Category Archives: Curler’s Corner

This is information for Curlers to understand the rules, equipment, and strategy better. Full of facts and tips to help improve your gameplay.

Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (7/7)

Part 7: Skip

A Skip (or the team member throwing Skip stones) is responsible for getting 2 points with the hammer or steal 1 point without the hammer.

Guard:

If things are going well for your team, where there are a couple of your team’s stones in the house and possibly behind cover, the Skip will be able to have their Third throw a guard to  help continue to protect the multiple points already being scored.  Unless your team specifically needs a lot of points to catch up, there is no need to get greedy with the Thirds stones.

Again, the role of throwing a guard as a Third is the same as the role of throwing a guard as a Lead.  A high guard (closer to the hog line) is not as useful as a guard that is closer to the stone you are guarding.   You still want 3 feet of space between the guard and the stone you are guarding, else you may give the opponent an opportunity to throw a double-takeout to remove both your guard and the stone behind it.  The further you are away from the guarded stone, the harder the takeout.  If you are too far away, the opponent may be able to draw around the guard and bump the stone out into the open or out of play all together.

Draw:

Thirds will be called on to throw draws typically for 1 of 3 reasons:

  1. There are a couple of guards in place and the house is empty (or no stones in the 8 foot rings or closer).  Here the goal is to draw behind the guard(s) and in front of the T-Line.  The is the same goal as aSecond’s draw shot.
  2. The only stone in play is in the house to one side (typically on the 8-foot ring) and not behind a guard.  Depending on your opponents strengths and weaknesses or the way the ice is responding, the Skip may not want to guard the stone in the house, but rather draw to the other side of the 8-foot ring to “Split The House”.   Now your opponent is only able to take 1 of the 2 stones out of play and they have nothing to hide behind.  Allowing your team to continue to swap their stone for your stone.   If executed correctly, your team is guaranteed to get 2 points with the hammer or force your opponent to take 1 point if they have the hammer.
  3. The stones in the house are all behind the T-Line.  Drawing to these stones will allow you to have shot rock and with the stones behind it, it is very difficult to move from shot position.  The reason this is played with the Third stones and not the Skip stones, is to be the first to take advantage of the stones behind the T-Line before your opponents do.  Remember that if you are able to draw to these stones behind the T, your opponent is too.  So if you are too heavy and end up behind the T-Line, your opponent can use your stone to their advantage.

Split:

Like a draw for 2

Bump:

Although a Third does not typically have a common type of shot, the bump is most commonly played by Thirds over any other position.  Remember that the job of the Third is to maintain control of the end, or try to regain control.   The bump weight is what is also commonly referred to as “controlled weight”.   It is called this because you can control the stone’s curl and move other stones around, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that it is also used to take further control of a busy house.

In the Third position, bumps are often used to promote stones to first or second shot in attempt to be in scoring position while maintain a guard for the stone you are raising closer to the button.  Hopefully this raise is straight back, which will allow you hit, the target stone you are raising, full or on the nose.   If you are attempting to raise a stone that is off to the side toward the button, it is called an “angle raise”.  The greater the angle the harder the shot, because the amount of force that is transfered to the target stone is only partial of the thrown stone, so judging the weight is more difficult. Also the line required to get the stone toward the button increases in difficulty.  If you’ve ever played billiards, you probably realize that because of the 2 round objects, getting the correct angle is has a number of factors and is not simple.  At least in billiards, your cue ball is usually traveling in a straight line and not curling from left-to-right or right-to-left.   Angle raises are the second lowest percentage shot in curling.  (Ticks being the lowest)

The other reason that bumps are more often thrown by a Third than any other position, is that if your opponent is controlling the end and has even “Split The House”, a bump is the best chance at regaining control.   By bumping one of their stones slightly to allow you to take 1st or 2nd shot and use their stone as backing, it makes it more difficult for your opponent to remove you from play.   A bump will leave some space between your stone and your opponents, so it is not as great as a Freeze (discussed next), but it may be required if the opponents stones are in front of the T-Line.

Takeout:

Running out of stones

Better to let them count 3 than 5

 

Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (6/7)

Part 6: Third

A Third is really the jack of all trades.  A Third is often called on to maintain or regain control of the end.  Hopefully there are a number of stones in play when the Third throws their stones.  Their job will range from adding more guards, adding/replacing stones in the house, opening opportunities for skip stones, or providing damage control.   Where a Lead will throw guards 90% of the time and a Seconds will throw draws 80% of the time, a Third does not have a common shot; which is why it is often the most difficult in terms of knowing the correct weight.

