The Curling Manual

Table of Contents

Section 10 Practice

Like many sports, practicing the curling delivery and skills is an important part of developing the needed consistency required to make shots on a regular basis. The curling delivery is very complex and it is not something most of us do very often.

Practice looks different for each skill level. For example, novice curlers practice balance, stability and basic weight control. Intermediate curlers practice balance, Body Drop, release and weight control. Advanced curlers practice balance, release, tempo and precise weight control.

Why We Practice

Practice makes us better at a given skill. The repetition of the doing something over and over engrains the behavior or mechanics into muscle memory. Proper practice can make any skill instinctual. Most skills can be performed properly when you have the opportunity to think it through thoroughly. It's when you're "in the moment" that most skills are lost. When you can't thoroughly think through the skill process, you revert back to whatever your body is comfortable with. Practice can change this. So, if you want to make the big shot to win the game under pressure, you'll need to make the proper delivery instinctual.

Simply throwing proper practice rocks at the club will train your body to recognize a proper delivery and develop the muscle memory. Throwing practice rocks can also be a trap where bad habits can be reinforced. This chapter describes some specific practice techniques that will help you develop your skills.

There are two types of practice sessions;

1. Practice to make your team better
and
2. Practice to make your individual contribution to a team better

If you play on a regular team, the best practices are the ones with the entire team present.

If most of your curling is in leagues (on several different teams), then you may want to concentrate on the following practice drills. First, find someone to practice with. Try and find someone who can reasonably assess your skills and provide feedback to you. Practicing alone is only good for developing your balance and gives a good sense of the overall delivery. The mistake many people make is trying to practice hitting the broom alone. It is virtually impossible for you to determine precise accuracy and line of delivery from the throwing position. The only way to accurately practice line of delivery is to throw at a broom held by a person who can provide you feedback.

Individual Practice Drills

Remember, curling is a team sport. Practicing alone can hone only a few of the skills needed to be successful on a team. The following practice dills can be done alone and greatly improve your shot-making. If possible, practice on a freshly scraped sheet or a sheet that is close to game condition.

Drill #1 Balance All Levels

Since the fundamental component to a good delivery is balance, this drill is invaluable. Begin with your normal stretching routine. Take a few practice slides followed by throwing a few rocks. This will loosen up the body for the balance drill. Now, go back to sliding without the rock but this time raise the broom off the ice one inch as you finish sliding. Keep your throwing hand at handle level without touching the ice. As you repeat the sliding drill, begin raising the broom earlier and earlier until you can slide without the use of the broom from the back line through the hog line.

Finish the drill by throwing a few rocks. The broom must be off the ice at the back line.

Drill #2 Weight Control All Levels

Try to practice weight on a sheet that is in game condition. This practice should be done by position to create your "default weight". Leads should throw all eight rocks six feet short of the house as the sweepers can bring close if desired. Seconds, thirds and skips should practice a default weight in the top twelve or just short. If conditions are sub standard, usually slower, throw all eight rocks to the hog line. If you're not sure, and you have a practice partner, split-time the draws. The split time from back line to nearer hog line should be between 3.50 and 3.80 seconds. Take-out weight can be practiced by setting up a few rocks in the house and removing them. Again, split timing can help. The split on take outs should be between 2.75 and 3.10 seconds.

Drill #3 Drop Drill Intermediate Level

This drill helps with the body drop become instinctual. Setup in the number two, "hips up and back" position. This is the "loaded" position ready for forward motion. From this position, move the rock and your body forward without moving your sliding foot. Pick a point in front of the hack where the rock will touch before the sliding foot moves. Start with a spot one foot from the hack. Remember, don't move your sliding foot until the rock reaches that point. Once you feel comfortable, move the point out farther. This drill gets you into body drop form. You'll notice your slide will become longer and more powerful with each adjustment.

