Thursday, June 5, 2014

Virtual Coach Project In Retrospect

At the beginning of this past curling season, I initiated a "Virtual Coach Programme" whereby club level teams were invited to send a resume of the team, its hopes & aspirations and any other details that would indicated that the team was especially positioned to benefit from a "coach", albeit a virtual one. Several very deserving teams sent resumes and all were worthy but two, one male and one female were selected. The female team is from Canada and the male team is from a European nation. Modern technology was employed in my communication with both teams using Skype and on one accession in my travels I actually met with the female team. On a few occasions on this blog site, the teams shared their experiences so that other club level teams might also benefit. What follows is a summary of their seasons beginning with the female team.

As our team competed at both the competitive and club level, we gained a great deal of clarity about what "sandbox" we like playing in and where we can excel. In the competitive arena, (playing in cash bonspiels and zone playdowns) we didn't experience much success. Our strategy and tactics were just as good as our oppositions', but the sheer lack of shot making and challenging on-ice dynamics limited our ability to fulfill our potential. However, at our club, we won the women's league aggregate (most winning team after the round-robin schedule) and our league championship. The winning that we saw happen in our club league was mainly due to the change at one of our positions. Part way through the season, a new player came on to our team. The issues regarding our dynamics no longer existed and because of the positive shift surrounding the "vibe" on the ice, our individual and team performances improved dramatically. 

What we experienced this past season illustrates two things about team success. First, to play well and win games, you need the right four people together - three out of four just doesn't cut it - and great friendships off the ice doesn't necessarily translate into positive dynamics on the ice. Second, to play well and win games, you also need to feel like you're competing at the "right level" and that "right level" contains a balance of challenge and comfort. It is clear to us now that with the tools that we had and the level of commitment we were all willing to take on, we're a very good club curling team.

Our greatest strength (executed consistently at club level) was our on-ice communication. Coach Bill introduced the concept of constantly talking about "what the ice is telling us" and due to that ongoing discussion during games, we beat the good teams in our league. As Bill brought into our awareness, when you spend the first couple ends exchanging information about the ice conditions and then continue to discuss the ice's changing conditions, you are always mindful of those little things (like the right way to miss) that can add up to something much bigger like a win. 

Thanks to Coach Bill for sharing his time, energy, and wise words with our team this past season!  

I would like to give you a feedback and season-ending compilation "focusing on anything we did together which had a positive impact on the team's experience".

To sum it up I would say the experience with you as our virtual coach had impacts on different levels:
  • on the technical level through the team technical check up and the brushing feedback
  • on the tactics and strategy level through getting to know our Strategic &Tactical DNA
  • on communications: using the same language, observing the same aspects of a sliding delivery, excersing the same releases/release points etc.
But let's go a little bit into some details...

Maybe I will surprise you with the first point that addresses even a moment BEFORE we even knew that our team would be honored to take part in this exicting experiment...

First, I would like to start with the application procedure and the document I put together based on our team's input and planning. This was already good experience to focus on our season goals and season planning. Furthermore thanks to this process we learned to appreciate our team history we already lived together (not all the same length of course).

Second, the definite highlights were our three Skype exchanges (end of October 2013 about the team technical check-up; mid December 2013 about brushing technique and end of February 2014 about the Strategy &Tactics Workshop). Each of these exchanges was fully loaded with helpful advice, hints, questions and exercises for us to take back on the ice and to try things out. And of course this technical feature allows to build a personal relationship much faster and easier. It's always a pleasure to hear and see you Bill! These are the moments when the virtual coach becomes real.

Personally, for me as Skip the team technical check-up revealed so many 'new' details I was able to observe afterwards in the sliding delivery of my team mates and our adversaries. This was a real eye-opener to me. For one team member the focus on the number of rotations was an element he will not forget as he repeately reminded us of this during the whole season. For all of us   - the "G-Y-R-language" from the Strategy &Tactics Workshop has a highlight. Our team experimented with this during the last games of this season. It is so helpful and time-saving to have a common ground with three simple code words to discuss and decide between the ends how we want to play the next end. This makes it so much easier that everyone of the team is on the same page.

I found it useful to send you videos and powerpoint documents as materials for the preparation of a Skype. Also the fact that we tried to focus on a specific subject.

As self critics I would say that the mastering of (oral) English is certainly a weak point on our side among the team. I was able to compensate this deficit by explaining certain details after the Skype meetings. The language was certainly also a reason why the participation on our side was not as lively and diverse as you may have wished.

Nevertheless based on you fantastic manual "A Pane In The Glass: A Coach's Companion" I could give more inputs to my team and also the drill part a the end was and will be in use. Although I read already quite a few articles there is still more material to be discovered. It is really a wealth for a curling fan.

What we/I certainly appreciated a lot is your highly responsiveness. This made our exchange very smoothly.

Above I focused on the process of our virtual coach experience. Now it is time to mention our results for the season 2013/2014:
  • Our team won the final bonspiel last month (see attached doc) - This was the first time our team won a bonspiel!
  • The club championship 2014 is played in a format as individual player on a fix position. Thomas ended up on the second place of all thirds in our club and yourstruely was on the top of the podium (see attached doc)
  • Our season goal was to reach the top four in our club league - that's what we achieved. Unfortunately we couldn't win the last two final games.
As I look out of our window I see snow on the mountains. The Spring waits for another round but it will arrive!

If your club level team would like to send a resume to perhaps be one of the two teams for which I'll be your virtual coach for the 2014-15 season, my email address is!

No comments:

Post a Comment