Guard:

If things are going well for your team, where there are a couple of your team’s stones in the house and possibly behind cover, the Skip will be able to have their Third throw a guard to  help continue to protect the multiple points already being scored.  Unless your team specifically needs a lot of points to catch up, there is no need to get greedy with the Thirds stones.

Again, the role of throwing a guard as a Third is the same as the role of throwing a guard as a Lead.  A high guard (closer to the hog line) is not as useful as a guard that is closer to the stone you are guarding.   You still want 3 feet of space between the guard and the stone you are guarding, else you may give the opponent an opportunity to throw a double-takeout to remove both your guard and the stone behind it.  The further you are away from the guarded stone, the harder the takeout.  If you are too far away, the opponent may be able to draw around the guard and bump the stone out into the open or out of play all together.

Draw:

Thirds will be called on to throw draws typically for 1 of 3 reasons:

  1. There are a couple of guards in place and the house is empty (or no stones in the 8 foot rings or closer).  Here the goal is to draw behind the guard(s) and in front of the T-Line.  The is the same goal as a Second’s draw shot.
  2. The only stone in play is in the house to one side (typically on the 8-foot ring) and not behind a guard.  Depending on your opponents strengths and weaknesses or the way the ice is responding, the Skip may not want to guard the stone in the house, but rather draw to the other side of the 8-foot ring to “Split The House”.   Now your opponent is only able to take 1 of the 2 stones out of play and they have nothing to hide behind.  Allowing your team to continue to swap their stone for your stone.   If executed correctly, your team is guaranteed to get 2 points with the hammer or force your opponent to take 1 point if they have the hammer.
  3. The stones in the house are all behind the T-Line.  Drawing to these stones will allow you to have shot rock and with the stones behind it, it is very difficult to move from shot position.  The reason this is played with the Third stones and not the Skip stones, is to be the first to take advantage of the stones behind the T-Line before your opponents do.  Remember that if you are able to draw to these stones behind the T, your opponent is too.  So if you are too heavy and end up behind the T-Line, your opponent can use your stone to their advantage.

Bump:

Although a Third does not typically have a common type of shot, the bump is most commonly played by Thirds over any other position.  Remember that the job of the Third is to maintain control of the end, or try to regain control.   The bump weight is what is also commonly referred to as “controlled weight”.   It is called this because you can control the stone’s curl and move other stones around, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that it is also used to take further control of a busy house.

In the Third position, bumps are often used to promote stones to first or second shot in attempt to be in scoring position while maintain a guard for the stone you are raising closer to the button.  Hopefully this raise is straight back, which will allow you hit, the target stone you are raising, full or on the nose.   If you are attempting to raise a stone that is off to the side toward the button, it is called an “angle raise”.  The greater the angle the harder the shot, because the amount of force that is transfered to the target stone is only partial of the thrown stone, so judging the weight is more difficult. Also the line required to get the stone toward the button increases in difficulty.  If you’ve ever played billiards, you probably realize that because of the 2 round objects, getting the correct angle is has a number of factors and is not simple.  At least in billiards, your cue ball is usually traveling in a straight line and not curling from left-to-right or right-to-left.   Angle raises are the second lowest percentage shot in curling.  (Ticks being the lowest)

The other reason that bumps are more often thrown by a Third than any other position, is that if your opponent is controlling the end and has even “Split The House”, a bump is the best chance at regaining control.   By bumping one of their stones slightly to allow you to take 1st or 2nd shot and use their stone as backing, it makes it more difficult for your opponent to remove you from play.   A bump will leave some space between your stone and your opponents, so it is not as great as a Freeze (discussed next), but it may be required if the opponents stones are in front of the T-Line.

Freeze:

A freeze is when a stone comes to rest touching another stone.  It is considered frozen to the other stone.   If you’ve ever played or seen those office desk toys with the 6 ball-bearings hanging and if you swing only one ball, you know that when it hits the line of balls all touching each other, only the last ball in stack swings out.   Although the physics of this may seem simple or obvious to you, the key is the lack of space between the balls.  With space between balls in the stack, the results will be in a similar manner, but the balls in the stack may slide slightly left or right.

