Now What Do We Do?

My inbox recently has received several messages from curlers whose teams have qualified in playdowns to move forward to regional, provincial/territorial and in one case, national competition asking for assistance as they prepare. It is the subject of today’s post, “Now What Do We Do?”. Interestingly enough, answering commonly asked questions on-line was how my writing career got started. What follows are suggestions from my experience preparing teams for that next level of competition, whatever it might be.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO WIN
I’m sure that phrase sounds comical to some but it’s my experience that success at a particular level might have come quite unexpectedly and perhaps in dramatic fashion. By qualifying for the next level, more of a spotlight is placed upon you. Your attitude going into that next round is critical. If you feel as though you’ve got no chance to succeed, very likely that’s exactly what will happen. Don’t assume that your team will be anointed with success just because of who you are but also don’t assume you’re going to be trampled to death because you didn’t think for a moment you’d be there. As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”  You don’t want to leave the competition realizing you “low balled” your hopes and aspirations.
Attitude will mean everything and if you’ve read my posts you know the one I prefer; “Coach, we just can’t wait to play!

DO LESS, BUT DO IT BETTER
There’s always the tendency to feel that now you have to do more to help the team. Exactly the opposite is true. Do less, but do it better! When you try to be someone you’re not, you’ll never be the person you are. It was good enough to get you there. It will be good enough to keep you there. You can’t leave your skills at home. Trust those skills and those of your teammates. Support one another unconditionally. Do all the non skill- based things you know help you perform.

LOOK AFTER YOUR “REAL SELF”
That competition for which you’ve qualified is quite likely only a few weeks down the road. You aren’t going to hone new skills in that time so don’t even try. Don’t practise harder or longer. In other words, don’t focus on your “performer self”, he’s/she’s OK but do focus on your “real self”.
Make sure that when you leave for that next competition, all is right with family, friends, co-workers, school etc. Compete with the knowledge that all is right “back home”! That way you can concentrate on the task at hand.

BE THE BEST TEAMMATE YOU CAN BE
This is the most valuable skill in your tool box! You know how to contribute to not only the overall success of the team, but to the success of each of your teammates. If four athletes do that, they will perform well and that’s the goal! If you’re not sure how to support one another, ask!

DO WHAT YOU’VE ALWAYS DONE
There’s a saying those of us who deliver high performance camps use with attending teams. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got!” A companion adage is “Doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results!
It is our participant observation that teams aspiring to increasing heights of performance don’t do things wrong. There are some necessary components they don’t do at all. Find out what they are!

KNOW WHY YOU ARE SUCCEEDING
You and your team have obviously done something(s) that are working. Identify those things and make sure they’re in your repertoire when you go to that next event!

LEARN TO DEAL WITH DISTRACTIONS
Distractions are the biggest “skill killers” especially if you’re unaccustomed to playing in event such as the one in which you are about to play. It’s really difficult to prepare for distractions but I have an activity below to help with that. In a nutshell, expect the unexpected. If nothing unexpected occurs, no harm, no foul but if it does, you won’t be surprised. Talk to those who have been where you’re going!

TAKE SOMEONE WITH YOU
If someone who knows you (sing. or pl.) is willing, take him/her up on the offer but be sure he/she knows exactly how he/she can  assist. Without “marching orders”, his/her involvement just might be one of those dreaded distractions. If the person willing to come to the event will be in a coaching role that’s when you really must make sure he/she knows how they can help!

FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE PRIZE
I know you’ve hear/read this almost constantly but process is way more important than the outcome. Outcomes take care of themselves but you are in control of the process. Enough said!

PRACTICE
In your (sing. or pl.) practice sessions, concentrate on “weight control” drills and activities. Make sure you know what you’re doing. You perhaps have heard me say, “The athlete who knows why will always defeat the athlete who only knows how.” Have a reason for everything you do!
For the first time your team might have the opportunity for a pre-event practice* and pre-game practices. Decide exactly how you’re going to use the 10-15 min. you will have on each sheet (likely the day before the event). In your practice sessions, literally choreograph your pre-game warm up starting with what you (sing. & pl.) want the pre-game warm up to provide for you.

ACTIVITY
This activity was referred to above re. distractions. Have everyone on the team take a blank piece of paper and draw a large circle. Inside the circle place all the aspects of the event over which you and your teammates have either complete control or at least a good deal of influence. Outside the circle identify those aspects of the competition over which you and your teammates have no control or very little. Make a pact with your teammates that all topics listed outside the circle will not be discussed. Never!

NUTRITION and PHYSICAL PREPARATION
It’s much too late to decide to “eat to perform” if you’ve not been doing that all along. The same goes for physical preparation. Eat and prepare physically as you would normally. It may be the best learning experience for the future (wink, wink)!

READ THE RULES AND THE EVENT REGULATIONS
More than one team has gotten itself into a mess because they did not read the rules and regulations governing the event. If there’s a “participant’s guide”, read it, word-for-word. It’s not a bad idea to re-acquaint yourself with the actual rules of curling. Regulations can change if the event is officiated or not officiated. If you’re the skip, make sure you’re aware that if a rule infraction is caused by the opposition, you need to know what happened (don’t be getting a drink of water) and what options are at your disposal.

* In the next post I’ll detail a pre-event practice activity I call “64” that Team Canada uses at the World Senior Curling Championships.