My recent post in response to a "Mailbag" question re. differences between a right handed curler v. a left handed curler certainly drew some interesting responses! Many of you who contacted me wanted more detail re. those differences. Your wish is my command!
I made the somewhat cavalier comment that the stone doesn't know what hand is on its handle. That was my way of stating that it's my experience that any differences between right & left handed curlers is much more in the mind of the athlete than in fact/reality!
Those teams who feel that the skip MUST make allowances, some significant, between a right handed teammate and one who delivers the stone with his/her left hand, may be correct but it's my contention that the reason(s) for these accommodations have much more to do with the results of one's "Team Technical Checkup" (TTC) than with the left/right issue.
To reiterate, in a TTC , the team will observe five aspects of the delivery, grip
, stone set up
, release point, application of rotation
& number of rotations
. Once again, let's examine them one-at-a-time. Before we do, I want to make it clear that this is about stones as they "track" down the ice with "track" defined as the path the stone follows to reach its destination
. Why worry about how a stone arrives at its destination? If there are no guards to negotiate, then it makes very little difference but in most cases there ARE guards to have to "come around" so the way a stone "tracks" is of utmost importance!
As curlers, we basically play four shots; clockwise & counterclockwise down weight shots (defined as any stone that comes to rest "in play" [i.e. guards & draws]). Then we deliver clockwise & counterclockwise up weight shots (defined as any stone that has enough velocity to clear the back line [i.e. take-outs delivered with various weights]). The question is, does each member of the team employ the same grip for each of those four shots? If the answer is a resounding "No" then I would suggest that it's unlikely the stones will "track" in similar fashion!
NB - The grip that we have come to know and love has changed due to a study conducted at the University of Alberta prior to the Vancouver Games but more about that another time.
STONE SET UP
Relative to a reference point (i.e. hack) where does each teammate position the stone? If all members of the team deliver with the same hand clearly this is less of an issue than it is for a team with left AND right handed curlers. But (and you knew there'd be a "but") if you are aware of the sport science on this topic, your fears about the left/right issue will be greatly lessened. The sport science on this tells us that for a no back swing delivery, the body's natural stone set up will be such that the middle of the stone is at/opposite the inside edge of the hack (or as the University of Alberta researchers state it, "opposite the arm pit). That brings the stone closer to the same point for right v. left handed curlers than the relative positions of the two hacks might suggest. And I get it. If even from the point of the inside edges of the hacks, one was to draw vectors (lines) from those points to the skip's brush, it would describe somewhat different paths (tracks) but it's my experience that when the left and right handed curlers get to their respective release points (see next TTC component on that subject) they are so close, the difference is negligible. But if you're still skeptical, please read on and allow me to explain the three remaining aspects of the TTC.
I don't feel diagrams are necessary to illustrate the point that if two curlers, deliver their shot down the same line with the same velocity (weight), both with positive rotation and a "clean" release, they are delivering to completely different shots as one will start curling before or after the other if one teammate releases at the top of the house and one near the hog line. The former stone has started to curl 10' before the latter. Those are two significantly different shots and clearly will "track" (there's that word again) differently.
If you as coach had 16 paper cups and had the numeral 1 on the bottom of 4 of those cups, the numeral 2 on the bottom of four others (& in similar fashion the numerals 3 & 4), stood on the side board of a sheet and asked each player to deliver those four shots described earlier, placing a cup opposite each shot's release point, when the 16th shot is delivered, you should able to bend down and gather the 16 cups without taking any steps! Try it at your next on ice training session.
APPLICATION OF ROTATION
Let's assume that you have four players, all attempting to deliver a clockwise rotation shot, a draw. The first player starts the gooseneck of the stone at the 9 o'clock position and rotates it through to 11 o'clock at release. The next player starts the gooseneck at 11 o'clock and releases at 1 o'clock. The third player starts the gooseneck at 12 o'clock, releasing at 2 o'clock while the fourth player rotates from 1 o'clock to 3 o'clock. Those are all clockwise releases. There's isn't a hope in hades those stones, assuming all players "hit the brush with the same weight", will follow the same path to their common destination, not a chance!
NB - Hopefully all would start the gooseneck at either 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock and release just before the gooseneck of the handle reaches the 12 o'clock position.
NUMBER OF ROTATIONS
Here's where sport science makes the scene. One of the most prominent manufacturers of curling stones, in speaking with me at his stone manufacturing facility, asked me to pass along to all to whom I speak that he and his competitors mill the running surface of the curling stones at 4-5 mm. They assume
that the customers, that's you and me, who use their product will rotate the stone approximately three times from release to stop! He told me also to tell curlers that if they don't do that, they might still make the shot but it won't be because his curling stone performed according to specifications. It was his diplomatic way of saying, "You were lucky!". Do you need a building to fall on you to get the message? Of the five components of a TTC, this one comes closest to an absolute.
When a team, hopefully with its certified coach, gathers the information provided by a TTC, it's up to the team to decide what they wish to do with the data. I'm not saying that every team must have a common grip, or a common release point, or the same stone set up position or that they must apply each rotation in the same manner or that they need to apply three rotations (release to stop). My task is to make the team aware of what's really happening, technically, with the team. The team may feel it's in their best interest to have a common grip, release point etc. while another my see some differences as weapons with which opponents might find some considerable difficulty dealing. Again, it's a team (w/coach) decision!
OK, for some of you out there, what you've just read about a TTC is yesterday's news. So here's the tie in with this left/right issue I seem to have resurrected in the curling world. If you feel that you must make an accommodation to a player on your team who delivers with a hand that's different from his/her teammates, it's my experience that it's much more likely that there's an issue with one of the components of the TTC than it is with the hand that's on the handle of the stone
!!! I feel strongly that you need to check the components of the TTC before you make other accommodations. You could be caught in another form of a "technical double cross" if you don't.
As usual, I welcome your comments & questions (firstname.lastname@example.org