Using this same principles, if a stone is frozen to another stone, the energy transfered to 1 stone by another stone, will be fully transfered to the stone it is frozen to.  So if you can freeze to a stone, it is impossible to remove with one stone – meaning it will take 2 shots to get the stone out of position.  Even stones frozen at an angle to each other will make it difficult to remove the lead stone.  The more the angle though, the easier it becomes to remove both stones.

This is used primarily if a stone is near, but slightly back of the T-line.   Since you only need to be slightly closer to the center to be the shot stone (stone counting for points), you can freeze to the target stone at a slight angle toward the button and be shot rock.  If you are properly frozen, your opponent cannot bump, or takeout your stone to regain shot stone.  They would be forced to draw into the open,  or freeze at a greater angle to the stone, which again will make it easier for your team to remove from play.

The only caution to this, is if you freeze to a stone that is too far behind the T-Line, which will result in your stone being behind the T-Line, your opponent can just freeze to your stone to get shot rock.  If you are attempting to force them to take 1 point, this is another way to do it.

The key to making a Freeze is to have the sweepers “finish” the stone by sweeping it just enough to get it to the stone without bumping it.  This requires great judgement on the sweepers for the weight.  After all, the best team is the one that functions like a team and not just as individuals delivering stones.

Takeout:

As mentioned at the start, the goal of a Third is to maintain control, regain control, opening opportunities for skip stones, and in some instances, provide damage control.

If your team has the hammer, it may be required to create opportunities for the Skip stones to be able to get 2 points.   A team without the hammer has a goal to clutter up the center of the house to prevent the opponent’s skip stones from getting close to the button for a point with the last stone.  If your opponent has been successful thus far of keeping the center cluttered so that your team cannot get to the 4-foot ring, the Skip will often have the Third create openings.   This is an opportunity for a takeout.  As we discussed in the Second’s shots, a good team will use bump for takeout a majority of the time so that that stone being delivered remains in play.  In this case however, the heavier takeout may be used.  Your goal is to remove 1 or more guards from the center, so if your stone sticks around, it may add to the clutter rather than open things up.

If things have gone horribly wrong with the Lead and Second stones (the front end) and your opponent has a number of stones in the house counting for points, the Third may need to remove stones from play that are not on the center line.  The goal is to provide your skip an opportunity to get into the house to either get points or cut down the number of points an opponent is potentially able to count.

As games get later in ends, the Skip may use the Thirds stones to remove opponents stones from play to limit the total number of stones that an opponent can get points from.  This is often called “Running your opponent out of stones”.   If your team is ahead by 3 or 4 points in the final end, removing opponents stones from play can help to restrict them from getting enough points to take the win (and hopefully prevent them from a tie).

Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (5/7)

Part 5: Second

A Second’s shots are often heavly dictated by what their Lead has thrown.  Sometimes the opponents Lead stones are what dictates what a Second will be required to throw.  In a typical game there are only 4 types of shots that a Second will be required to throw.

Draw:

This is the most common shot a second will throw.  With the lead stones out front as guards, the second’s role is to make use of these guards by drawing behind them.  This is the point where the offensive game is most apparent.  A properly thrown draw will stop directly behind the guard and in front of the T-Line.   If the draw is not burried behind the guard, the oppoent will be able to hit and roll behind cover and remove your stone from play.  If the shot is behind the T-Line, the opponent can follow your shot and draw to it.  This will provide them with shot stone and backing if you try to remove their stone.

Often people feel that the correct draw weight is to the T-Line.  When a shot is thrown to the T-Line without sweepers, it is very difficult for your team to control the shot.  If the stone is close to the guard, the sweepers may be called upon to sweep to get it by the guard; the extra distance the stone will now travel will put it behind the T-Line.   Olympic curlers know exactly the correct weight to throw to allow their sweepers to hold the line and still allow it to finish behind the guard without sweeping.   This is a learned skill that takes years of practice and consistency in both ice and team-members .  How effective your sweepers are will affect where the stone should be thrown to.

In arena curling, finding the ideal weight for a draw is difficult.  The thing to remember is that you have sweepers to help “finish” the stone.  If a stone is thrown to the top of the house, the sweepers can sweep it the extra 6 feet to the T-Line.  If it is not going to curl behind the guard it is better to leave it in front of the T-Line than behind it.   So when throwning a draw, it is important to trust your sweepers and allow them to help finish the stone, and not plan to throw it to the T-Line without the use of sweepers.

