The Hitting Game
There are a number of different types of shots in curling. However, none seems to get as much attention as the take out shot. There is nothing quite like the sound and feel of a rock solidly striking another rock. And as anyone who has played me has seen, I love to hit, especially on those days where I can’t seem to find the draw weight. As an old skip told me: “When in Doubt, Take it Out” ( No, that is not a Canadian accent ).
As attractive as the shot sounds, mastery of the takeout takes time, and can be the source of much frustration, broom slapping and colorful adjectives. Yet it is a key aspect of strategy. You will encounter many situations where the best option is to take out the opponent’s rock. As well, the complications we face with arena ice make this a shot to use with discretion.
For example, suppose you have 3 rocks in the 12 foot, and your opponent draws into the middle of your rocks. If you can only remove the shot rock, you have a chance of counting up to 4.
There are three things required to successfully make a takeout shot:
- The skip must give the correct ice.
- The shot must have the correct weight
- The shot must be on the broom
These needs aren’t much different than other shots. However, if any one of them is off, the shot is normally lost, and typically the rock will sail merrily through the house.
For the skip, calling the correct ice on a takeout shot has a couple of considerations. When a rock is thrown with heavy weight, it curls less than a draw shot. This is because the faster speed reduces the friction of the rock with the ice, and the rock’s curl motion has less effect. You must almost always give less ice on a takeout than on a draw shot.
The other aspect is predicting the takeout weight that members of your rink will throw. You will get very little curl on a “barrel weight” takeout. On the other hand, a light or “hack weight” takeout will curl almost as much as that of a draw.
Consistent takeout weight is critical. Nothing can be more frustrating than inconsistent weight. The first takeout shot wasn’t hard enough, so you give more ice on the second shot. However, the thrower also ups their weight. The result is the rock sails through the house without touching the target. Communication is the key. Tell them if you want more weight, or if you want them to throw the same weight.
For open takeout shots, I encourage members of my rink to always throw a weight they feel comfortable with – i.e.: they don’t throw themselves off the broom by throwing too hard. You also want them to try to be consistent with weight. If you know that your lead throws a light takeout, you can give her more ice than your third, who throws much harder.
Picking the ice on our arena sheets at times can be akin to black magic. There are ridges and falls, Zamboni tire tracks and skate valleys. If the ice is too tricky, you can waste rocks throwing a takeout. Closely watch your own and the opponents rocks in each area of the ice so you get to know what the shots will do.
Hitting the broom, although important with other shots, is critical to a takeout. For a draw, being 6 inches off with house weight will usually result in a playable rock in the house. However, a 6 inch miss on a takeout is usually a lost shot. As opposed to draw shots, with a takeout, there are very few chances of a “Plan B” shot.
Encourage your members to not use the dreaded arm push on takeout shots. Once a person is in their slide, that extra push usually causes the body to also move. Hitting the broom with an arm push is very questionable. Instead, the thrower should use the same form as a draw. They should release the rock sooner, and if needed, push harder from the leg in the hack.
Sweeping also plays a role in takeout shots. Especially if they sweep it early, it can be quite amazing how straight two good sweepers can keep a takeout shot. For sweeping, ensure your sweepers know it is a takeout shot – this is another good reason for sweepers to pay attention to the game.
As opposed to a draw, where the sweepers should judge the weight, a takeout is all dependent on the skip for calling sweeping for the line of the rock. I find it works best to crouch down behind the target rock. Closely watch the rock for movement. If the line is getting close to the target, holler for the sweepers.
For new curlers, be conservative in calling takeout shots. Consistent weight and hitting the broom, at the same time, can be difficult skills for new curlers to master. On my rink, I try to watch how each new member is developing, and once they are hitting the broom fairly well, I will call a few takeouts to see how they do.
From a strategy standpoint, the takeout game is a great tool to have at your disposal. In a bad end, it can reduce the opposition’s score and keep you in the game. If you have the lead, you can try to minimize the rocks your opponent has in the house. And if there are two or more of your opponent’s rocks closely positioned in the house, a “double” hit can turn the tables on an end.
A hit and roll can also be a very useful shot. The shot rock is open, but there are guards in front. If you can hit the rock a bit off the nose, and then have it roll behind cover, your opponent will have major difficulties trying to get at your rock. On our dreaded arena end sheets, a hit and roll in the house can become a shot that is impossible for the opposition to remove.
There are a couple of shot calling pointers to keep in mind with takeouts. One is known as “jamming”. A “jam” occurs when you hit the opposing rock, but that rock hits another rock in the house and stays. This can end up worse than a missed shot. If there are rocks behind the target, make sure there is a path to get the rock out. If not, a takeout shot is probably not the best choice.
A second caution is the position of your own rocks. If your rock is too close to the target, make sure the risk is worthwhile. A clean miss is one thing, but it’s much worse if you end up taking out your own rock.
The takeout shot is a key element of curling. Work on mastering your skills, and it is an excellent weapon for the game. And remember, that a solid takeout shot feels great !!