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Practice

Like many sports, practicing the curling delivery is an important part of developing the needed consistency required to make shots on a regular basis. The curling delivery is very complex and it is not something most of us do very often.

Why We Practice The reason practice makes us better is that the repetition of the doing something engrains the behavior or mechanics into our bodies. Proper practice can make any skill instinct. Most skills can be performed properly when you have the opportunity to think it through thoroughly. It's when you're "in the moment" that most skills are lost. When you can't thoroughly think through the skill process, you revert back to whatever your body is comfortable with. Practice can change this. So, if you want to make the big shot to win the game under pressure, you'll need to make the proper delivery instinct.

Simply throwing proper practice rocks at the club will train your body to recognize a proper delivery and develop some muscle memory. Throwing practice rocks can also be a trap where bad habits can be reinforced. This chapter describes some specific practice techniques that will help you develop your skills.

There are two types of practice sessions;

1. Practice to make your team better

and

2. Practice to make your individual contribution to a team better.

If you play on a regular team, the best practices are the ones with the entire team present.

If most of your curling is in leagues (on several different teams), then you may want to concentrate on the following practice drills. First, find someone to practice with. Try and find someone who can reasonably assess your skills and provide feedback to you. Practicing alone is only good for developing your balance and gives a good sense of the overall delivery. The mistake many people make is trying to practice hitting the broom alone. It is virtually impossible for you to determine precise accuracy and line of delivery from the throwing position. The only way to accurately practice line of delivery is to throw at a broom held by a person who can provide you feedback.

Drill #1 Balance You can do this one alone. Since the fundamental component to a good delivery is balance, this drill is invaluable. Begin by taking a few practice slides followed by throwing a few stones. This will loosen up the body for the balance drill. Now, go back to sliding without the rock but this time raise the broom off the ice as you finish sliding. As you repeat the sliding drill, begin raising the broom off the ice earlier and earlier until you can slide without the use of the broom at all.

Finish the drill by throwing a few stones without leaning on the broom.

Drill #2 Drop Drill This drill helps with the body drop. You can also do this one alone, but it helps to have a spotter. For the drill only, setup in the "hips up and back" position. This is the "loaded" position ready for forward motion. From this position, move the rock and your body forward without moving your sliding foot. Pick a point in front of the hack where the rock will touch before the sliding foot moves. Start with a spot one foot from the hack. Remember; don't move your sliding foot until the rock reaches that point. Once you feel comfortable, move the point out farther. This drill gets you into body drop form. You'll notice your slide will become longer and more powerful with each adjustment.

Drill #3 Establish the Delivery The term "establish" refers here to point when the final, balanced delivery position has been achieved. From the normal setup position, close you eyes and begin the normal delivery. When you are completely settled in the balance, sliding position, open your eyes. This is the point where your delivery is established. It should be near the tee line.

Remember, to be established, you must be in the delivery position and balanced.

Drill #4 Hitting the Broom Have a person hold the broom for you. Agree on what weight you would like to throw. Hack weight seems to work well. Throw the rock back and forth with the other person changing the broom with each shot. Provide feedback on the shot each time. If you throw hack or takeout weight, you could use the same rock over and over. This is a great practice drill because you begin to feel and see what its like to "hit the broom".

Fitness Fitness and strength are not required for curling. You've probably already noticed that curlers come in all shapes and sizes. Overall fitness will, however, help your curling game. We had the opportunity to discuss curling with the US. Olympic training specialist at the Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs, CO. He mentioned some basic guidelines for curling and fitness. Even if you don't plan on curling in the Olympics, these guidelines should help. The fitness specialist mentioned two main fitness components:

General fitness

Specific fitness

Being generally fit refers to having a healthy heart, not carrying too much weight and having some basic muscle tone and endurance.

Specific fitness refers to the areas of fitness that are specific to curling. Even the specialist admits to only knowing a limited amount about curling. He mentioned the two key components to curling fitness:

Conditioning - Curling is an anaerobic sport. Most players (except the skip) must sweep vigorously then calm down enough the gently delivery the rock. This requires the heart to calm down quickly, which is associated with general conditioning.

Muscle Strength - Curlers need leg-muscle strength to sustain the delivery position for any length of time. The leg muscles, specifically the quadriceps, carry most of the body weight during the slide. Strong quadriceps will help with a consistent flat-footed delivery. Lack of muscle strength in the legs is not noticeable if players are playing games on an irregular basis. Muscle strength becomes critical if a player is playing multiple games per day or playing many games over an extended period of time

Team Practices (Advanced) During team practices, a combination of mechanics and team related drills should dominate. If the entire team is present, they have the opportunity to practice actual shots. This can be done by either setting up a particular shot and throwing it over and over, or by playing the "perfect team".

The Designated Shot

Pick a shot that the team throws a lot. Execute the shot with full sweeping and line calling. Agree on a standard for each shot. For example, three come-arounds in a row or three peels in a row or ten freeze attempts. This drill allows the players to practice a common shot when the pressure is off. This goes along way when the pressure is on.

The "Perfect Team"

This refers to playing an imaginary team that does not miss any shots. It begins with the skip gathering a few opponents' rocks at the house end. After your team throws a rock, the skip then determines what the perfect shot would be and executes it by placing the opponents rock in the perfect spot. The skip must play for both teams. This drill is very valuable because it can simulate game actual conditions without the need for an opponent.

A word of caution when playing the perfect team; They're very good. Expect to give up multiple points. In fact, the goal of this drill is to try and limit the perfect team to one or two points in each end.

One-On-One, Two-On-Two, Etc.

Playing small games breaks up the monotony of any practice. As part of a practice, play a two end game of two-on-two (or one -on-one if you have another sheet available). To make the game even more interesting, do not allow any takeouts. This forces the team to concentrate on finesse shots rather than "blasting". If a player takes a rock out by mistake, it must be replaced. Once the rocks build up, it provides a good opportunity to practice raises.

Four in the Four

With this drill, the goal for the team is to draw the four-foot, four times in a row. Start with the normal team set up at the beginning of an end. The lead throws a draw to the four-foot with the skip in position and the second and vice sweeping. After the lead throws, the second throws and so on. Continue this until you have drawn the four foot four consecutive times. If one person misses, you must start over. The purpose of this drill is two-fold, to see and understand each delivery for sweeping purposes, and to simply practice drawing to the four-foot. It develops a good sense of draw weight, what your sweepers are capable of, and good practice for the sweepers making weight judgment calls.

This drill is harder than it sounds. If the team rule is to not move to the next drill until four are in the four, then pressure builds up with each four-foot draw.

Enjoy this one; it's probably the only aerobic curling drill in existence.


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