Guard:

Depending on the circumstances, the second may be requried to throw a guard.  This may occur due to the lead’s stone being thrown or bumped into the house, or the lead stones are not in play so there are no guards to draw behind, or it maybe because the skip is trying to place enough guards out front to be able to successfully build a house to try to get 4 or more points in the final end.

The role of throwning a guard as a second is the same as the role of throwning a guard as a lead.  A high guard (closer to the hog line) is not as useful as a guard that is closer to the stone you are guarding (or house if no rocks are in the house).   You still want 3 feet of space between the guard and the stone you are guarding, else you may give the opponent an opportunity to throw a double-takeout to remove both your guard and the stone behind it.  The further you are away from the guarded stone, the harder the takeout.  If you are too far away, the opponent may be able to draw around the guard and bump the stone out into the open or out of play all together.

Bump:

A bump is when a stone is moved closer to the hack.  A bump is really defined more by the weight that the thrown stone is delivered rather than by the result of the “bumped” stone.    A bump can be used to raise a guard stone into the house rather than curling around it due to ice conditions or other guards that are preventing you from coming around the guard.  This is often referred to as a “raise”.   To throw this shot you will need to deliver the stone as if the guard was not there.  Your aim is to throw the weight you will need to get to the position without bumping any stone.  Your sweepers can make the adjustments to get the bumped stone to move the correct distance, if the line will allow.

Bumping can also be used to move a stone in the house to the back of the house.  This is a great technique if you can bump an opponents stone back behind the T-line to allow your stone to be closest to the button but retain the opponents stone as backing which will make it more difficult for your opponent to remove you from play or bump your stone out of shot position.  In this case the difficulty is moving the opponents stone enough to give you shot position, but not too far that your opponent can bump you back onto their stone and regain shot position.  The key to this shot is to throw just slightly harder than draw weight.  This is where Curling lives up to the “game of inches”.

Last but not least is bumping a stone out of play.  Good teams will call this “takeout”.  Your goal is to throw your stone back house or hack weight.  This means that the stone will be able to reach the back of the house or the hack without sweepers.  This allows time for the stone to curl and still have enough weight to bump the target stone just out of the rings or the back of the house.   The reason this weight is used as “takeout” by good teams, is that the delivered stone will often be left in play even when hitting the target stone at an angle.

Takeout:

As mentioned above, good teams often use “bump” as takeout.  Good teams also have a much faster takeout speed.  This type of speed is used when you either:

  1. do not want to keep the delivered stone in play
  2. removing more than 1 target stone
  3. want to reduce the time the stone has to curl, effectively reducing the amount the stone will curl.

This high speed takeout is the most often used form of takeout by teams on unfamiliar ice.  Once a team has become confident with the weight needed to remove a single stone, they should drop their takeout weight down to only the amount required to remove the target stone from play.   Again, more of a bump weight that takeout weight if they want their delivered stone to attempt to remain in play.  The Second position is often more offensive than defensive.  The weight of a takeout will change the shot from an offensive one (to better your position) to defensive (to only worsen your opponents position).   Great teams will tend towards always bettering their position with Second’s shots.

As always, communication is very important.  Be sure to communicate with your Skip to find out if the ice they are providing for a takeout is for takeout style weight or for bump style weight, since a stone will curl more with the lighter bump weight.

Remember that the Skips goal after your 2 shots is to have guards up front and hopefully stones in the house in shot position.  Whether your are throwing a guard, a draw, a bump, or a takeout,  the goal is often to keep your stones in play.  There are still half the end’s stones yet to be thrown, so without stones in play the options available for the Skip with the Third’s or Skip’s stones become more limited.

 

Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (4/7)

Part 4: Lead

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have read the Lead On!post that was written that had some information about the Lead’s Role.  And Part 3 of Know Your Role covered the Delivery role.  So what could possibly be left to cover?  Well in this post we will look at what are the typical shots a Lead needs to throw and why.

Guard:

You might be thinking that Guards are easy.  There is 15 feet between the hog and the top of the house, so that is a lot of area to play with.  Well the reality is that much like the house, there are more optimal locations than others.  The best guard you can throw is 6-12 inches in front of the house; regardless on if it is a corner guard or a center guard.  This will allow your skip to come around this guard on good swinging ice, or bump it into the house in many different directions.  The versatility of stones in this area are what make them so dangerous to opponents. 

