Where Have I Been?

Okay, I know, I get it.  I don’t update the site nearly enough and for that I apologize.  What’s new??  Wow, lots and lots and yet not much at all.  I’m going to write this very short little blurb to let you know you should be following Team Rozon on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter!  We are about to go into playdowns and have high hopes!

Also, in the next couple days stay tuned as I’m going to post a drill that I honestly love.

End of Season…?

Ok so it’s April, it’s raining (of course) and curling ice is coming out all over the place here in Ontario.  Looks like curling is all done for the year right?  Well, that depends.  Somewhere on this site I posted that the season really never ends, it just changes forms.  Surely there won’t be a lot of games played for the next few months.  There are a variety of really great summer spiels though so, I won’t say NO games will be played but just because there are no games being played that doesn’t mean curling is “over”.  Proper season planning takes this time of year into account.  This is the time to start working on next year.  Building the team, working on fitness plans, attracting sponsors, planning events, all these things need to happen for competitive teams before the next regular games start!  There is lots of work to be done if the next year is go smoothly.

That being said, there also needs to be some down time.  Think of it as “rest and recovery” for the curling season.  Take a few days…tell the team I said it was ok.

Curling: Steps to Success Update

The book has launched!! I’m so excited to tell you all that my book, Curling: Steps to Success is now available both as an ebook and in actual paper.  You can buy directly from the publisher, Human Kinetics at:
http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/Curling

Alternatively, you can order it from Chapters online!  Please take a look and purchase one, it would mean a lot!  Thanks!

14324274_1823261571242582_1530503394105622229_o

Shamelessly Self Promoting

To all of you who may visit my humble little site, I have some amazing news!  This site has suffered somewhat with respect to updates in the last year or so because I’ve been somewhat busy with writing a book on curling!! I’m excited and nervous about it’s pending release but I’m hoping that if you’re on here and see this post you’ll go and check it out.  As of Aug. 31 the ebook version was available with the print version expected in the next few weeks.  Here is the link, and here is hoping you check it out and buy yourself a copy!

http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/Curling

Brushing…Really?

Really?  Another article on brushing?  Yes.  Let’s face it, this is the biggest thing to hit the sport of curling since…well, I don’t know since the time we ditched corn brooms for brushes?  It’s a turbulent time for the sport and how the sport grows or not, hinges a lot on what will happen this summer as the governing bodies in curling decide how they’re going to handle the situation.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, (really?) here is the situation in a nutshell.

First, materials and broom constructions have been discovered that have a much larger impact on the ice surface than the stuff we’ve been using up to this point.  Waterproof coated fabrics are so abrasive that they have an incredibly significant impact on the ice surface and therefore the running path of the stone.  That’s one.  Two, are stiffening constructs within the brush head itself are having another huge impact on how much force can be applied to the head during brushing.  I’ve seen homemade brush heads that were literally plywood with fabric over them.

These two modifications in brush head construction have been banned temporarily by Curling Canada because they can unduly affect the path of the stone meaning that you can almost literally steer a stone down the ice with appropriate brushing.

The second half of the brushing conundrum is what is now being called “directional brushing”.  Directional brushing is much like you would think it is.  Instead of brushing across the face of the stone as we have all been taught, brushers sweep slightly off the slide path of the stone across half the stone with the intention of keeping it straight or making it curl.  Yes, you read that correctly, with this technique brushers can make a stone curl more.  Hair brushes are particularly effective at making this happen and so, these too have been banned by the governing bodies.  This style of brushing requires only a single brusher for a number of reasons.  The effectiveness of this brushing style relies naturally on the abilities and strength of the sweeper but also to the state of the brush head itself.  A dirty brush head is much less effective than a new clean one and this effect is so pronounced that in the recent World Championships teams were limited to the number of new brush heads they were allowed to use for the duration of the tournament.

