September 2009 Revised Feb. 2013
Wow! Summer’s over? Well I suppose you can’t really say that summer is over if it’s still September but as any of you who read these knows, ice goes in mid August in Guelph and Oakville. I hesitate to say that a new curling season is born so let’s just say it’s been conceived and leave it at that.
This most recent topic is shamelessly ripped off directly from the level 3 technical curling coaching course. I think you’re all likely familiar with the term DNA. It’s the chemical structures that make up the fundamental blueprint of an individual or put another way, DNA is the building blocks the combine to make you the unique individual you are. Your DNA is responsible for everything you are. To some extent, your DNA determines your strengths and weaknesses and from that the way you approach your life. Now, since I’m horribly unqualified to teach or explain any sort of biology to you, let me steer this conversation back to something more curling-esque.
Any of you that have been on any sort of team will hopefully realize that no two teams are alike. Just like any individual, teams have their own personalities, peculiarities, strengths and weaknesses. These unique features are a result of the values, abilities, goals, and interests of each of the members of the team and it’s because this combination of attributes is different for each and every individual that each team is also unique. This is what we call team DNA.
Successful teams have explored this ‘DNA’ and know where their comforts are and just as importantly, where their discomforts are. Why, you might ask, is this important?? After all, we pretty much go through life not really knowing what our DNA says though that’s probably more a function of technology than anything else. For teams however, an exploration of their DNA is how they discover where their comfort zones are and where they are not. It can help them determine where to focus their training and it will help them figure out their preferred style of play. Another benefit is that it can help determine early on if there are any critical personality conflicts among team members well before any of you hit the ice, or each other.
Specifically, what is team DNA? The best way to answer that is by explaining how you figure it out in the first place. As is often the case in teams, communication is key. Specifically teams should sit down and list out the things they believe are important for them to have in order to be successful. There are no right answers here and it helps to have a moderator (cough cough…such as a coach, cough cough…) to make sure that everyone is participating and voicing their opinions in a constructive manner. So you make a list and it could include anything. For example, your team mates might suggest that the ability to make accurate peels is essential or perhaps strong brushing is important. Someone else might suggest that good communication is important. Others yet might suggest that fine new team jackets are paramount to a great season. All of these answers are informative. They all tell you something about the team you’re on. Also, your list might be many pages long or it might be only a few items. You should make sure you allot enough time for all members to fully explore their thoughts on this and get their feelings out. This is similar to a brainstorm session where there are no censors or limits on what is being said. Everyone should speak from their hearts and really get out what they feel is important for a successful team.
This list of ‘important attributes’ is YOUR teams DNA. This is who you are as a team. Once you’ve gotten that down the next important step is to analyze it. What can you learn about yourselves based on this information? Are you all equally committed to the team? Do you all have the same motivation?
What about skills? What skills does your team consider important? You can pretty much divide skills into pursuing (offensive / aggressive) or protecting (defensive). When you do this with your list you’ll see whether your team is offensive minded, defensive minded or a mix of both (probing). This SHOULD direct your style of play as a team. Let’s look at an example. If for instance you have a lot of items on your DNA list that sound like ‘guard’, ‘draw’, ‘finesse shots’, ‘fine weight control’, ‘good sweeping judgment’ and not too many that sound like ‘precise take outs’, ‘strong peel weight’, ‘ability to keep the house clean’ then you should recognize that your team is more offensive minded. It’s what you all seem to believe is required for a team to be successful. Therefore when it comes time to play a game it’s likely you’re going to be putting up lots of guards and putting lots of stones in play. If you’re not doing that then according to your own list, you’re not playing the way you think is the way you will be more successful. You’re also not playing where you’re most comfortable. The attributes you listed do indicate where you like to play as much as anything else.
Now you’re all going to say, what if the list was ¾ offensive minded and ¼ defensive minded? What then? What sort of team are we!! Well, first you want to see if it’s one player who disagrees with the other three. If so you need to have some conversations around whether or not the four of you are going to really be able to play together. If however you find that the attributes listed were mixed fairly evenly among the entire team then you’re simply not as offensively minded as you thought.
What if you’re answers are all over the place? By that I mean, what if you sound offensive, defensive, cautious and aggressive? In that case I would go back and take a harder look at why you answered the way you did. Narrow your list down to the things that are important to each of you. Often people will have listed things that they have seen from other successful teams that they might admire. “Kevin Martin can throw the 6 second peel, it MUST be important for successful teams.” Perhaps that’s not really a valid answer for a bantam girls team… The meaningful answers are the ones that have personal meaning for the individual team members. It’s you and it’s your team, it’s not Kevin Martin’s.
In interesting way to test your answers is to take a set of strategy scenarios and discuss your preferred calls to each. Are you calling defensive shots? Is that in line with your DNA? If not, why not?
You’ll see that all of this requires lots and lots of team discussion. You’ll also see that none of this actually requires brooms, ice or stones. This is information that is going to come out one way or another. Certainly it’s better to get it out in a comfortable, off ice place than during a game. Many a blow up comes from not talking about things as a team prior to getting into games.
You’re forming your team and you’re getting to know them and there is no better way to do that than to talk to them. By the time you’re done this investigation you’ll have a great sense of how well you’ll work together and whether or not you are all of a similar mind. Even better, you’ll know yourselves better than you did before you did all this work and you’ll have a great idea as to how your team is going to approach the game before you ever hit the ice. Plus, it can be a lot of fun.
Invest some time in your team and have these conversations. This is the perfect time of year for them.