High guards (guards that are closer to the hog-line) are less useful as they are easier to draw behind and near impossible to bump accurately.  Although they do have a purpose sometimes, they are less useful from lead stones.  Putting up a high guard will allow your opponent the safe opportunity to try to draw behind it, without the risk of bumping it into the house.  If your opponent is successful, now you are chasing them.

If the guard is too heavy and actually comes into the house, now your opponent can remove it from play without issue of the Free Guard Zone rule.  If your opponents are better at takeouts than your team, they may hit and roll which will again have your team chasing them during the end. 

Of course the skip may leave their stone in play if they get into the house until later, but opponents stones in the house in front of the T-Line are always trouble.

Draw:

Probably 90 % of your shots in curling are going to be guards.  However depending on your opponents or the score, your skip may have you throw draws.  If your opponent puts up a high guard, you may be asked to draw around it.  Also if you are up by 3 or more, skips may have you throw into the house to try to avoid putting up guards for your opponents, while hoping to have them chase your stones which often limit the amount of points scored in an end.

Takeout:

With the Free Guard Zone rules, leads do not often throw takeouts.  This probably only comes up once every 3 games.  The only time this is used is if your opponent’s lead stone is in the house not behind a guard and your skip wants to keep the house clear of stones or try to get a hit and roll behind cover.

Throwing it through:

If your team is up by 4+ points going into the final end, a skip may have the lead throw the stone through the house.  It is similiar to when pitchers in baseball walk the batter on purpose.  This shot may seem like a waste, but it is so useful for teams if performed correctly.  The purpose of this shot is two-fold:

  1. It prevents stones from being in play.  With the Free Guard Zone in effect, you cannot remove your opponents stones, and having more stones in play clutters up the end which may allow your opponent to get the 4+ points they need.  Remember, 8-enders are often built in a cluttered house.
  2. Skips use this properly thrown takeout weight as a judge of what the ice will do.  Your teammates are probably going to have to throw a takeout, so the skip will use your stone to judge what the ice is doing in particular areas so they can properly call the ice for when a takeout is thrown to remove a stone.

Tick:

This is by far the lowest percentage shot in curling.  Again, if your team is up by 4+ points in the last end, a lead may be asked to move an opponents guard.  Due to the Free Guard Zone, you are not allowed to remove it from play, so it must remain between the boards and in front of the back-house line.   This shot comes up if the opponent throws a center guard.  The purpose is to move the opponents guard off to the side, but not in the house, and keep your stone from remaining in play.  To do this, the skip will have the lead throw a takeout with the attempt to “tick” the guard enough to move it to the side of the sheet, but not enough to remove it from play.  The fraction of an inch that this shot needs to hit the guard is what makes this shot so hard for the skip to call correctly, which is why it is the lowest percentage shot in curling. 

Remember, if you remove an opponents guard from play with your lead stones, all stones are replaced to where they were prior to the stone being thrown and the thrown stone is removed from play.  The sheet should remain as if the stone was never thrown.

Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (3/7)

Part 3: Delivery

It seems like such a simple role.  Deliver the stone.  Besides the technical difficulties of delivery, how hard can it be?  Well you’re right.  The primary goal of the delivery is to throw the stone.  But the role of delivery starts way before the release.

Communicate:

Are you sensing a pattern?  Of course you are!  Communication is not a single direction.  It must be a full-duplex system.  (shout-out for all you nerds out there like me) 

When you are in the hack, your primary role is to know what you are being asked to throw.  If it is unclear to you if the skip wants a guard or a draw, or what weight they are expecting (hack, takeout, draw, etc), then your role is to ask.  You can ask the sweepers, because they should know as well.  If they are uncertain, then you can go ask the skip.  If verbal communication is difficult and you do not have hand signals established, then sometimes it requires going down the ice to be able to hear them.  Not ideal for time, but you don’t want to end up guarding something they wanted to be able to hit or taking out your guard or shot-rock.

