Get to Know Your Rink

This may seem like a strange topic for a column, especially given the active social aspect of our sport. However, this represents one of the most basic things a skip must do in order to properly choose shots and strategy. This is especially important with a new club such as ours, where there are many new curlers.

The main point is that you need to assess what your rink and yourself can do in shot making. A list might include:

  • How often do they hit the broom ?
  • How consistent is their weight judgment on draw shots ?
  • Can they throw heavy weight for take outs ?
  • When they throw heavy weight, is the weight consistent ?
  • With heavy weight, do they usually hit the broom ?

After you have played a couple of games together, you should know answers to each of these questions.

Once you understand each of your team member’s strengths and weaknesses, you can start to decide the types of shots to call for your rink. I find there are often at least two shots that can be called for most situations: the correct shot based on the rocks in the house, and the best shot based on what your thrower can do. These will often be different.

For example, your opponent has two rocks in the house, both in the four foot, open with no guards. The logical shot would be to call for a take out. However, if you thrower is new, and can’t yet throw heavy weight, or is not accurate on the broom, to call a takeout shot may result in a wasted shot. The chances of them hitting it are very low, and rocks thrown through the house never count for any points. Calling these types of shots is a good way to get into major trouble in an end – i.e.: lots of the wrong colored rocks in the house.

A better approach in this situation would be a draw shot. Even if they don’t hit the broom, with the correct weight, you will still have a rock in play. That beats a rock sailing through the house.

Another idea is to use the ‘Plan B’ method. Call for a shot that the thrower has a reasonable chance to make, and where there could be multiple good outcomes. In the above example, call a draw shot with ice so that you draw up to one of your opponents stones. In this way, if they are heavy, they may actually take out that rock or tap it back.

Also watch how your team is performing during a game. Most curlers are streaky. If you have someone who has great draw weight during a game, don’t mess them up by calling some takeout shots. Especially for inexperienced curlers, this is a common way for people to loose the touch. If someone is hot, keep calling those shots.

One word on the development of new curlers. In our club, it is important for your rink to grow their curling skills. We have little time for practice shots, so you need to do this during the game. At times you should “test” your members with different shots. I usually pick a time in the game where a miss does not have dire consequences. This adds variety to their game, and allows you to gauge how they have progressed.

For example, it is best to start new curlers with draw shots. Weight judgment is one of the basic skills, and it is best for them to work on this first. Hitting the broom is typically the next skill to come. Once they have these, you could call a take out shot every so often. This will allow you to see how they can do with heavier weight, and allow your rink to get some variety.

I had a new member of my rink a couple of seasons back, who had only curled a couple of games before he joined our club. I discovered, quite by accident, that he could hit the broom fairly consistently with both draw and takeout weight shots. I started to call more takeouts for him, and he did well. In fact, by half way through the season, he always wanted takeouts, because he couldn’t seem to get his draw weight down. This is an odd case, but it shows that you have to treat each of your members as individuals and use their strengths to build a team.

By the way, this philosophy also applies to calling your own shots. Know what you can and cannot do. A raise take out is a finesse shot, with a low percentage of success. Don’t call it if you aren’t accurate on regular takeouts. If you are better with draws, stay with a predominately draw game. In a pinch, such as when the house is overgrown with of bad colored rocks, you may need to resort to difficult shots. However, you shouldn’t be calling these shots frequently. On the other hand, if you always find yourself in trouble, read some of my future columns for help in that area.

Curling is one of those sports where anyone can make any shot, no matter how difficult. This is a major difference with a sport such as baseball, where only certain individuals can ever throw a 90 mph fastball. However, the pros at curling can make these shots consistently, while us mortals can make them only once in a while. If you keep in mind the chances you have of making a shot, you will make better calls on shots that can be made a higher percentage of the time.

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