The Curling Manual

Table of Contents

Section 3 - Advanced Delivery Skills

The Curling School gets many requests in the advanced delivery category. There are only a few true advanced concepts when it comes to throwing the rock. Advanced skills should only be used after you are proficient in the fundamental skills.

Test yourself and your readiness for advanced skills by answering the following questions:

  • Do you slide balanced over your sliding foot?
  • Is your balanced delivery instinct (do you do it on every shot)?
  • Do you slide through the hog line on every shot?
  • Does your rock consistently stay on the line of delivery?

By answering the questions, you can gauge your readiness. If you answered no to any of the questions, more work is need on the basics.

What to expect in this section:

  • Mastering the skills
  • Tips on Tempo
  • Balance is the key (once again)
  • Advanced Mechanics
  • Axis Analysis

Mastering the Skills

Many curlers come to the Curling School asking for "advanced" delivery tips. Most of these curlers are looking for a quick fix to some fundamental issues. These curlers are often told to refocus on the basic delivery skills. We direct them to the certain delivery components that can be changed for better performance. Mastering the "delivery critical" components of the delivery must be done first. They are:

  • Draw/step
  • Body Drop
  • Balance
  • Tempo
  • Line of Delivery
  • Release

Master the above delivery components and you have a delivery shared only by players at the highest level. Only after mastering the above skills can you fully benefit from advanced skills.

Here are some tips on mastering the fundamentals:

  • Use a 1-2-3 (one, one thousand, two one thousand, etc) tempo cadence for the press, draw/step, and slide.
  • To drop properly, the rock must be 1-3 feet away from the hack before the sliding foot begins to move.
  • Strive for perfect balance. Do what ever is necessary (practice, strength training, etc.) to slide perfectly balanced. Don't cheat or kid yourself. If you can't slide every time without pressure on the broom, you're not perfectly balanced.
  • The rock should never leave the line of delivery during the delivery.
  • Have someone video tape you and give you feedback.
  • Hold the proper grip and angle for most of the delivery, rotate at the end.

If there's one thing that rises to the top of the list, it's balance. Balance is the main building block of the delivery. Weight shift and body drop come next then the release. Tempo is an added feature that helps you gain consistency.

Balance First

The term balance comes up a lot in this manual. To the advanced curler, balance is still fundamental. Of course having perfect balance does not guarantee the other components are correct. Once balance is achieved, the other key areas such as tempo, proper drop and release can be achieved.

In addition to the obvious line of delivery issues associated with a straight, upright delivery, there is also a subtle weight component. A balanced delivery moves straight down the line of delivery. This means that all of the energy in the delivery is concentrated toward the skip's broom.

An out of balance delivery that leans on the broom drifts to the right. As the delivery drifts, a portion of the delivery energy is diverted from forward to sideways. This may not seem like much but on 24-25 second ice it could be the difference between the button and the top eight-foot.

The advanced curler "owns" balance. To a top-level player, balance is not an occasional thing or something that must be thought of on every shot. Balance must become instinct to achieve a high level of success.

Different players have different levels of natural ability. One player may be able to slide balanced each and every time with little practice or effort. On the other hand, some curlers must work constantly on their balance to ensure an instinctual balance situation in games. Read the Practice Section to learn about how you change instinct.

The Sliding Device

We recommend the use of a sliding device for any curler who is unable to balance properly. Take this test. Take a practice slide out of the hack with no broom. If you can do it, you can balance. If you can't (either you fall or your sliding foot is completely out of control) you should be using the sliding device. This is called the "gun to head" method of testing for skills. If forced to throw balanced, can you? Most people lean on the broom or sliding device because it's easy, not because they have to. If it is not possible to throw balance, use a sliding device. It also helps keep the shoulders upright and square to the broom.

Adding Tempo to the Delivery

To gain even more consistency in your delivery and shot making, add tempo to the delivery. Tempo refers to the rate and rhythm of the press, draw/step and slide. In golf, instructors teach tempo to regulate the swing as not to swing too fast or slow. The same logic applies to curling. To gain the most consistency in the delivery, a constant rate and rhythm must be incorporated. It's as simple as slowly counting to three (one, one thousand - two, one thousand - three one thousand).

Tempo Detail

Use the following to master tempo.

1 - The top-dead-center of the forward press
2 - The step back onto the sliding foot
3 - The start of the slide (when the sliding foot plants under the chest)

Tempo allows all body parts to work together fluidly. Any delay or quickening of the count disturbs the rhythm.

