Don’t Be Predictable!

It’s draw #2 at the 2013 Brier in Edmonton. Team AB is in the 9th end of a game versus Team QC. with Team QC skipped by JM Menard, up one with last stone advantage over the hometown quartet skipped by Edmonton’s iconic skip, Kevin Martin. Cathy Gautier (TSN) just commented that Team AB is not sure what Team QC will do in this end. Had AB’s opponent been Glenn Howard, they’d know exactly what they would do but JM Menard doesn’t play in the same competitive environment so thus the quandary re. strategy & tactics.

I don’t think this is going to be any revelation and I hope none of the “TV teams” is offended when I say they are not the only elite teams on the planet. There are some very talented teams out there who for reasons known only to them, do not participate in the same competitive environment (i.e. Grand Slams, big money cash spiels etc.) and as a result, play close to home so I’ll refer to those teams respectfully as “home teams”. But don’t for a minute think the teams you see regularly on TV are a select group and all others are somehow inferior, clearly less experienced in that competitive environment, but not necessarily less skilled.

Like professional golf where the average fan sees Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Dustin Johnson etc. and assumes that’s the norm, so curling fans see the Glenn Howard’s, Kevin Martin’s, Jeff Stoughton’s, Jennifer Jones’, Rachel Homan’s etc. and operate under a similar assumption.

Back in each of those teams’ home province or territory, there are some very talented teams. And when do the well-known and lesser-known teams clash, at play down time. And although the TV teams (perhaps not the best collective noun but at this early time of the day, it’s the one I’ll use) usually do rise to the top of the standings as they try to qualify for the Scotties or Brier, the road to that provincial/territorial title is sometimes bumpy indeed. It’s not unusual for a TV team to find itself on the “B side” of the draw at their zone or regional competition and it’s my view that predictability is the reason. The team that plays the TV team has watched its opponent play game after game across months of televised events seeing it playing exactly the same way so not only does the “home team” know what the TV team is going to do, it knows how it’s going to do it.

Make no mistake. If you’ve read any of what I write here on this site, you know I go on and on about how it’s really about making curling shots and many more times than not, the TV team is going to win on that basis alone. But occasionally the “home team” will have a career game with the TV team not quite hitting on all cylinders resulting in that “B side” situation referred to above.

In all of this I feel there’s a lesson for all teams wishing to compete more effectively and it’s the title of this post. Don’t be predictable!

In one of the more recent posts (“Last Rock Disadvantage” [02/25/13]) I outline a few options a team has at its disposal to react to the prerequisite centre-line (CL) guard the team without last stone advantage places with its lead stones. If you respond to that shot in the same manner each and every time, think about what you’re doing. You’re putting your opponent into a comfort zone. It gives that team a measure of assurance that it’s doing things the right way based upon how you do things (forgive me for the use of the word “things”). Is that OK with you? And, it might be because, as implied above, you’re going to make your shots more often and to a higher degree of precision than your opponent so it simply doesn’t matter if the opposition knows what you’re going to do. I get that! That’s quite likely the reason the TV teams play the way they do against one another event after event. No one is going to fool anyone. Let’s simply see who curls better so sit back as spectators and be amazed!

My regular readers know I categorize curling teams into four groups, recreational, serious, competitive and elite. My suggestion to train so that you have a variety of tactics to employ in a similar strategic game situation is for the two groups in the middle of my list, serious and competitive, especially the competitive teams.

By the way, Team QC defeated Team AB!