The Year is Over?
March 31, 2006 Revised Feb. 2013
That was fast wasn’t it? It seems like I just wrote the first one of these a few weeks ago and now I’m here chatting about the year being over. Posters are up in clubs all over advertising “closing” spiels or similar competitions and, alas, the Brier is over. Sweden has won the Women’s World Championship and the first francophone Brier winner is getting ready to win the Men’s World Championship for Canada. (Remember, this was in 2006…) What’s left for us club curlers? Well as I said, there are always a multitude of popular closing events at clubs as well as the finale’s of the major championships on TV. Is there nothing else? How will I manage the withdrawal?!?
Apparently, I’m not the only one with withdrawal symptoms. I always find it somewhat curious at his time of year to see players practicing more. It’s not uncommon to see a player on every sheet prior to league games in the late March, early April time frame. Practice is usually for preparation and since most of the year is gone there isn’t really anything left to prepare for. I suspect these practice sessions are mostly about squeezing in as much ice time as possible before the ice is gone for another summer.
Still, it raises the question, what can a player do to prepare for next year? Well, fitness is always high on the list. Specifically, the summer can be a good time for sweepers to work on their overall stamina. Any activity that can improve your wind such as cycling, running, swimming or even walking will pay off next fall the first time your third pulls the string on a crucial draw. Players should also work on upper body strength activities so that broom doesn’t feel as heavy the first time you pick it up. Another really critical physical aspect to work on is flexibility. Activities that will maintain and improve your flexibility can really smooth the transition back into the game. I think it’s safe to say that as a player you’re more flexible in some areas in April than you are in October. This is because by playing regularly you’ve given your body a regular flexibility work out that has slowly improved your fitness level. Imagine feeling as flexible in October as you do in April! It is possible; it just takes a little work. Regular stretching exercises are a great way to maintain and improve this. A great tip for these types of exercises that works all year is to do them while you watch television. Commercials provide a perfect timer for flexibility exercises. Do one exercise per commercial then rest while your program is on. If you watch 2 hours of TV and use this method then you’ll get 40 minutes of stretching exercise (bet you didn’t realize there was THAT many commercials huh?).
Improving your overall strength over the summer is also a great way to be ready when they drop the first rock (wait…that’s not right…I’m mixing sports…). Again, leg strength for delivery and upper body strength for sweeping are where you should focus most. Another important aspect to address is the “touch” side of the game. Curling is very much about feel and activities that require you to develop some kind of balance of strength vs. control are very helpful. Just as a side note, this is why I could never mix bowling and curling. The types of motion required for both sports is very similar however in bowling I simply flung the ball down the lane with little regard for how hard I threw it. When I next went out on the curling ice I found my draw weight was gone! In any case, golf is an ideal sport for this. There is no similarity regarding range of motion but the two sports absolutely require a balance of power and control. Miss out on either and you won’t play either sport very well. Golf also keeps you somewhat mentally sharp. Reading greens and deciding where to lay up require strategic planning that keeps your mind active with the same sort of processes you use when curling. See, there is a good reason golf and curling go together after all!
All of these physical abilities are really things that players should be working on year round. The warmer weather simply opens up the range of activities you can do to improve these things. Spring is also the time many teams make personnel plans for next year. Players and teams usually know if they want to play together next season so it’s a good time to make these decisions and to find new players if needed! Teams who know they are going to be together also make plans around how many bonspiels and competitions they want to play in. As a coach, spring is the time where I reflect back on the season and pick out what went well and what didn’t go so well. I do this for my own coaching performance, for the teams’ performance and for each individual on the team. It’s a perfect time to start work on the program for my teams for next year because everything is fresh in my mind. I’ll document for myself what I need to improve and what the team needs to work on most and start building that plan now. I like to take lots of time to develop these programs because I like to make sure it’s thorough.
Finally, the summer is a really great time to spread the word to all your friends about how much fun you had curling all winter. It’s been great to see some people out at the club lately renting the ice as a group to try the sport. It’s encouraging but those people need to hear that leagues can be just as much fun. They also need to hear it well in advance of October so that they can get involved as soon as possible. Spread the word and bring your friends. The fall really isn’t that far off…
This is my last article for the season. I hope you enjoyed them. I’ll try to dig up more topics for next fall!