Something worth developing is a habit of stating the intended shot to your sweepers.  “Just a draw”, “hit and roll”, “bump with hack weight”.  If you make this second nature, it accomplishes 2 things:

  1. Makes sure you and your sweepers understand the shot being thrown or called for.  If there is a misunderstanding,  you want this cleared up prior to delivery.
  2. Think of it as a mantra.  Stating something out-loud makes you believe it more.  If you believe in the shot, you are more likely to make the shot.  Visualizing how the shot will end up will help you find the correct weight and throw that weight.  I know it might seem corny, but I have 16 years of this to prove it works.  And yes, even some olympians do this as well, because it clears out any other shots that you might be thinking about and allows you to focus on the shot being called.

Trust your skip:

This is so key.  Once you understand what the skip is asking for, trust it.  If you feel it is not the “correct” call (aka call you would make), or if you feel there is too much or not enough ice, I will guarantee you will not throw the shot correctly.  If you feel there is too much ice, you end up compensating for it mentally and throwing to where you think the broom should be.  Before you make your delivery, you must believe in the shot being called.  If you are adamant that the call is not makeable by you, communicate to the skip.  There may be another option that you are able to believe it.  But if there is not, you must trust that the skip would not give you a shot that is un-makeable by you.  Remember, their role is to know their team and call shots that their teammates can make.

Trust your sweepers:

Unless you are the skip, you are a sweeper when you are not delivering a stone.  So after you have released the stone, it is common to try to judge your own weight.  If you want to communicate how you felt about the weight after you’ve released it, do so with your sweepers immediately and that’s it.  “Felt light” is all that is needed.  Beyond that you must trust that the sweepers will do their role to the best of their abilities.  If you follow the stone and call out to them on if they should sweep or not, it is not helpful.  It just makes it harder for them to focus on the weight and hear the skip.  Please avoid this pit-fall of most curlers.  The better the curler you become (or are), the more likely you will feel the urge to do this.  Don’t.  Trust your sweepers.

Be ready:

There are many steps that you do prior to delivering the stone.   This may include: moving your opponents stone closer to the hack, cleaning your stone, putting on a slider or removing a gripper, taking off a glove, etc.  This pre-delivery routine is the #1 reason ends take longer than they need to.  Your role as the person who is delivering the stone next is to be ready. 

Do not forget your etiquette.  Do not move anything or yourself until the opponent has released their stone.  You should be standing outside of the hog line or behind the hack during their delivery.  Once they have released their stone, the hack  (and area directly in front of the hack) is usually vacant.  If your opponent is in your way, then you MUST waitThe sheet fully belongs the opponent until their stone has stopped moving, so do not get in their way or their line of sight.  However, if they are clear of the hack, you can begin to get set up.  Once the opponent’s stone comes to rest, they will clear out of your line of sight. 

Your goal is to never have the skip waiting for you.  99.9% of the time the hack is vacant upon release.  You should be able to get ready during the time it takes the stone to come to rest.  Get ready first, then see how the opponent’s shot ends up.  Do not watch the shot and then get ready.  Doing this will allow you to be able to deliver the stone as soon as the skip puts their broom on the ice.  Take a moment to focus on the shot being called, and deliver your stone.

Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (2/7)

Part 2: Sweepers

It it common for most curlers out there to think their only role is to sweep when the skip says to and stop when they say to stop.  But sweepers have more responsibility and a role in every shot than just doing what their told.  So what else do the sweepers have to do?

Communicate:

It should be no surprise that communication is the largest and most important role.  Skips biggest responsibility is to communicate, so it only makes sense that the sweepers communicate as well.  A team functions best when they all understand what is happening.

For every shot there are a number of communication opportunities to take advantage of.  When the curler delivering the stone is in the hack and the skip has made their call, communicate with the other sweeper and the curler delivering the stone.  Confirm the call.  Make sure everyone understands what the call is in both line and what weight the curler will be throwing.  A simple “draw the top house” is sufficient.  You as a sweeper know where the stone will end up and what weight you expect upon release.  You may also need to know that after a hit, the stone is expected to roll over to the edge of the house or to the button.  As a sweeper on the left or on the right, you might need to take the roll or the bumped stone into the desired location.

