at 2 o'clock with release at 12 o'clock for both.
When I get on the ice with the team we're going to check everyone's stone set up, grip, release point, application of rotation and number of rotations (my so-called "team technical check-up") to see if we can make the deliveries work better together.

I thought I would share one other comment. I'm sure this is no surprise to you, but I think we were all surprised at the spiel by how much changing Ellen's and Janet's positions affected our 'team dynamics'. We had played a few league games in this order and things seemed good, but it was challenging at the cash spiel. The first couple of games were especially tough. The good news is that we talked a lot between games and we were all feeling and performing much better in our last game.

Welcome to the club, Lexie! You're right, what happened was not a surprise to me. And actually, I know there were more responsibility changes on the team than just the switch of skip and third because lead Loni holds the brush for Ellen, not Janet.
Anytime a group alters the responsibilities of any of the group's members, there's bound to be a change in the way members of the group relate to one another, especially and obviously to the members whose responsibilities have been changed. When the new responsibility is attached to a new level of authority it's even more tenuous in the beginning. In professional team sports, when an assistant coach becomes the head coach, the relationship the new head coach has with the players is totally different. As an assistant, the players could go to him/her with issues that they would never bring to the same person if he/she was the head coach. The same is true in the workplace when a staff member gets a promotion. Now he/she must relate differently to co-workers and they in turn.
On the "team dynamics wheel" it's not unusual, in fact it would be unusual if the reverse was true, that the team will revisit the "storming stage" of the wheel.
I was encouraged by the fact that you indicated that the team recognized the change in team dynamics and sat down and openly talked about it. Good for you!!!! So many teams make the classic error of brushing it (pun intended) it under the rug. That results in an "elephant in the living room" and we know where that leads don't we!
So, I feel you did the right thing and by doing so, the team will emerge stronger!
Keep those good questions coming!


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