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Some do's, don'ts and things to try during practice

With the season already under-way in Ottawa, here are some things to consider when practising.

Most clubs will have members who are qualified coaches, and who can be asked to help form a practice plan, if not to oversee every practice session. Every wheelchair user with access to curling ice, should also have, if they ask, access to coaching expertise at the club. Much of what makes for good practice with regular curlers, is also good practice for wheelchair curling, so don't allow unfamiliarity with wheelchairs to be a bar to receiving coaching help. The CCA also has a brochure that includes basic information including drills for those new to wheelchair curling. Ask at your club or contact the CCA's Danny Lamoureux to receive a copy.

The three elements to delivering the stone, speed, direction and rotation, are the same for everyone, and rely on consistency. This is why it is important to practice the way you will play. Bad practice is worse than no practice. For example; if you need your chair braced to prevent it moving when you throw, it is useless and probably detrimental to throw on your own. You will find yourself adjusting for the lack of a bracer, and the muscle memory benefits of practice won't be relevant when you compete.

A draw without sweepers will always be a lower percentage shot than a draw with sweepers. Many wheelchair curlers compensate by relying on up-weight throws; hits rather than draws, minimizing the importance of distance and the effect of the curl. There are all sorts of hitting drills, but you might try this "line drill" when you do not have someone to hold the broom.

Place two stones 20 feet away and move them 2 feet apart. Now throw as hard as you can between them. This has the benefit of concentrating not on where the stone finishes, which is the responsibility of the broom holder, but on where the stone needs to be when it starts.

It is difficult for throwers to know without being told, whether an up weight shot started on line. If you can't reliably throw through a 2 foot gap, widen it. Then reduce it as you succeed. Stones are just under a foot in diameter, so set a "gap target" to pass through before the stone starts to curl, and move it across the ice so you throw from different angles.

Finally, club ice-makers try to keep their ice consistent so their members know what to expect. That can mean that depending on the venue, a T-line draw may take anywhere between 11 and 14 seconds to travel the same distance. The weight you need for a given shot can vary significantly.

This is not an issue if you always and only play on the same surface. You learn how much weight a particular shot needs, and should, with practice, be able to make small adjustments for changing ice conditions during a game. Sweeping makes adjustments easier, but what do you do to learn to "put a bit on" or "take a bit off" to adjust to the very different ice you might meet in competition.

Try reducing or lengthening the distance that you throw when you practice. To simulate fast ice, move over the hogline and closer to the house. To simulate heavy ice, move further back.

Eric Eales
September 26, 2010
Kelowna, BC

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