This is not going to be a lesson in directional brushing, rather it is going to serve as a gut check and commentary.  Videos have been posted showing the effect of directional brushing and of the various styles of brush head.  They’re shocking.  It is not a stretch to say that potentially 90% of the shot is now in the hands of the brushers rather than the thrower depending on the brushes being used.

So, first question, should this be allowed?  My opinion is that there needs to be a balance.  I think everyone wants control of shots to be primarily in the hands of the throwers rather than the brushers.  The key is to find the combination of equipment and technique that will ensure this.  The next question is, what ration should there be between control by the throwers and control by the brushers?  I’m thinking somewhere above 70% should be in the control of the throwers.  To clarify, in my opinion only about 30% of the shot should be up to the brushers.  To add to this, I think that this is higher than it was before the broom scandal erupted.

Next question, should you start doing it?  Well, never forget that to be an effective brusher, you have to have good technique.  Directional brushing doesn’t let you off the hook on that one.  You still must be able to generate force and friction with your brush head before you can expect anything to happen.  If you can’t do that, then it really doesn’t much matter what you do.  Directional brushing is not only more complicated but also more difficult than traditional brushing.  In order to be effective you have to stand over the rock and brush almost in the path.  It is much easier to burn stones this way and the footwork is arguably more difficult  as well particularly when you get into a busy house!  It’s important to realize that this is not the magic bullet that will get you out of having to actually brush hard to have an impact.

In many ways, this situation is actually encouraging and let’s face it, not unique to curling.  Golf has gone through many versions of this same debate and continues to do so.  Both golf balls and clubs have restrictions around them to manage the parameters of the game and that evolution of the sport continues even today.  Golf is currently struggling with what to do about the use of the long putter. The fact that we are having discussions about the effect and development of equipment in curling is just one more step towards the bigger things for curling.  We are an Olympic sport and therefore we need to manage how this game evolves.  Now, am I happy that we have to go through all this?  Actually, I kind of am.  The people who came up with the various techniques and equipment modifications are pushing the envelope of performance. Sure, they’re doing it in terms of equipment rather than say, delivery technique but that’s how the sport grows.  We push towards new innovations and see what we like and what we don’t.  We manage how the game is played.  If we want something we’ve never had before in the sport then we must do things we’ve never done before.  These are exciting times for our sport and we should view these latest developments as opportunities to grow, rather than a threat.

News…

Coach curling peeps!  Yes, I’m trying hard to get back to this but if you haven’t heard, it’s been a busy year for Coach Sean.  In November I traveled to Shanghai China to deliver a junior curling camp.  Yes, really.  I thought, “this is easily the highlight of my season!”.  Oops.  On the heels of that amazing experience, I was asked to fill in for the Nunavut junior men’s coach at the Canadian Junior Nationals where we won our first game in Nunavut history for junior men.  Phenomenal experience that will resonate with me for the rest of my life!  Surely, that was the highlight of my season!  Double oops.  My Humber College men’s team placed 3rd at OCAA Provincials and therefore qualified for the CCAA Nationals and somehow we won it all.  National champions!! It still feels strange to write that out but it’s real.  In any case, I’ve learned a pile from a huge number of amazing people and I really just want to share that with the world!  So, I’m promising that in the next little while I’ll post some of the lessons I learned over the course of this amazing year.  Which one was my highlight?  Oh no, I’m in highlight reel mode now, there cannot be just one.  Thanks for reading, stay tuned!

Link

Okay, fair enough I haven’t exactly been super attentive the old website.  There is just so much going on!  If you haven’t heard, my junior women’s team has disbanded and so Coach Sean is down to coaching Humber men.  And if you haven’t heard about THEM, well, we are off to CCAA Nationals March 22 in London Ontario after winning Bronze in the OCAA Provincials.  Of course, I’m going to be coaching another team next season and there may be news on that soon.

It’s been a ridiculously hectic winter.  In November I ran a junior curling camp in Shanghai China on behalf of the World Curling Federation.  That was all kinds of incredible for all kinds of reasons.  The kids over there have their mechanics down like you would not believe.  We in Canada should be paying attention to what’s going on over there.  I expect a wave of Chinese talent to slowly start pressuring the rest of the world.

