Keep it Simple Silly
October, 2007 Revised Feb. 2013
Welcome to a brand new curling season. For me, this one promises to be the busiest one ever and yes, that is a good thing. Because I’m now involved in so many things and with so many different groups I’m forced to be organized lest I miss something important. I’m also forced to focus on those things that are most important. What I’ve been forced to do is examine those things that aren’t necessary and eliminate them. Hmm, sounds like a lead in to something…
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to make those big adjustments to your curling game. Now is the time to play with your release, your foot placement, your backwards hack movement etc. While there are competitions at this point in the season many are “tune ups” and are intended to remind you how very very cold it is standing there in the house…uh, I mean, to help you knock the rust off your game. It’s a good time to experiment to try to find those things that work best. As you’re adjusting things there is one underlying concept to keep in mind. Keep it simple silly! Yes, I know there are other possible words to use other than silly but I’ll keep this G-rated.
As I get better and better at dissecting curling deliveries one thing becomes glaringly obvious. Many of the faults people have in their deliveries are caused by a technical movement officially called the “Useless Little Wiggle” or the ULW. Okay, I just made that up but the Useless Little Wiggle is a very real phenomenon and a large contributor to many delivery issues. The ULW is that movement (or movements) a player makes that actually has nothing to do with propelling the curling stone down the sheet. Some ULW’s are clearly obvious but others are more sneaky and harder to pin down.
Video capture of your delivery is an ideal way of discovering the ULW’s hiding in your delivery. Start by writing down everything you do from the time you step into the hack to when you finally release your stone. It can be in point form but don’t overlook any detail, include every one you can think of. Then have your friendly club coach capture your delivery on video. If you don’t have access to video capture (and if you curl at Richmond Hill you do, just ask me…) then simply have someone watch your delivery and make their own list on your behalf. Compare your list with what you observed during the video process or with your friends list. Did you write down that you always wipe your right hand on your thigh before you grip the stone? Did you realize you shuffled your foot in the hack before every slide? Did you realize your slider foot doesn’t stop moving from the time you step into the hack until you push out? It’s likely you’ll see a number of ULW’s right there and maybe many things you weren’t even aware you were doing.
You may be inclined to say that there’s no real harm in those Useless Little Wiggles and you know what? You’re wrong at least for the most part. Every movement you make in the preparation of delivering your curling stone is going to have an effect on how the stone is delivered. Yes, every single one movement has some effect in one way or another. Take the “gripper foot shuffle” in the hack as an example. You may think you’re just settling in but what you’re really doing is changing where that foot is lined up. By doing that, you’re changing where you’re about to throw your stone. How about the “busy slider” foot example? That one is easy. Your slider is the vehicle you ride down the line. That line goes from the hack to the broom and is a straight line, not a curvy one. If your slider is moving through a curvy path then so are you. It’s pretty hard to hit the broom that way.
What about the hand wipe? Well this actually might be helpful. If your hands sweat for instance, wiping them off is going to help your grip and therefore your release. Still, the movement is going to affect your delivery. In this case perhaps it’s beneficial. The important thing is to review each movement you make in your preparation for your throw and during your slide to see what things you’re doing that help and which ones are there out of simple habit. Make sure you look very critically and honestly at all these extra movements. Take your list of movements and answer why you’re doing each one. If you’re doing something because “that’s how I always do it” then consider dropping it from your delivery routine. If you can’t answer why you’re doing it at all then very seriously consider dropping it. It’s going to be hard to letting some of these go because you’re comfortable with them. It’s best to get another set of eyes on your delivery to help you identify those comfy little gremlins. You’re used to throwing that way after all. Habit for the sake of habit is not the path to an improved delivery. Remember, practice (or repetition) doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.
Many curling faults are a result of exaggerated movements. These too are really ULW’s in disguise. Some of these look like, bringing your slider foot back too far, raising your hips too high, cranking the handle of the stone or letting your hand jump off the handle. Every extra movement you make with the stone is really a Useless Little Wiggle. Remember that every action has an equal and opposite reaction (shout out to Isaac Newton for that one, a man who would have simply adored the sport of curling…). It’s just a fact of life in this particular universe so if you have a great grand movement with your broom as you deliver then there is going to be some opposite reaction to that. It’s unlikely the reaction is going to be helpful in delivering your stone. That slider foot coming back too far? Well, your body weight has to shift further back in order for you to keep your balance. When that happens you have to shift your body weight just as far forward again when you push out of the hack. It’s more energy that is required to get the stone down the sheet and it’s completely useless. Worse, it forces you do use your body to do something OTHER than delivering the stone WHILE you’re trying to deliver the stone.
Another major effect of the Useless Little Wiggle is that it often requires you to adjust or compensate for it so you’ll have the right weight, line or proper release. I have one dear friend who used to have a Useless Little Wiggle with her grip. Her hand was very “busy” on the stone as she got into the hack. It only settled down at the very last moment before she started her backwards movement in the hack. The problem was that her grip was rotated around with all this movement so the result was that during the delivery she had to adjust her grip back to the proper position prior to releasing it. The fiddly hand was completely unnecessary and required her to make an adjustment just to get the stone off properly. We eliminated the fiddly hand movement (her personal ULW) and her release immediately improved.
Some of the effects of the ULW’s you see are hard to determine. It takes someone with experience and likely some training to pick out why they cause a problem. (Hint: find a certified coach to help you out…) The truth is you don’t really need to know why these things are causing problems. It’s just as simple as “if you don’t need it, don’t do it”. There are no style points in curling so fancy moves don’t actually get you anything. Make your delivery only as complicated as it has to be, nothing more.
ULW’s don’t just apply to your delivery. You can look at how you play the game and find ULW’s that perhaps aren’t so much wiggles as they are simply extra things you do that don’t contribute to your overall play. This could be something as simple as the periodic review of the scoreboard on the neighbouring sheets or some complicated broom transfer among team members. Again, as a team, make a list of the regular things you do, the routines you follow during a game. Do some of them distract you from the task at hand? Get rid of them!
My repeated message in my articles is that curling is a game of consistency. A consistent delivery is what we all strive towards because that’s the only way to get control over what you’re doing. It’s very difficult to make the ULW’s consistent. It’s even more difficult to make the adjustments to the ULW’s consistent. The good news is that none of this is necessary. Look at what you’re doing, get help and get rid of the Useless Little Wiggles.