It’s Not My Fault
October 2010 Revised Feb. 2013
It’s that time of year where everyone is shaking off the rust and trying to figure out just how to curl again. For many of you, your first time on the ice will be a club game or maybe you’re one of the industrious ones who actually goes out and throws some rocks prior to that first match. Likely that first time out will be a little shaky compared to the last time out last season and it’s with that in mind that I write this.
Before any of you hit the ice I implore you to please stretch properly. I don’t care how old you are and I don’t care how fit you are. STRETCH FIRST!! A proper stretching routine follows the “Step – Stretch – Slide” format. Stepping means an activity that gets your heart rate up. This can be running in a spot, jumping jacks or really anything else that gets your blood moving faster through your body. This should take about five minutes minimum and should NOT be so strenuous as to make you sweat. Stretching before your activity should be dynamic stretching, that is stretching that involves movement. Normally when someone tells you to stretch you think of static stretching which involves assuming a position and holding it. We’ll save that for after the game as our cool down. Studies are showing that static stretching before activity does not prepare your muscles properly and may actually be harmful. Dynamic stretching can be lunges, golf swings, twists etc. Remember to focus on the muscles that you’re actually going to be using when you play. The last step in a good warm up is the slide. A few practice slides remind the body of the position you’re going to expect it to be performing in and also act as a final warm up for the appropriate muscle groups. All steps except the slide should be done in the warm lounge or change room prior to hitting the cool air of the rink. Post game you can use those static stretches I spoke of earlier. Stretching this way helps to use up any lactic acid that builds up in our muscles during our game. It’s the residual lactic acid that causes stiffness and soreness.
That was a bit of an aside since the main idea of this article is delivery fault correction. I’ve had the opportunity to be at a couple of clinics already this year and I’ve been quickly reminded of the most common faults that I see in club curlers. I’m going to go through the top few along with suggestions on how to fix them up. In a previous article, “Back To Basics” (October 2006) I went through the order of the curling delivery. This order is…
2. Timing (I’m changing the name of this to “Sequence of Movements”)
3. Line of Delivery
4. Grip and Release
In a nutshell you must work down the list, mastering the elements from 1 to 4 IN THAT ORDER! After all, if you’re working on your release but falling down every time you throw a stone, well then clearly you’re not working on the right thing! That article covers the different steps in some detail so I’m not going to re-write that. What I am going to do is outline the major faults that I see, along with their symptoms and hopefully some help on how to correct them!
1. The most common fault I see is actually a sequence of movements issue that looks like a balance issue. If you remember the sequence, it is: hips up, slider foot back, rock back, park, rock forward, foot forward, slide. Easy, right? Well, easy to say and write perhaps. What many club curlers do is rush to move forward out of the hack. The rock and the foot come out at the same time causing a traffic jam under your body. If your foot comes forward out of the hack at the same time as your stone then it cannot get under your body to support you because the rock is there. The foot then stays out to the side of the player while the stone stays under the player. The player then has two main balance points, their foot and the stone. Yes, this means that the player is leaning on their stone for balance. There are two good ways to help correct this. First, slide without a stone and make yourself keep your gripping hand off the ice. You cannot lean on your stone if you don’t have one and you will have to get your foot under your body to keep yourself from falling over. Next is to slow down. When you have a chance to practice, slow down to an extreme. Perhaps count two at each step to make sure you go through each step. You will have to train your body to lean forward a bit to get that rock moving before your slider foot moves out.
2. The next most common fault I see is at the line of delivery stage. It is in fact how players line up in the hack. I always assume that a player is throwing a no lift delivery so this is specific to that technique. A proper set up should see the stone positioned in front of the gripper foot, with the center of the stone directed at the skips broom. With a giant and horrible saw, I should be able to slice a line from the skips broom through the center of the stone, through your foot and up through your throwing shoulder. Many, many players line the stone up on the center line which is correct for a lift delivery but incorrect for a no lift delivery. Lining up like this is one of the biggest advantages that the no lift delivery has over the lift because it means the stone never has to deviate from the line to the skips broom. If you use a lift delivery you have to start the stone over the center line (so you don’t crash into your shin!) and then move it laterally into the slide path to the skips broom. Not so with the no lift because you start the stone on the correct path! This one is more difficult to correct when you’re alone. If you think this could be your major issue then ask a trusted friend to watch where you line up in the hack. Get them to demonstrate the line between your stone and foot before you throw and you’ll quickly see how far off you are. If you’re lucky enough to have a camera then this shows up very quickly there as well. Correction really requires you to honestly and accurately analyze your set up and make sure that you’re in line with the broom. When you change your set up it’s going to feel uncomfortable for a while. Work through it. The old way may be comfortable but it’s not right.
3. Another common fault I see is the “fish tail”. This is a trailing leg that sort of flops around behind the player as they deliver the stone. The issue here isn’t actually the leg not following in behind, it’s really a symptom of the real problem but it’s effect is profound. The weight of a drifting trailing leg will pull your body to the side that it’s drifting to and of course will pull you off the line you want to be throwing down. It doesn’t take a very big drift to have a serious effect on your shot though the smaller the drift, the more difficult it is to detect. A swinging trailing leg is usually caused by one or two things. If you’re pushing off too hard from the hack and relying on your body to slow yourself down then you may be causing a drifting trail leg. Usually this causes your leg to drift out on the side of your body handling the stone (right for righties and left for lefties). Alternately, if you are rushing your slider foot under your body it may end up past your center of gravity. Remember, you want your slider foot to be under your sternum, the center of your chest and not past it. It’s when the foot moves past the center that you impart some rotation on your slide and your trailing leg goes out on the side opposite the side with the stone. Remedies are fairly straightforward. For both types of swing, try slowing your delivery down. In practice slow it down to an extreme so that when you do move something it is a very deliberate motion. Make sure that foot gets to the right place under you before you push off. As an aside, this is something you can practice without ice. Close your eyes and simply run through the motion in your mind, visualizing where your foot SHOULD be. Sure you’ll get some funny looks for your improv dance moves but who cares? If you find you have to really drive yourself out of the house to effectively deliver a stone then take a good look at your slider. It might be time to get a faster one that will allow you to slide without the power you previously needed to get out of the hack.
Fortunately, there is a secret to fixing almost any fault. Practice. Yes, I know, it’s not the secret you expected but tough. That’s the way it is. The one thing to remember however is that the old adage, “Practice makes perfect” isn’t true. Practice actually makes “permanent”. Practice wrong and you’ll play wrong. Practice right and then you’ll be getting somewhere. I suggest finding a knowledgeable coach to watch you and help you out with any faults you might be having. Make the best use of any practice time you decide to devote to the sport! The other important thing to remember when you’re trying to improve your delivery is that it’s going to feel strange the first few times you do it differently. Far too often I am asked by a player to “help” them with their delivery. I’ll watch, give them some things to change only to be told “oh, but that’s not the way I do it” or better yet “oh, I’m not going to do that!” If you’re not willing to try something different then don’t bother asking. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Keep an open mind if you honestly want to improve. Oh yes, and have fun doing it!
See you on the ice!