In January I had the privilege of coaching the Nunavut Junior men at the Canadian Junior Championships in Stratford Ontario.  This too was a phenomenal experience with some exceptional people.  We made history by winning the first game ever by a Nunavut men’s team at Nationals.  See the story here:

http://www.curling.ca/2016juniors/2016/01/27/another-historic-day-for-nunavut-at-2016-canadian-junior-championships/

I cannot say enough about both experiences!!  For now, that’s all the update you get.  Keep watching as I promise to start posting regularly once again.

Curling Drilliums is Born!!

It’s HERE!! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be able to finally have this available. I’ve had a lot of support to get this moving and there are bound to be a few glitches at the beginning but Curling Drilliums is now available!!

Take a look at the top of the page to get to the order page and then order away! I really believe there is a need for something like this out there and trust me, I’m not making any significant money from it. It’s a labour of love and I’m just trying not to be out of pocket.

Please order a copy for yourself today!

It’s Only Fair

I’m coming off a big weekend with the Bantam Girls team that I currently coach.  We were literally inches from a berth in the Junior Provincials and though we didn’t get there, we still feel as though we won.  We had a positive weekend of competitive play and great team bonding and at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to leave the biggest impression on my team.  Now they’re hungry for more because they feel they can achieve that much more.

In any case, our game play isn’t really what this post is about, rather it’s the fall out from a very specific event during our last game.  It was in the 8th end of a 10 end game and the score was very close, a one point game.  The house was fairly messy and our team had a take out through a fairly wide port.  The stone looked good coming over the hog line and just before it entered the rings our lead slipped and did a funky ballet move from her butt to keep from touching the stone, the shot, made!  Or so we thought….

Immediately after the shot was made the opposing skip declared that our lead had in fact touched the running stone and that it should be replaced.  Can of worms now open.  First issue, the rule for that instance is clear.  If a stone in motion is touched inside the hog line the non-offending team has three options.  1.  Leave it alone.  2. Replace all stones as though the shot had not been thrown or 3. Adjust stones to where the non-offending team thinks they would have ended up.  This rule is specific to stones touched inside the hog line.  Between the hogs, the touched stone automatically and immediately is removed from play.  There is obviously latitude here for the non-offending team and this is where the code of ethics crosses with the rule book.  The idea is to resolve a rules violation with something that is fair.

The real issue in our case was that our lead “didn’t think” she touched it.  The opposition skip was adamant that she had however.  Now, it used to say in the rule book something to the effect of “if a team declares it’s own foul” however as I pour over the CCA rules of curling for 2014 to 2018 I cannot find that phrase as it might apply to a touched running stone either in the officiated or general rules.  Being the ethical sports people curlers are however, I believe that in the interest of sportsmanship and fair play, you ALWAYS declare your own fouls.  In our case, I believe my lead completely.  She absolutely would not try to cheat and if she felt she had touched the rock I know she would have admitted it.  Still, it’s possible she could have touched it without knowing.  Regardless, there was definite disagreement over whether the stone had been touched or not.

The official got involved and the result (after some heated discussion between the teams) was that the play was left to stand as it had played out.  My opposing coach being a fine and upstanding opponent, suggested that we call a “Fair Play” timeout at the conclusion of the end to which I heartily agreed.

The “Fair Play” timeout is somewhat mythical.  Not that it’s a myth but finding it’s precise definition and application is not as easy as  one might think.  Some people have never even heard of this so I feel like perhaps it’s a good place to talk about it.  First, it does not show up in the official rules so far as I can see.  I’ve again poured over the rule book to find it and no luck.  I’ve also been through the OCA rules supplement, again to no avail.  If any of you out there can find a reference to it in either of these documents please enlighten me!  I did find it in a copy of the CCA “Special Rules” which wasn’t easy to find itself!  The Special Rules can be found at this link:

http://media.curling.ca/contentImages/File/specialrules.pdf

You’ll note that the Fair Play timeout is reference under the Special Rules pertaining to the Canadian Junior Men’s and Women’s play specifically.

