Monday, January 19, 2015

Code Red Or Code Blue?

In a recent blog I identified what in my experience is the most poorly played shot across the curling spectrum, the guard. Well, this shot is in second spot on that list in my opinion. It's the time-hounoured "come around" shot!

In a free guard zone era, this is the shot that's played often, very often and to play this shot well is usually critical to the outcome of the game. We've heard all the cliches regarding a less than stellar execution of the come around with, "We're just on the wrong side of the inch/millimetre" the likely leader in the excuse category! Translation, "Doesn't matter where we place the target brush, and even if we hit that brush with the right weight, we're going to 'tick' the guard!" Here's my take on why this shot is a close second to the guard on the list of most poorly played shots and like playing a guard, it's the way the shot is attempted that's the problem.

We all can identify with a scenario in which, after a tough loss, we lament about "ticking" so many guards and almost for sure, someone on the team will utter the phrase, "Yah, and in the 6th end all we had to do was get past the guard, why did we play it so close?". Right, why did you? It was more a mental error than an execution error and there's a simple way to make sure you don't commit those "unforced errors" that so often sink the ship.

When contemplating a come around, ask yourself whether you really need to "bury" the stone about to be played or is it more than good enough to just make sure you get "past the guard". When you make that determination, you need to convey that message to the team. You need to let the team know if this is a code red come around (i.e. we have to come close the guard as we need to bury the shooter) or a code blue (i.e. let's not tick the guard which right now is in a favourable position, let's just get past it, then worry about the curl to get around it).

You can create your own system of communication but if I may, when I skipped, a code red come around was indicated by tapping the final destination location with my brush and then with a clinched fist in front of my chest, indicating that I was giving just enough ice to miss the guard. If it was a code blue then no clinched fist which indicated that I was giving a liberal amount of ice so the shooter ended up going past the guard.

Make no mistake, in both cases we're attempting to, well, come around the guard, thus the name. The difference is "execution tolerance". For a code red, we've decided that the risk of ticking the guard is worth it but in a code blue situation, it isn't.

It's really important to ensure that the entire team is aware of the "code". If it's a code red, the shooter knows that you as the skip, have already accounted for the tight target and conversely, in a code blue, you've done the same. There's no need for the shooter to do likewise.

When I was the National Development Coach at the the National Training Centre in Calgary, I had one of my more interesting telephone calls. It was from one of the top coaches in our country who lamented that his team, one of the top female teams in Canada, was not executing come arounds "worth a darn" (his description was not for family consumption). He had tried everything to remedy the situation and asked for my advice. Yikes, what was a going to say? I said I needed to think on the matter and would get back to him. And that's what led to the whole "code red/blue" idea. The skip wasn't letting the team know "what was acceptable". In other words, it was a matter of communication, not execution. It was the team that came up with "clinched fist for code red" idea. They began to execute the shot much better and I had an idea I could use for my own team.

So, the next time you take to the ice, make sure your team has some method to tell the difference between a come around that's intended to bury the shooter from one for which the shooter needs to get past the guard.

If I may, before I leave you today, I want to resurrect an idea that Linda Moore (we miss you on the TSN broadcasts and wish you good health) put forward. She called it "maximizing every shot". So often when we play guards and come arounds, with a little foresight, we can not only get around a guard or when placing a guard, we can also choke off a potential raise your opponent might attempt. Bottom line, when calling a shot (strategy) then deciding how to play the shot (tactic) get the most out of it. And thank Linda!

1 comment:

  1. Hate to say it but as a long time lead when it is almost always better to get around a centre guard than tick and leave another guard, my solution is simply to aim at the outside foot. Funny how the skip never complains about a half buried shot but always says I was tight on a tick.