Drill #4 Establish the Delivery Intermediate Level

The term "establish" refers here to point when the final, balanced delivery position has been achieved. From the normal setup position, close you eyes and begin the normal delivery. When you are completely settled in the balance, sliding position, open your eyes. This is the point where your delivery is established. It should be near the tee line.

Remember, to be established, you must be in the delivery position and balanced.

Drill #5 Hitting the Broom All Levels

Have a person hold the broom for you. Agree on what weight you would like to throw. Hack weight seems to work well. Throw the rock back and forth with the other person changing the broom with each shot. Provide feedback on the shot each time. If you throw hack or takeout weight, you can both use the same rock over and over. This is a great practice drill because you begin to feel and see what its like to "hit the broom".

Team Practices (Advanced)

During team practices, a combination of mechanics and team related drills should dominate. If the entire team is present, they have the opportunity to practice actual shots. This can be done by either setting up a particular shot and throwing it over and over, or by playing the "perfect team".

The Designated Shot

Pick a shot that the team throws a lot. Execute the shot with full sweeping and line calling. Agree on a standard for each shot. For example, three come-arounds in a row or three peels in a row or two freezes. This drill allows the players to practice a common shot when the pressure is off. This goes along way when the pressure is on.

The "Perfect Team"

This refers to playing an imaginary team that does not miss any shots. It begins with the skip gathering a few opponents' rocks at the house end. After your team throws a rock, the skip then determines what the perfect shot would be and executes it by placing the opponent's rock in the perfect spot. The skip must play for both teams. This drill is very valuable because it can simulate actual game conditions without the need for an opponent.

A word of caution when playing the perfect team. They're very good. Expect to give up multiple points. In fact, the goal of this drill is to try and limit the perfect team to one or two points in each end.

One-On-One, Two-On-Two, Etc.

Playing small games breaks up the monotony of any practice. As part of a practice, play a two end game of two-on-two (or one-on-one if you have another sheet available). To make the game even more interesting, do not allow any takeouts. This forces the team to concentrate on finesse shots rather than "blasting". If a player takes a rock out by mistake, it must be replaced. Once the rocks build up, it provides a good opportunity to practice raises.

Four in the Four

With this drill, the goal for the team is to draw the four-foot, four times in a row. Start with the normal team line-up at the beginning of an end. The lead throws a draw to the four-foot with the skip in position and the second and vice sweeping. After the lead throws, the second throws and so on. Continue this until you have drawn the four foot four consecutive times. If one person misses, you must start over. The purpose of this drill is two-fold, to see and understand each delivery for sweeping purposes, and to simply practice drawing to the four-foot. It develops a good sense of draw weight, what your sweepers are capable of, and good practice for the sweepers making weight judgment calls.

This drill is harder than it sounds. Create a rule that does not allow the team to move to the next drill until four are in the four. Pressure builds up with each four-foot draw.

Simulated Game

Have your coach simulate a game from beginning to end. Start with a real opponent. Choose a team that you will play in competition. The coach should discuss the game plan before the game just as if you were about to play them for real.

In the warm room, with your magnet board, have the team sit at a table with the skip facing the incoming shots. Have the vice, second and third sit opposite the skip. This allows the players to visualize the game as it sets up from their positions (skips see the game coming at them, the rest see it going away). The coach will act as the opponent. The value of this drill is not individual shot calling, it's how the skip is thinking and making decisions. The vice should be part of the decision process on skip's rocks and should be available for consultation if the skip needs it.

It is not necessary to throw all shots. The most important part of this drill is:

  • The skip's thinking in the early, middle and late ends
  • The skips rock in all ends
  • The sixth end strategy (right after the break)
  • The closing strategy in ends eight through ten

This drill helps prepare your team for the thinking process in a real game.

Sweeping Anaerobics

Throw a rock with two sweepers. Sweep hard from hog to tee. After sweeping, immediately measure the heart rates of the sweepers. This should drop quickly so the sweeper can throw a rock. Chart your progress. See Sweeping and Conditioning in the Team Development Section for more information.