As soon as the stone is released, your role is to communicate the weight to the skip.  Sweepers have a much better judge of the weight than a skip will ever have.  If you’re new to curling or have never done this, you may be guessing.  That’s fine.  As you continue to do this you will hone this skill and become more accurate.  Olympians break down the hog to the back-line into 10 number segments.  You do not need to be this accurate.  “light”, “heavy”, “looks good” is helpful to a skip.  If its heavy, the skip may have to adjust their plan or they know to avoid sweeping for line.  If it is light, then they know to get the stone in play the sweepers will have to sweep and the stone will not curl as much or they may change plans on where it may end up.  As you proceed down the ice, adjust your call if your first call was inaccurate or if the stone hits a slow patch.  Get in the habit of calling the weight at the point of release, halfway down the ice, and when you reach the hog line.  A good skip will appreciate the information and understand that sometimes you get it wrong.  But the more you do it, the better you will be at it; just like the other aspects of curling.

There is also opportunities for sweepers to communicate amongst themselves.  The sweeper closest to the stone should be focused on the stone.  Their biggest job is to not burn the stone.  The sweeper farthest from the stone has the role of visually communicating with the skip.  There are a lot of voices, so it may not always be clear if it was your skip or a neighboring skip that gave the command.  Visually checking with your skip often helps confirm who is calling what.  Again it may help to have visual cues or signals that are easy to understand as a sweeper upon glancing up.   The sweeper furthest from the stone is also able to communicate to the other sweeper about what is coming up that might be a hazard.  A good example is “guard on the left” so they do not trip over the other stones in play.

Trust your skip:

As mentioned above, sweepers will always have the best judge of weight.  By communicating the judged weight to the skip, the skip can formulate a plan B if necessary.  If a skip calls you to sweep or stop sweeping a stone, trust them.  The only reason the skip would have  you sweeping or not sweeping under their call is because they need it for the line (aka not to curl too much), or because they went from the original plan to a new plan based on how the stone is travelling and the weight you communicated to them.

Trust that the skip is never calling you on or off a rock because they think it is heavy or light.  That’s your role and trust that they will allow you to do your job.  So if they overrule or make judgements about the sweeping its for a reason besides the weight of the stone in what was/is Plan A.  Just like the skip trusts the weight that you as a sweeper judge and communicate (ie. light, heavy, etc), you should trust the reasoning that they are calling you on or off the stone.  Ignoring their call causes a breakdown in trust and an increase in frustration.  Trusting everyone to preform their role will allow you to focus on what your role is and the fun that is curling.

Remember, the skip that you are listening to is the the one holding the broom.  During the skip’s turn to throw, the vice is the acting skip.  The vice in this case is the person calling the line.  The team’s skip (who threw the stone) may be calling for line, but the vice (acting skip) is the only one who sweepers need to be responding to.

Make decisions:

Again, sweepers will always have a better judge of the weight.  So as you communicate the perceived weight of the stone to the skip, you should be deciding when to start or stop sweeping.  You should already know where the skip intended the stone to be, so based on that knowledge you should start sweeping if the weight needs it.  Your skip may call you off or on the stone due to a change of plans, but if the plan remains the same, then its up to you as sweepers to judge the weight and the need for sweeping. 

A skip will often state “line’s good” or “weight only”.  What they mean by this is that everything is on target for the original shot called from their end.  So your job is to make sure it has the weight to get there without over sweeping it.  If a skip states “yeah for line”, then they are telling you that the weight is less important that sweeping to reduce the curl.  If the skip states ”needs to curl”, then they are asking you to stay off it to let it curl.  This is an opportunity to re-judge and re-communicate the weight.  “Its a high guard” or “its only only top house”.  This communication helps the skip to make the decision if the curl or the weight is more important and when.  

The other comment you may hear from a skip as you are sweeping, is “take a look”.  What they are saying is that you are getting close and they don’t want you to over-sweep it and bring it too deep.  They are not calling you off, but just getting the lead sweeper to look up and judge if they feel they need to continue to sweep it.  In arena curling where lines are hard to see, sometimes sweepers are working so hard they do not realize how effective their sweeping is, so this reminder to “take a look” is sometimes helpful.   But again, the skip is still allowing you to make the decision to sweep or not sweep based on the weight.

Be ready:

This has 2 parts:

  1. When you are travelling down the ice with a stone that you feel has enough or even too much weight, stay ready to sweep.  The skip may change their mind, realize something else, or the stone may do something unexpected due to arena ice.   Always stay ready to sweep, regardless of the weight of the stone. 
  2. The 4th stones thrown (often call skip-stones) usually end up being discussed between the skip and the vice (third), to make sure the vice understands what to expect regarding line.  During this time, the sweepers are not required to be part of the conversation.  Your role as a sweeper is to get the stone out for your skip.  This allows the skip to come down the ice and just get ready to throw without having to fetch stones or move any around.  This will help the speed of play and allow you to play more ends.

