Adult Learn To Curl: Lesson #2
“My maid never sweeps under the bed so I asked her to do so today.
Found a pen, three pairs of shoes and the man I had lost two years ago.”
― Sanhita Baruah
When I approach Adult Learn To Curl, I always ask how can I get the players one closer step towards integration into a team?
The Strategy gets teams up and running as soon as possible. Rather than have seven people watching one player throw a stone, I divide the 8 players into two teams: The Sweeping team, and The Throwing team.
As players assume their roles, not only do they get to learn techniques, they also are able to get a feel as to how they plug into other parts of a team.
In a team of four, all tasks are divided up equally.
In other words, there is never a time during your team’s turn where you aren’t doing something. Understanding your position in relation to the rest of the team keeps you focused on the game, and in sync with the rest of the players.
I think the Adult Learn To Curl Lesson #2 is my favorite.
The first lesson is necessary, however, it’s the hardest to teach because there’s so much to cover before a player can throw his or her first curling stone, which ultimately stands between playing a game. Once the icebreaker is out of the way the four players are one step closer to competition.
When I say competition, I have no illusions that picking up curling late in your career will lead to the Olympics. What I do know is that establishing clear routines for yourself early on and adding fun to the difficulties of learning a new skill will keep you on the path.
The rewards come later.
That’s the path I envision for every curler that participates in the adult learn to curl program that I’m involved with.
The skills develop faster in the context of the whole.
The Sweeping/Throwing Drill
A simple drill I enjoy with two teams starts with describing the sweeping process to all the players, but then have one team (Team A) throw 2 rocks each, and the other (Team B) sweep the rocks. When Team A has thrown all their rocks, then Team B throws, and Team A sweeps.
The important part is that the players get the feeling of the physical motions required in sweeping, and learn where to stand, and how to work as a team.
As the sweeping team throws let them travel down the ice with the rock thrown while the instructor can concentrate on the player throwing. The two teams are looping around until all the rocks are thrown.
This keeps everyone moving and learning at the same time.
If you’ve got two instructors on the sheet, then let one instructor take care of the sweeping aspect, while the other instructor hangs back and helps with delivery.
Weight vs Calling the Line
Generally, the players pick up the movements quickly so it’s an easy drill to run with a single instructor. As the second instructor travels with the team, coach them by calling the line. If you’ve already set up a rock to curl around. The question that inevitably comes up is why sweepers need to sweep?
I usually explain it that a good sweeping team drags the rock further down the path its already on. However, with the discovery of directional sweeping, teaching that aspect makes it harder to answer the simple question.
Here’s how Terrance and Philip from South Park explain directional sweeping. There’s no swearing I promise.
In general, sweepers can start sweeping when they feel the rock is going to stop short of the rings, and or if they hear the skip, or the thrower call them on.
Communicate with each other!
Part 2: Squaring Up To The Broom
Once the sweeping team has gotten their loop down, the instructor should focus all the attention on the player throwing the rock. Start by limiting the shot thrown.
What does this mean?
Everyone throws the same draw shot with the same turn. Use the hack at the other end as a guide.
Why aim at the hack?
The hack acts as the skip for the time being. If you are an instructor, don’t isolate yourself at the other end because you are needed up close and personal coaching the players where they can easily hear you. Think of the centerline as a guide for the rock to get to the other end.
Teacher vs Coach
When beginning a lesson, it’s easy to forget what it feels like to be a beginner. I want them to take my advice, what I’ve presented, and implement it immediately. There’s a serious problem with this approach. The brain seems to be designed to focus on a couple of things at a time.
Scrutinizing a person while they are learning to do a task for the first time, by definition, is a recipe for disaster.
Approach the process gently with lots of encouragement.
The Starting Position
The slide delivery is one of the harder parts of curling to master. If you haven’t covered or practiced the balanced slide delivery then check out this post here. Usually, players need to be reminded to tuck their brooms up under their armpit and to flip the broom to its slippery side.
Every broom is a little different so use your judgment. The bottom line is you don’t want the fabric dragging across the ice and slowing you down. Some players feel they don’t need the broom to throw, however, it acts as a stabilizer when you finally release the stone — keep it in your hand.
The Press Forward
Rocks love to freeze to the ice so initially, you want to press forward to get it moving. Just a little motion will do.
The next step is going to be to get the knee out of the way. Typically curlers squat in the hack when they get into the starting position, what this does is put the knee in the way of your elbow. See diagram #1. In order for the elbow to clear the knee and allow proper alignment of the stone to the toe in the hack – the hips must be raised up.
Draw the hips up and the rock back in one smooth motion.
Early on players will also want to simply use their arms to move things around and the movements are all separated from each other.
Get used to doing the movement as a whole
In the beginning, the players may not understand the idea of shifting weight backward. However, that minor shift is going to be key in generating power through momentum later on when you are throwing a takeout weight shot. Drawing the slider straight back behind the hack also helps balance the player when shifting the weight back.
When shifting the weight, and then the slider forward, make sure that all player’s weight is going to “pour” back from the supporting leg in the hack into the slider foot on the ice in a smooth transfer. The slider foot, therefore, needs to be placed on the line of the delivery, and directly under the body.
I’ve put together another post explaining How To Draw if you want to skip ahead.
Your Big Toe
Should I be worried about your toe?
I think so.
A solid delivery begins with awareness of your big toe. Am I introducing the importance of this too soon?
I’m not sure.
All I can say is that I have been playing a long time, and one of the biggest improvements in my game was when I changed the structure of my trailing leg. Pointing your toes at a ninety-degree angle to the ice surface is the beginning of good things.
I cannot promise you success in the beginning, because it may feel weird.
Throwing like a ballerina will make you many shots!
The Structure in a Nutshell
Brush your knee on the ice, but be careful not to “bonk” your kneecap. Land those slides gently like a skill airline pilot.
The weight distribution on your front slider foot is roughly 90%, followed by 5% on your trailing leg knee, and finally 5% on your trailing leg big toe. Your broom should have a tiny bit of weight on it, but the bottom line is that it serves as a balance stabilizer.
Black or White
There is no right way to throw a curling stone, however, if you know how to throw with consistency, you will ultimately win a lot more curling games. Even with that in mind, I’m starting to realize that the proper way to approach the game is an ongoing process of improvement.
It feels great to win, but in the beginning, you won’t possess all the skills you need.
What this means is that you are going to need to set small goals for yourself, and your team within the game in order to gain experience and not get discouraged on your road to mastery.
Hope that helps.
P.S. Remember to cast your vote if you want to bring the Brier to St. Catharines in 2020!