Tips on Tempo

In the Delivery section, a 1-2-3 count is suggested for smoothness. As you progress with your tempo one more modification is necessary. Add a slight delay between drawing the rock back and drawing the sliding foot back. The sliding foot must delay slightly before moving to the step position. In the overall process of the delivery, think about this as a "double delay". This means the sliding foot delays twice during the delivery. Delay the foot after drawback and delay it again after forward movement. Think about the sliding heel kicking in behind the rock and never moving with it. This is a subtle modification. It is also a truly advanced delivery characteristic.

The sequence looks like this:

  • Forward press
  • Draw the rock back and elevate the hips (simultaneously)
  • Move the sliding foot from its setup position to the step position AFTER your hips have started moving.
  • Move the rock forward
  • Delay the sliding foot again
  • Slide

Line of Delivery

In earlier versions of the Curling School material, the line of delivery was a sub topic in the delivery section. With today's no lift delivery and questions regarding where to draw the rock back, a dedicated section on this topic is necessary.

Line of Delivery Defined

The term "line of delivery" has been used many times so far in this section. Line of delivery is defined as the imaginary line between the skip's broom and the rock's starting point. The skip and the thrower establish this imaginary line. When the skip places the broom down as an aiming point, one end of the line is established. The line is complete when the thrower establishes the starting point. This line is fixed once it has been established. Obviously, the skip's broom position will likely change each shot. On the other hand, the throwers starting point should be the same each time.

The big question - Where Should you start the rock?

Line of Delivery Options

The answer to this seemingly simple question is still being debated among the curling instructional community. Instead of providing the answer, we'll provide the options and let you decide what works for you.

  • Option #1 (preferred) Directly under your throwing shoulder
  • Option #2 The center of the hacks (between the hacks)
  • Option #3 Your hack toe

Option #2 was used almost exclusively when the rock was thrown with a back swing. We had no choice. Now that the back swing is a thing of the past (at least as far as instruction goes) we have three options.

Option #1 is the most comfortable and allows you to throw the rock by extending the arm in a straight-forward manner. This is preferable. It is also the easiest method. The ease comes at a cost however. Because the rock starts left of the center line, the geometry of the line of delivery changes as it relates to the sheet geometry. For example, when the skip's broom is on the centerline, the line of delivery runs down the left side of center.

Option #2 offers the most consistency if you play on a team with right-handers and left-handers. It is a more conventional starting point because it utilizes the line of delivery we've used for many years. This option is recommended for competitive teams seeking:

  • Line of delivery consistency on both sides of the centerline
    Line of delivery consistency between right and left handed shooters

Option #3 is not recommended because it dramatically changes the line of delivery geometry from one side of the centerline to the other. Rocks thrown on this angle travel down the inside of the center line. It also forces you to throw from your chest (like throwing a Frisbee) increasing the chances of lateral movement in your release.

Hitting the Broom

"Hitting the broom" refers to accurately throwing the rock down the intended line of delivery. It is very difficult to site the rock from the delivery position. Most curlers can never truly site the broom. Since the rock is always slightly to the right of the body center (a little farther right than the right eye) it is very difficult for the shooter to accurately sight their shots. As a thrower, try to accept the skip's feedback as to whether or not you hit the broom. The skip is the only player to have true sighting ability of the rock. This probably leads to the cause of skip/player disputes regarding hitting broom.

Shooter "why did I miss that shot?"

Skip "you were wide"

Shooter "no I wasn't"

We encourage players to "feel" what it's like to hot the broom.

The Release and the Hog Line

The current WCF rules states that the rock must be clearly released by the hand before it touches the hog line. In championship play, the hog line rule has been contentious for many years. This rule does not favor the athlete. It essentially says that if the Hog Line Judge can't tell, it's a violation. Canada and the United States play slightly different rules. In the US, the rock must be clearly touching the hog line before it's a violation. This favors the athletes and is much easier to call from a Judges perspective.

Sensor Handles

In world play (and in some national play) there are no Hog Line Judges. They have been replaced by technology. Sensor handles are used to determine violations. The handle measures conductivity when the hand is placed in it. If it senses conductivity from your hand at the front edge of the hog line. The handle has two lights, one green one red. A "clean" release will activate the green light. A violation will activate the red light and the rock is to be removed from play.

Before each shot, the internal mechanism of the handle must be activated to allow conductivity to be measured. This is done by flipping the rock up side down during the cleaning process. IN ORDER TO PROPERLY ACTIVATE THE HANDLE, THE HAND MUST BE ON THE HANDLE AS YOU FLIP IT. A handle that is not properly activated will not sense your hand and will act as a "dead" or inactive handle. An inactive handle can be thrown over the hog line with no red light. Of course players are already figuring this out. Check your opponent's rock as it travels. A clean release will shine green for about half the sheet. If no light shines, it's inactive. Expect a new from the WCF that requires proper activation prior to each shot.