This is the only place where I find a reference to the Fair Play timeout but it has been explained to me so I’m passing on what I know.  First, the idea is to have an “official” time where coaches can talk to their teams about rules violations or to diffuse a potentially negative situation before it escalates.  You may not slip in any kind of strategy discussion here!  Only the coach who requests the Fair Play timeout may talk to their team and this will be monitored and / or recommended by an official.  It’s a chance for a coach to try to bring some level headed thinking to a team.  It’s an opportunity to remind young teams of the spirit of the game and to reinforce the rules and how important it is to adhere to them.  Each team is allowed a single, one minute Fair Play timeout per game.

Now think about this.  A Fair Play timeout is an opportunity, yes but it’s also the result of something that has gone or is going very wrong.  It’s a chance for the coach to put things back on the rails either in the spirit of sportsmanship or fairness.  The Fair Play timeout is an excellent tool however, it’s a remedy for a bad situation.

In our case, both coaches asked for the Fair Play timeout to help reduce the tension on the ice and to ensure our teams played with the spirit of the game in mind.  So, the result?  I don’t believe there is any love lost between our teams but tensions were reduced for the rest of the game and both teams played in a sportsmanlike manner for the duration of the game.  I think the Fair Play timeout worked well in our case and it was a learning opportunity for me having never gone through it myself.

Now you know, go forth with Fair Play!

Size Matters

I am being continually reminded of one hard truth about the sport we all love so much.  This is the critical nature of team dynamics on in curling.  Certainly, team dynamics are not a unique requirement to our sport but they do seem to have an impact far beyond that of other sports.  I decided to do some research into why this might be the case and what I found seemed to agree with what I had figured on my own.

First, an aside.  For those of you studying teams and the dynamics within teams, I would highly suggest you look into business literature for additional insight.  There seems to be much more of that out there and frankly, the concepts overlap those things that we’re trying to achieve quite nicely.

What did I learn? Well, it’s likely fairly obvious but many of the advantages that small teams enjoy over larger teams also end up being double edged swords.  When those “advantages” don’t work well, they end up damaging the small team.  The first example of this would be clarity within a team.  Each member of a four person team has a pretty direct sight line to each of their team mates.  Any difference in philosophy or commitment will be pretty obvious, pretty quickly and there’s no ignoring it.  On larger teams, players may not have the level of insight into their team mates that they get on small teams.  With that insight is the ability to achieve a level of cohesion that is much more difficult in larger teams.  Of course, the chance of the smaller team being pulled apart by those aforementioned differences is also higher.  Much of this is due to the increased interaction between each team member.  Face it, there’s no “hiding” on a small team, in any respect!

Larger teams can also enjoy (suffer?) the experience of “group think”.  That is, a prevailing attitude or gravitation towards consensus that may or may not be beneficial to the groups success.  In our smaller teams, players are less inclined to go with the flow because the flow is that much smaller!  Again though, the flip side of that is that players who don’t see any support for their opinions can very quickly feel very marginalized within small teams causing discourse and a definite lack of cohesion.

If small teams can get on the same page, they are much better to develop a strong sense of trust in each other.  It’s much more difficult for larger teams to achieve this across the board and that trust brings with it a whole pile of benefits.

That is just scratching the surface of the “small team vs. large team” study.  What does that have to do with us as coaches?  Everything.  It’s our job to build and foster the environment where these considerations go down the “positive” road rather than the negative one.  I’ve said before, a coach cannot force team cohesion, they can only create an environment where it has the best chance to succeed.  I cannot stress enough that in my limited experience, it’s this team formation and nurturing that has the single biggest impact on a team’s success.  We need to constantly be examining how we do business so that we are giving our teams the best chance to bond.