Recreational curlers seeing the title of today’s post might cast a wandering eye regarding the relevance it might have for them. In purely recreational leagues, it’s arrive at the curling venue, change into your gear, greet your teammates, step onto the ice and “game on”! Bless your heart. You’re what curling is all about, the pure joy of delivering granite stones up and down a sheet of ice, enjoying the camaraderie of club mates then heading home knowing you’ve participated in a wonderful sport for the ages. If that’s your curling world and you never intend it to be anything else, take the day off and thanks for checking in!
If, on the other hand, you are in either of my other three categories of curlers (serious, competitive & elite*) then you just may wish to read further.
First, allow me to make the distinction between a pre-game practice/warm up and a pre-event practice. As the adjectives imply, one takes place prior to a game and one, usually the day before a major event. Let’s deal with a pre-game practice first.
A pre-game practice is usually a time given to each team to use the ice and the stones they will use in the game for a period of time (which can vary significantly). What the team does with those stones and the playing surface is largely up to the team. In fact, you don’t have to use the time at all if you so desire (and that has happened). But this would be a pretty short post if everyone ignored the opportunity to practise before the game so I’ll assume that’s your wish.
There are a variety of reasons for a pre-game practice and for each reason, a multitude of scenarios your team might follow. Knowing what elements go into a pre-game practice comes from the answers to some questions. What does the team want from the pre-game practice time? What do each of the team’s players want from the pre-game practice? When you know the answers to those questions, you’re well on your way to creating an effective pre-game practice, in fact, using the time efficiently should follow quite naturally. You’ll notice in the preceding sentences that there’s the implication that only will the “team” want something from the time on the ice prior to the game but each “team member” may/will as well. Be aware of those needs and make sure they’re met! If you’re playing in the venue for the first time, you may wish to deliver as many stones in the time allotted as possible. Ice reading might be the priority or the speed of the ice.
You may wish to have one pre-game practice if you practise first rather than second. If you’re practising first, you most likely have last stone advantage in the initial end. If your game plan dictates that you’re going to start the game pursuing a scoring opportunity, you may wish to play more of the finesse type shots in the pre-game practice. On the other hand, if you have second practice, you likely to not have last stone advantage in end #1 and as a result, more take-out shots may be practised. The shots you personally practise may be dictated by the position you play (along with the strategy & tactics your team might employ).
Whatever programme of shots you plan, please make sure you “choreograph” the shots so that when you step onto the ice surface, with your competitors watching, you “look” very much that you are fully prepared to play the game. Everyone moves into position with a purpose and the shots played also have a purpose. The pre-game practice should be so well-rehearsed that you finish within seconds of the time allotted for its completion.
I do have some personal preferences for a pre-game practice besides those already outlined. I like the pre-game practice to end with some “team” shots, not necessarily delivered by the skip (or the one charged with delivering the last two stones of each end).
Drawing to the button is now the industry standard for determining last stone advantage in the first end with a toss of the coin deciding which team practises first and which practises second. In that case, you’ll want the player who’s going to deliver that shot-to-the-button to be part of those last team shots prior to the conclusion of the pre-game practice.
I realize that I have not been very specific on this topic and that’s because it’s so team oriented. You decide and create your own pre-game practice scenarios keeping the parameters outlined above in mind.
Now to that “other” type of rehearsal, the “pre-event practice”. As the name suggests this is an opportunity for all teams in the competition to have some time on “all” the ice surfaces. A schedule of ice and teams and time is usually prepared so you know what ice you’re to start on and how to move to the subsequent sheets. There is usually not much ice reading going on in the pre-event practice as it’s unlikely that the movement and speed of the ice surfaces will be much the same as they will be when play begins the next day. Most teams use the time to simply get comfortable with the playing environment. How are the “sight lines”? Where is the most direct path to the washrooms? Where are the water coolers? Where will the coaches be seated? Where are the time clocks? There’s really no end to the little details that each person wants to “get straight” before play begins.
Most teams will occupy most of the time allowed on each sheet in the pre-vent practice for “stone matching”. The team “Bible” comes out to record the stones that each player wishes to use when the team plays on a particular sheet. Before you go onto a sheet in the pre-event practice you will want to check the game schedule to know if you should practise with one set or the other or both.
When the team comes to a sheet where we have no games scheduled, they’ll give me one end of that ice surface to me (they go to the other end) so I can test for the “drag affect”. I only need do it once!**
It’s not unusual for some members of the team to limit the time they spend in the pre-event practice. When they and the team have what they want, they may forfeit some of the time given in the pre-event practice.
I do have specific pre-game practices that my teams have used in the past. Feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested.
* Recreational– see first paragraph.
Serious – you play within the jurisdiction of your facility but you’re on the “caring” side about your performance (perhaps you sense there’s something amiss or absent in your [pl] game preventing you from achieving your goal which may be as modest as making the playoffs in your club league for the first time), And, also for the first time, you are actively looking for help, I love working with teams in this category (contact me). This type of team will not attend many, if any, local bonspiels.
Competitive– these players/teams have likely attended or intend to attend a high performance camp offered in their area by the provincial sport governing body. They have aspirations for provincial playdowns. They will play in bonspiels outside their home facility. They might have some local sponsorship. They might have a coach (hopefully certified and will schedule practice sessions).
Elite – These are the very best teams in the nation. They likely will recruit players from across the land and will play on the “tour”. You’ll see them on TV regularly!
** I want to know the impact of the drag affect when stones are frozen and when the affect dissipates as they are separated. As long as the stones all come from the same “lot”, I need only test for the drag affect once. I’ll devote an entire post to the drag affect later in the season. If you’d like it sooner rather than later, send me a comment to that affect!