The Curl Profile

The curl profile is the shape of the curl and its path. After release, rocks will stay on the line of delivery for a very short time. Most rocks run straight at the skip's broom for certain amount of time until the friction under the rock can force it to curl. See Why Rocks Curl for more information. The rock curl profile has five components:

  • Slide
  • Release
  • Free Run
  • Break Point
  • Finish
Slide

During the slide, the rock is the hand of the shooter. The friction under the rock has no effect because the hand won't allow the rock to begin curling and there is no rotation.

Release

At release point, the turn is applied. By quickening or shortening the release, the shooter has the opportunity to lengthen or shorten the free run respectively.

Free Run

The free run is the portion of the shot where the rock begins to decelerate but has not started to curl yet.

Break Point

The break point is the point where the rock noticeably begins to curl and leaves the line of delivery.

Finish

The finish is the portion of the shot between the break point and the where the rock stops. During this phase, the rock is actively curling.

Manipulating the Curl Profile

A truly advanced delivery topic that can be discussed is manipulating the curl profile through line of delivery and release modification. Manipulating the curl profile and line of delivery can produce dramatic results. Use the following techniques when you are proficient at the basic delivery and release mechanics.

Quick Release

The term "positive release" was used in the Delivery Section to help curlers with a more predictable curl of the rock. It means making a move slightly toward the skip's broom by extending the arm from the flexed position and rotating the rock at a certain rate to ensure a 2-3 revolution spin.

The "quick release" provides more extension and more rotation resulting in the straightening of the curl profile. Instead of applying the turn over a 3-4 foot area, try applying the turn over a one foot area. This will increase the rotation to 4-5 revolutions. Quick releases work well on ice that curls 4-6 feet. The positive action at release changes the curl break point, making it happen later in the shot.

Spinner

The spinner is the radical version of the quick release. Spinning the rock (6+ revolutions) at release dramatically increases the rotation and virtually eliminates the friction differential under the rock. This results in a very straight curl profile.

Why do people do this? Three reasons: some players need to take the curl out of a rock without throwing extra weight. For example, a draw that needs to sneak through a port and stay straight to finish. Another reason would be to add some predictability to a known bad rock (either a pig or cutter). Rocks with pits will run truer if more rotation is added. The other is very swingy ice or flat ice due possibly to a warm (or worn) ice surface.

Squaring Off

In simple terms, "squaring off" refers to the deliberate shift from standard L.O.D. acute angles to known field of play vectors in order to prevent a subsequent opponent counter-play. Just kidding, see the next paragraph for a better explanation.

Square Release

The square release is used on very straight ice. It means slightly over rotating the rock past 12 o'clock. This causes the opposite effect of the positive release. It changes the break to an earlier point. There are two ways to square a rock.

  • Slide wide and turn the rock in with a normal release
  • Hold the handle straight and release past 12 o'clock

This happens quite a bit in regular play but it's done inadvertently. You may have heard the term "dump" at release. This is the controlled version of the dump.

Axis Analysis

Axis analysis regarding the curling delivery is an industry first. CurlTech created this type of analysis. In a proper curling delivery/slide, the body should be fixed over three axis'. An easy way to troubleshoot a deliver/slide is to look at the three primary axis' to lead us in the right direction.

The curling delivery involves three primary axis':

  • Vertical Axis
  • Horizontal Axis
  • Longitudinal Axis

In addition, and on a more complicated level:

  • Compound Vertical
  • Compound Horizontal

During a proper delivery, the body is fixed and there is no rotation around any axis throughout the delivery. The only visible movement in the delivery is the arm extension and release rotation. Rotation around these axis' is will create problems.

Let's discuss how this happens.

The Vertical Axis

This axis runs straight up and down and perpendicular to the line of delivery. While in your extended delivery position, the axis runs from the ice surface, through your mid section and continues to the ceiling. In a proper delivery, the body (as it relates to the vertical axis) should be fixed through release with no rotation around this axis. The shoulders and waist should be square to the skip's broom.

There are two types of vertical axis problems:

  • Fixed
  • Rotational

Fixed Vertical axis problems exist when the curler slides out of the hack and is fixed in an "out of square" position. This can be measured in "degrees off center". The most common fixed axis problem is a delivery 5-15 degrees to the right.

Rotational problems exist when the player slides out of the hack and rotates around this axis during the delivery. The most common problem is a rotation to the right (clockwise). This is also known as a "fishtail". The cause of the problem is an incorrect push from hack and compounded by a possible out of balance situation. The fishtail may correct itself by rotating counter-clockwise resulting in severe lateral forces being applied to the rock.

