I think many of you will agree that the stopwatch has been a very valuable addition to any curler’s broom bag. The point I want to make is that some curler’s need to learn when to leave it in their broom bag. I’ve seen too many young, inexperienced teams simply rely on the split time they get in order to judge weight of a draw shot – sometimes this works and they look brilliant, other times things go wrong and we have a very confused looking team on the ice.
In my opinion the stopwatch is a valuable aid in order to judge what is happening to the ice conditions during a game. It also allows a team to have a comparison point when traveling from club to club. A number of our top weight judging front ends still use a stopwatch, however they use it possibly eight to nine times during a game, not on every single shot.
My main argument is that in order for a lot of our up and coming teams to get better they have to develop their own weight judging techniques. This means they must use their own intelligence to calculate the weight of the rock and make a judgment based on their own experience. This will take some getting use to, and yes there will be a uncomfortable learning curve but as a team you have to let your sweepers make these mistakes; place the onus on them that they are 100% responsible for weight judgment and make them use their own brain to do it.
When working with teams I try and ensure that communication and weight judgment are addressed. What I am looking is simply a conversation between the sweepers and the person in the house during the entire shot. Here’s the process I’m looking for:
- The first person who needs to say something about the shot is the person who just let it go. This athlete has just spent 3.5 – 4.0 seconds of complete interaction with this rock and they need to say one of three things: good, light or heavy. Only they truly know what they’ve done to this rock i.e. pulled back, slightly extended.
- The sweepers are now in control. After walking alongside the thrower, keeping an eye on release, rotation, rock position in relation to the slider foot while almost unconsciously keeping a mind on the pace they are walking. Once all this is taken into account, plus the message from the shooter they make their first judgment “top 4” “6” whatever system – this should be made about one to two meters past the hotline. A stopwatch cannot take into account everything a human brain can – push your athletes to become better at their position and remind them this includes weight judgment!
- As the rock goes down the ice I want to see a weight call every two to three steps by the shooter. This may be the same thing 5, 6…..5, 6….7, 8….. the sooner a team knows where the rock may be the sooner they can decide on Plan A or Plan B. I challenge teams to move this decision point closer to the near hotline, rather than the fat hotline.
- After each weight call, the person in the house simply gives an indication in regards to line (not weight Skips!!) If line is good, that is all the conversation will be…..5, 6 …line’s good…..7…..lines good….etc. If line is needed then the call for sweeping will come and the sweepers now know this is for line, or they know they may be going for a Plan B.
- The last part of this communication pattern I like to see is the person in the house providing a target with their broom of exactly where they want the rock to end up. This way the sweepers can simply look up and see the target. Then if Plan B is made, with out voicing it, the broom can simply be moved to change plans. The sweepers see this and have an idea of why they’re sweeping.
This is a hard concept to adapt for a team that is used to solely relying on stopwatches to decide on weight judgment however I truly believe this will make teams better. Again, I reiterate that I also strongly believe that stop watches have a place in the game and provide very valuable information during a game, teams simply need to know the correct place and time to use these.
If your team has a chance, try and arrange a session with your provincial curling body with the new Speed Trap technology by the Rock Science group from Montreal. Following reading this article there is a procedure whereby you use to of these units. One provides info on split times, and the other the actual speed of the rock. Teams quickly learn that a shooter can give them exact split times and totally different speeds or vice versa totally different speeds and identical split times. Definitely time spent wisely with any caliber of team.
Email if you have questions.
Source: Paul Webster, National Development Coach