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Some tips to help you make the most of the coming season 9/3/09

Whether you are a curler, a coach or just a supporter of wheelchair curling, here are some tips to help you make the most of the coming season.

Technique

Successful delivery of a rock depends on stable technique. You have to have balance, a repeatable stroke and full commitment to your motion. As my wife pointed out to me recently, it's more akin to a golf swing than a regular curling delivery.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article discussing the importance of technique, and stand by what I wrote then. Today I would more strongly recommend an off-side hand brace. Almost everyone who begins their delivery motion sitting upright and square to the target would benefit [see images].

off-hand delivery brace off-hand delivery brace

A right hand brace for a left handed thrower

A brace allows you to commit your body weight forward while keeping your shoulders square, which should mean increased speed and greater accuracy. Where the brace is attached, and at what angle, will depend on your body shape and delivery motion. Bringing your non-throwing hand forward, rather than anchoring it behind your throwing hand, reduces your body's tendency to twist, and aids accuracy. A brace that allows you to commit weight forward without losing balance, adds power.

Practice

We know that practice makes perfect, but that is true only if it is perfect practice. For example, if you need your chair to be held so that it does not move during delivery, then any solo practice, beyond perhaps weight control, may be counter-productive. You have to practice as you mean to play.

Weight control is so difficult with such a short period of contact with the rock during delivery. If you spend almost all your playing time on the same ice, it will be especially difficult to adapt in competition to a different surface. One way to simulate fast or slow ice conditions is to vary your chair's location at practice. You are not limited by the hack, so there's no reason not move 3 yards forward to simulate faster ice.

Game calling

We all do some things just because we can, especially if they involve technology. Coaches are not immune, and shots are charted and graphs produced, and tendencies examined and it's all very clever until you have to come to the hogline cold, with the game on the line, and push that rock 40 yards based on just a second or two's contact with the stone.

Practice statistics are always inflated by lack of pressure and the ability to throw multiple stones. Waiting 20 minutes between shots during competition is, I suspect, a major reason why open draws into the rings fail 40 percent or more of the time, even at the highest level. Don't let success at practice make you over ambitious in competition.

Good shots, great shots, are not impossible, and they're the ones we tend to remember. Beyond the game-breaking miss we forget that misses predominate. Good game calling allows for a 50% game and reaps the benefit if the team throws 60%. Disaster looms the other way round.

Does this suggest a hitting or a draw game? I think games are won with draws, not hits. The margin for error is far greater. (And if you are playing a team likely to be better than you, junk up the front and the middle of the house to even up the odds.)

How you can help

Finally we all have an interest in seeing our sport grow and we should ask ourselves what we can do as individuals to make that happen. I carry cards with local wheelchair curling information. Whenever I see a wheelchair user, I stop and ask if they have considered playing, and I give them a card. One of the current Team Canada members is playing today because our paths crossed at Costco, so it works!

I have also been involved in drafting a brochure that will be going out to all the clubs, suggesting ways of introducing wheelchair curling. I'll put it online here later.

Successful programs have one thing in common - a person who believes that wheelchair curling should be played at their club, and is prepared to commit themselves to making that happen. Resources exist to help. We just need an advocate in every club. The hardest wheelchair curler to reach is the first one. Can you help?

Eric Eales
September 3, 2009
Kelowna, BC

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