One type of vertical problem is balance related. In an effort to slide smoothly, some curlers will bend the trailing leg at the knee while keeping the lower leg flat on the ice (some as much as 90 degrees). This creates a comfortable position to balance in because the back leg is supporting the delivery. The problem exists when the bent leg forces the waist and shoulders to be out of square to the right as mentioned earlier. What does this look like out on the ice? Because the out of square curler is facing to the right, they will have a difficult time staying on the line of delivery. They will miss to the right in almost all cases. Out-turns will seem to "float out" and in-turns will appear to be narrow and curl more.

The Horizontal Axis

This axis runs across the body and perpendicular to the line of delivery and parallel to the ice. Imagine a line from sideline to sideline, parallel to the ice and running through your mid section. Again, the body should stay fixed throughout the delivery. The most common horizontal axis problem is movement of the upper body at the hips. Fixed horizontal axis problems occur when your upper body is too low or too high. A variable problem is the upper body moving up or down during the slide.

The Longitudinal Axis

This axis runs parallel to the line of delivery. Image a line from head to toe. Rotation around this axis is the most common. It looks more like a "tilt" in the body during the slide. It's caused by an out of balance slide where the sliding foot is too far right. This causes a noticeable reliance or "lean to the left" on the broom or sliding device.

A Compound Longitudinal problem exists when the body is turned to either side at the waist. It is most common when a player leans to the right, putting the delivery out of square at the upper body only.

The Parallax Syndrome

Parallax refers to sighting angles. The dominant eye discussion revolves around this. Imagine a line that starts at the broom, passes through the extended hand, up the arm to the shoulder. This is the true line of delivery. Since the shoulder is about six inches from the right eye and 8 or 9 inches from the left, neither eye is behind the true line. This results in sighting the broom at a slight angle (parallax). This can be confusing at a minimum. Right eye dominant right-handers get a closer look than left eye dominant players.

The bottom line is that if you're right eye dominant, you have a parallax sighting problem. If you are left eye dominant, it's worse.

Don't Over-think the Parallax Problem

This issue has been discussed for decades. Many instructors identify the parallax problem as a key problem in the delivery, particularly left-eye dominant curlers, and try to create solutions. Turning your head, leaning to the right, drawing the rock to the toe are all attempts to solve a problem not worth solving.

Using a Backswing

The deliver by CurlTech is very versatile. It can generate power and finesse to throw most of today's curling shots. Occasionally, you will face a situation where extreme power is beneficial. Extreme power can be used for shots like the following:

  • Clearing multiple rocks
  • Removing nearly frozen rocks
  • Flat and/or cross-house doubles

To attain extreme power a backswing can be used. Adding a backswing delivery to you no lift delivery can allow your team to add more shots types to your game plan. A backswing delivery is different in a few ways. Instead of simply swinging the rock with your normal delivery, a few modifications are needed to throw the rock accurately.

Let's start with the hack foot. Using a no lift, the hack foot is straight in the hack pointing parallel to the line of delivery. With a backswing delivery, the hack foot must be turned slightly to allow the rock to pass by the ankle without taking it off line.

The next change is the weight shift. With a backswing delivery, the hips to not move behind the hack as in a no lift delivery. The hips stay over the hack. The sliding foot should be placed back in a similar fashion to the no lift but no weight is placed on it.

The rock should be swung back between knee height and waist height. When done properly, the swing delivery can generate hits weights in the 2.0 - 2.4 split range.

Only One Hack?

It's clear that when you look at the design and placement of the hacks, they were designed for curlers to swing the rock back. The right-hander's hack (left one) is three inches left of the center line. This puts the entire body left of the centerline at setup. This was required when everyone lifted to rock. With almost all new curlers learning the no-lift delivery, the question is constantly asked, "why can't we design a single hack for both right and left-handers".

This may seem like a simple question. It would be if all players used the no-lift delivery. The main reason we have not seen a "uni-hack" is because there is still a large percentage of back swing type deliveries.

What's best?

The best thing for no-lift curlers would be a hack that is closer to the center line. This of course is unacceptable for a back swing curler. An adjustable hack is the answer. A single hack on a sliding track with five positions;

  • Right-hand backswing - three inches left of center
  • Right-hand no-lift - one inch left of center
  • Right and left no-lift drawing to the toe - center
  • Left-hand no-lift - one inch right
  • Left-hand backswing - three inches left

Advanced Shot-Making Troubleshooting

The above chart covers some common delivery problems related to mechanics. There are some other shot-making problems that can be addressed. All missed shots can be put into one of four categories.

