Weight Control: How To Throw A Curling Draw
“Around a clubhouse they’ll tell you even God has to practise his putting. In fact, even Nicklaus does.”
– Jim Murray
Hone Those Skills
Over the past Sunday Adult Learn To Curl Session I had the privilege of working with four members who had taken the initial session at the club and had followed through and taken the second session. Because they already went through the basics, I felt comfortable to increase the depth of the first session.
Where did this lead?
How To Draw
The easiest way to explain weight control in curling would be to ask, “How do you throw a draw shot?”
Some curlers may throw out suggestions saying, “you need to practice draws – lots of them.” So how should you practice? I’ve also heard a lot of curlers use split times to help coordinate their weight control on their teams.
Just because one of your teammates tells you to throw a certain number, it doesn’t necessarily mean that figure will translate to the right position at the other end of the curling rink. Curling is considered the roaring game — but let’s be honest, listening to sweepers call out 12 different times is not only distracting but unnecessary. I miss when they simply called out, “Top Four!”
The fundamentals start with the major muscle group that’s going to propel you forward out of the hack. The trick is to pair the control of the muscles in your leg with awareness of changing ice conditions.
Push and Shove
Once you’ve “pushed” yourself out of the hack at the right weight, the only other choices you have are to slow the rock down by pulling back, essentially using your own body weight to drag behind the stone or use your arm to give it an extra push. The problem with “hanging” on to the stone and slowing it down prior to release is that it completely throws the sweepers off.
If you are one of those curlers that blaze out of the hack on every shot and then throw out the anchor to slow yourself down its time to stop it.
Change is good Mr. Germond!
Ready Aim Fire
My recommendation is to push out with your leg at the correct weight, and then if absolutely necessary, give it a little nudge by extending your forearm. Some curlers call this a positive release or extension. This may mean pushing out from the hack, landing the airplane with a flexed forearm (to completely transfer the energy of your leg into the rock) and then once in motion, relax the forearm to prepare for an extension.
This slight forward motion must be practiced to ensure you don’t “set” the rock out, in other words, move the rock off the line of the delivery. When a rock is set to the outside of the broom, it appears that the stone curls less. If the stone is set to the inside of the broom, then it appears to curl early.
This is considered “getting it going.”
When I was in high school, one of my teammates used to throw this release my brother and I nicknamed the “delayed reaction.” Gord would throw that rock so inside that if you were in the house calling the line you had to yell for the sweepers to start before it left his hand.
However, it was all an illusion. Like a talented stage magician, as he released it, he would flick it back out, and it would continue to “fall out” for a good four feet.
Gord would have been a superb major league pitcher.
In The Black
The bottom line is that pushing out at a certain speed will propel the rock to its destination. Controlling that push during a game under changing conditions is what separates the amateurs from the professionals.
At the beginning of the game the pebble is fresh, and therefore you can assume it’s going to require a slightly heavier “push” than during the later parts of the game. Although the players don’t really find it funny, there have been times when the dust settles after the first rock 5 out of 6 sheets “hog” their first stone. When this happens I know the ice will pick up, but it’s strange to see everyone make the same error simultaneously.
Other factors to consider is that sometimes during an end, more rocks get thrown down a track then another. It’s not necessarily the curling stones that create the wear, its sweeping each of those rocks that are a problem. In competitions, a typical trend is to draw to the button before the match starts. Unfortunately, more and more I see kids sweeping the crap out of their practice stones before the game even begins!
Sweeping more than anything else wears out a sheet of ice.
The Ice Maker
You might be thinking how in the heck am I supposed to keep track of all these details? I am just learning the game and this is all making it more confusing!
Your brain is designed to figure these details out, and most of the signs get processed and sent to the background. Just sliding around on the sheet, feeling the pebble with your slider, will give you lots of indication. Later in the game, the ice even sounds different.
How does this translate into making a draw shot?
Your awareness will grow over time.
Control Your Leg
This takes practice.
The first drill I would recommend is simply pushing out to different points on the ice. It may be a matter of putting your gripper out at various positions out on the ice surface and pushing out to that point.
This drill helps with line-of-delivery, and more importantly controlling the muscles in your trailing leg. Point your big toe in the hack in the direction you want to go, then transfer your bodies weight in that direction through the muscles in your trailing leg.
Think of smoothly pushing out of the hack, all your awareness in your foot, propelling you not only towards the target but at the correct speed.
Match Your Stones
Sometimes I throw my first rock, always at a target, and with a destination in mind. No matter where the first shot ends up, the goal of the second shot is to remember exactly what you did to get the first one there.
Everyone is different.
Try closing your eyes and pushing out, but be careful not to hurt yourself. Closing your eyes will allow you to completely focus on your leg drive.
When I played more competitive games outside the club, I used to practice a drill where I would throw as hard as I could, and then follow up with a draw to the button. The other restriction with that drill is I wouldn’t let myself throw it again if I missed the draw. Instead, I would throw another peel and then repeat the process.
No mulligans here!
The Last Thoughts
If you hit the broom but threw various weights, then you may discover another principle that takes a few curlers time to get their mind around. When a skip is calling the game and deciding where to place the broom for a particular shot, in their minds they may be thinking first about how much the ice is curling.
How much are the rocks curling today? How are my players throwing?
Some player rocks curl differently with each turn.
Where I was driving this conversation is asking myself, “If I placed the broom here for a guard, then where would I have to put the broom to bury the rock around it?”
What’s the answer?
After this commercial break, I will tell you…
In the same spot.