Practice Makes Perfect
“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
― Martha Graham
Where To Start
Once a player has been on the ice for a few sessions, and got past throwing the first few rocks, then its easier to start to focus in on skills that need to be practiced. I’m using the word “practiced” here because mastery is an ongoing process. That’s fine but where should everyone start?
Since flexibility and balance are such important parts of your curling development, you would assume that everyone has a warmup routine. If I’ve learned anything about building habits, its that it must be part of a system you practice on a daily basis, shouldn’t take very long to perform and can be done anywhere.
Here’s your homework: build a 5-minute warm-up routine that you can perform in your sleep.
That way you send some signals to your body that it is curling time.
Generally, I start with my legs and do some dynamic stretching to warm up and stretch the muscles at the same time. Part of this means getting yourself into the slide delivery position and feel comfortable there.
Balance Is Key
As a beginner, you’ve got no skills except for those you naturally bring to the table. From my own experience each player starts at their own level and depending on their ambition – they progress past the initial fumbling to a level where they can put the rock where they please.
Why not practice your slide on the carpet prior to the game, and better yet, at home?
Find an open spot in the lounge and figure it out.
This is an essential step in your 5-minute warm-up routine. It doesn’t have to be first and it doesn’t have to be last, it just needs to be present.
A few weeks ago, I wrote Lesson #2. In that post, I focused on the essential components of lesson #2 in an adult learn to curl program. That’s all fine and dandy, but what if the class isn’t quite there yet?
Brand new players seem to fall into three categories when they begin. The first category is slightly athletic individuals who pick up the slide delivery with no previous experience. They seem to have no problems with balance, sure they still need to learn the subtleties of throwing a draw, or fine-tune their takeout. But in the grand scheme of things they are off to the races ahead of everyone else.
I call this special class the jackrabbit. More power to them! In three years they will probably be curling competitively.
The second group seems to struggle with the slide delivery. This means the slide is a barrier or obstacle that is preventing them from getting into the game. This same group wants to learn, but for various reasons has to work harder to get that well-balanced slide down.
This is normal!
It seems the majority of curlers start in this category so don’t feel bad if you are struggling with the slide — it’s a brand new skill, and if you didn’t have to work for it, everyone would do it.
It would be easy to get frustrated at this stage, especially when you see the jackrabbits mastering the slide in two attempts. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and occasionally I still lose my balance and need to work on honing my skills.
The reality is that throwing a great curling stone is a perishable skill.
Improvement happens with regular practice.
The Stick Players
The third and final group starts and ends with the delivery stick.
There’s a host of reasons why the delivery stick is right for a beginner, however, my favorite is that it essentially removes the slide delivery off the table and lets a player focus on the more important parts of the game.
Curling is about what happens after you let it go between the hog-line and after the stones come to rest. It’s about how you call the game, read the opposition, learn your teammates, and implement your own strategies, and most importantly how you interact with your team.
It’s about having fun together.
What you look like during your delivery of the stone is all aesthetics, especially if you get the job done consistantly.
Clean Your Stone
There should be a simple philosophy in curling.
As the game heats up, players start worrying if the skip is calling the right shot, a problem that if exasperated, can only lead to the player missing more shots. The bottom line is that each shot should begin by cleaning the bottom of the stone.
If nothing else, and you are having a rough game, you can say to yourself, I’ve done this right!
A stone can be easily flipped over by pushing forward and then jerking back. However, if this isn’t working for you, then move the stone in front of the hack and pull back. The stone should roll up easily on the hack and you can run your finger over the running surface, and then remove any debris sticking to it.
Some players may not be able to do either of these two techniques. The best solution then is to ask a teamate for help.
Last but not least, I wanted to do a recap on “line-of-delivery.” For the last few weeks we’ve been repeating the same drill, but as everyone knows, it takes time to master certain skills.
Getting your slide to track in a straight line may take years to develop. Don’t worry — if you stick with it, there are a few shortcuts. I’m a big advocate of pointing the trailing leg toe, and this accomplishes many things like straightening the hips and shoulders, reducing friction, but most importantly helping you accurately stay on the line of delivery.
When aiming, focus on a tiny spot rather than letting your attention wander all over the place.
In a future post I will break down Quiet Eye and how I use it, but for now, just practice paying attention to the details.