  • Delivery mechanics
  • Mental mistakes
  • Physiological breakdowns
  • External factors

Delivery Mechanics

Many shots are missed due to improper deliver mechanics. In this case, the curler was not trained properly or proper training was not followed by enough practice and repetition.

Mental Mistakes

Some shots are missed due to mental mistakes. Not thinking the shot through or rushing the shot. Not fully understanding the skip's call. Not thinking about the "pro" and "amateur" side misses.

Physiological Breakdowns

This problem is slightly different and combines the mechanical problem with the mental problem. This is when the stress and anxiety of a given situation affects the mind and body. The most common problem is nervousness that causes excitability and an inability to control the power and muscle movements. If the heart rate is high or "butterflies" exist, the tendency is to over throw due to an increase in adrenaline. This is why many last shot draws are too heavy. If the body is susceptible to nervousness you will either come out too hard and heavy or come out hard and heavy then pull back (missing short).

External Factors

Everyone is familiar with external factors. External means outside the throwers control. These include sweeping errors on draw shots and line call errors on takeouts. Bad information on ice speed or bad rocks is also a good example.

The Coach's Role in Troubleshooting

The job of a good coach is to identify why shots are being missed. He or she must work at two levels:

  • Season level - systemic long term
  • Game level - "in the moment"

Coaches must review missed shots throughout the season to determine if the problem is systemic (faults in the delivery, physical problems, behavioral and mental issues) or game induced. Systemic problems can be addressed off the ice and in practice. Game problems must be addressed during the game which is very difficult for most coaches.

Delivery Theory Flow Chart

Below is a revolutionary new way of thinking about how and why the delivery works. Use it to ask questions about and troubleshoot your delivery. The chart clearly shows how all of the delivery components are interrelated.

Using the chart:

  • To ask "How" questions, work down the chart.
  • To ask "Why" questions, work up the chart.

For example:

How do I achieve consistent weight?

Through weight shift, tempo and Body drop.

Why do I need good balance?

To achieve consistent line.

All of the terms used in the chart are described in the Delivery section.

Advanced Equipment

Equipment and Performance

Having the proper equipment is an important component to playing well. Since there is an endless list of equipment, decisions on the best equipment to use may be difficult. The following is a list of subtle differences that you should consider.

Shoes

All serious curlers must have dedicated curling shoes. There are a few options. Several manufacturers make curling shoes. CurlTech recommends Teflon as the slider material. Remember, your balance can depend a lot on your shoes. The better the sliding platform, the easier it is to slide balanced. In addition to performance, your shoes should be comfortable and warm. Teflon can be customized for additional performance. A company called Balance Plus makes a slider with shallow holes drilled into the bottom. This provides a "perimeter" effect similar to a perimeter-weighted golf club. The holes provide a greater "sweet spot" in the center of the slider, increasing balance performance.

CurlTech recommends the Balance Plus Deluxe shoe with the 1/4 inch slider and two holes.

A slightly less expensive alternative is to purchase a good pair of athletic shoes and have the slider added to it. The Balance Plus company can add their slider to most flat-bottom shoes.

Sliders

Sliders come in various speeds, shapes and materials. Generally, the advanced curler will use a slider that provides the least amount of friction and provides the most stability. The 'thick" Teflon® slider is the most common advanced slider and can be used be the novice and advanced curler. It is fast and quiet, provided very little friction. The only other slider that may be faster is one made of stainless steel. Stainless steel sliders are cost prohibitive for most curlers and don't provide the much additional performance enhancement. Other advanced sliders include the "red brick" slider. It is a fast slider that was effective on poor or rough surfaces found many years ago.

Brushes and Brooms

The terms brush and broom are interchangeable. Natural bristle brushes were popular in the 1980's and 1990's. Horsehair and hog-hair brushes were the standard. Today, the standard is synthetic. Synthetic brushes are made of Cordura® or other high-friction material. The biggest advantage to using synthetic brushes is the weight-to-effectiveness ratio. They require less effort to create friction resulting in much more efficient sweeping. They are also much cleaner due to the reduced amount of shedding. Curlers playing on multiple teams such as league play should purchase a broom that allows them to sweep on both sides of the rock.

As a rule, don't purchase a straight, fixed-head broom. Some type of adjustable or swivel broom is a must for sweeping effectiveness. Straight brooms are for sliding and skipping.

CurlTech Choice:

  1. Hammer XL or Performance with soft head
  2. Any other adjustable type

The brooms listed above are for individuals sweeping on both sides and playing on different teams. They will work on competitive teams but are not the most effective. A fixed angle broom is the most effective for team play.