Monday, December 21, 2015

Be the Most Dangerous Team

It's that time of year which all competitive teams seek. It's play down time! Depending upon your age, your competitive team may be near the start of its play down trail or at the doorstep of the provincial level (i.e. juniors).

All the effort, time and resources you've invested will come into stark evaluation. This is where the rubber meets the road (or as one of my coaching colleagues from SK states it, "It's where the toboggan meets the Tarmac." [although why anyone from SK would know anything about toboggans is beyond me]). :)

Depending upon your team's yearly training plan, the end of the play down road might be the end of the road for this season, at least for your team as presently constituted. I always feel badly for Canadian junior teams as this age category is the first to declare participants at every step of the way along that play down trail. If a junior team resides in a populous province like Ontario, it may have to play its way out of its home club before moving on to zone, regional, provincial and hopefully national competition. This year, in Stratford, ON, in late January, one male & one female team will be crowned national champions. That leaves a lot of the curling season remaining for many, many teams. Some of the members of the team may be aging out leaving one or two teammates behind to look for new team members with whom to train in preparation for the following season. But, I'm a little ahead of myself. For the sake of this blog I'm going to assume you're reading this with your team firmly entrenched on that play down trail.

At whatever stage that journey you happen to be, you go into the competition wanting to know how you stack up against the opposition. That's only natural and for all the sport psych. talk about focusing on your team, your skill set, your preparation, your agenda, your supporters etc., it's really hard not to wonder about your place in the pecking order.

Well, advice #1 is this. The ice and the stones when you and your teammates step onto the playing surface and ultimately place your hands on the handles of the stones, have no idea who you are, what you've done in the past, they have not read your press clippings (or more accurately for juniors, your social media entries), what your skill set is, who's coaching you etc.

Advice #2 - Your value as a teammate is going to be equal to if not more important to the success you (sing. & pl.) enjoy than your value as a curler.

Advice #3 - You can never leave your skills at home but the right attitude (and that's always a choice) can be AWOL.

Advice #4 - The only people that really matter when you step onto the ice are your teammates.

Advice #5 - If you want to focus on something at the event, do everything you're able to ensure that your teammates have a great competition.

Advice #6 - You will not be nervous if you're convinced you've done everything possible to prepare. Athletes get nervous when they know deep down they have not done everything possible to prepare.

Advice #7 - Look after your "real self" (your everyday personal life issues) and your "performer self" will look after itself.

Advice #8 - As a team, only discuss and deal with issues over which you have almost complete control (food, sleep, travel etc.) and don't even entertain a second of concern and talk about those aspects of the competition for which you have almost no control (officials, format, rules etc.)

Advice #9 - Know all the rules that govern your participation in the event!

Advice #10 - Be the most dangerous team at the event! The most dangerous team is not the team that enters the competition with a sterling won/lost record. The most dangerous team is not the team with the great pedigree (i.e. the most talented athletes). The most dangerous team by default is not the team coming from a large metropolitan area with lots of resources at hand. The most dangerous team is not the team with the largest entourage of stakeholders. The most dangerous team in the competition is the team with the highest degree of trust in its skill set (individual & team) and the lowest degree of expectation. Don't misunderstand that previous sentence. It does not refer to confidence and trust. It refers to focus. Focus on the processes than lead to performance, not the outcome!

As you can see, I saved the best piece of advice for last. Be that most dangerous team!


  1. My friend,

    Thank you for writing every speech I should need for my upcoming junior provincial. I hope to see you in the coaches room in Stratford where I plan to be every night.

    Best wishes to you, Dorothy and all your loved ones.