Curler’s Corner: Know Your Role (1/7)

The following will be a 7 part series of the different aspects of curling (skipping, sweeping, deliverying, throwing lead, throwing 2nd, throwing 3rd, & throwing 4th) and understanding what your role in the curling game is.  Like anything, a team who’s members know what they are to be doing, when, and why, will function like a well oiled machine.  There will be less confusion and frustration which will result in games that are more fun to play and possibly easier to win.

Now, for the wrestling fans out there that are wondering if I’m quoting The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) from 1998, I may be; but without the tone.  :)  Who said curling and WWE (formally WWF) had nothing in common?  :)

Part 1: Skips

Of all the positions and roles in curling, I decided to start with Skips.  Curlers often explain to non-curlers that the skip is like the quarterback in football.  The simile is actually fairly accurate.  The skip does call the shots, which is visually apparent.  But a skips role is not merely calling the game.  A skip’s role maybe ends with calling the game, but what makes a great skip is beyond holding the broom, holding out a hand, and yelling.  So what is the role of the skip?  

Communicate:

Communication breeds trust.  A team that trusts each other will be more successful and have way more fun.  If you take 4 Olympians that do not trust each other, they will never be as good as 4 equally skilled team members that do trust each other.

This includes communicating things that are going well withthe team or with each player, the general strategy (ie. “lets keep the house clean”), and sometimes what went wrong (“great weight, but you were outside on that one”).   This is does not mean yelling “sweep” or “hard” all the time.  Just like at home, communication is not yelling. 

Most importantly the skips job is to keep the morale up.  This means that the skip’s morale needs to be up.  An optimistic skip is contagious and so is a pessimistic skip.  If a skip gets down on themselves or the team, the team will fall apart.  The first thing to break down will be trust.

Remember this game is fun.  Keep the game light hearted.   Laugh and joke about stuff.  Its a social sport, not an intense chess game.

Know your team:

A skip that can make calls that are to the capabilities of the team members will result in more shots made.  If a player is great at inside turns at draw weights and lighter, then having them throw and outside turn takeout is a low-percentage shot.  Sometimes this is necessary, but a skip that knows their player is better at the inside turn takeouts and uses this information effectively, will result in more accurate takeouts.  

If a team member is more likely to get down on themselves, then there needs to be more effort on encouraging this player and informing them on what they’ve done correctly and less on what could be improved.  Again, communication with your team is very important.  Communicating correctly with your team is key.

Lead your team:

Just like in the football analogy, a quarterback is looked to as the leader.  What they do and say is so important, because the team will follow suit.  A skip must lead the team with proper etiquette and rules.  As a skip, learn the rules!  More importantly, learn the etiquette of curling.  No team wants to play against a team that has poor etiquette.  A member with poor etiquette or poor sportsmanship will have a very difficult time finding a team to play on.  A team lead by a skip with poor etiquette will have a very difficult time finding clubs and bonspiels that will invite them back.

Trust your team:

As we will discuss in the next segment of this series, Sweepers have an important role.   A skips role with the sweepers is trust.  Allow the sweepers to do their job so you can focus on  yours. 

Trust the member throwing the stone.  If you do not believe they can make the shot, call something they can make.  If  you do not believe in a shot, you will not call it correctly which gives it a very little chance of success.

If a skip trusts their teammates, their teammates are more likely to trust the skip.

Learn the ice:

This is the first technical role of the skip and it is listed 5th because it is less important than the above points. 

The first skip to learn how the ice is reacting is most likely win arena ice games.  A skip that knows the ice and knows their team can combine the strengths to control the game early on.  So how do you learn the ice?   Watch every stone thrown from release to the point it stops.  Remember how it travelled, where it fell, where it started to curl, and at what weight.   This includes the stones your team throws and the stones your opponents throw. 

To watch an opponents stone, stand still behind the hack and look over or to the side of the opponent’s skip.  You should be able to get an idea of if the opponent hit the broom or where it was released.  You can then move around behind the opponent’s skip to watch the stone travel to understand how and when it curls.

Being a skip is like playing the hardest game of memory.  The 16 stones you’ve watched in the first end will tell you how to call the ice for the 3rd, 5th, and 7th end.  Sometimes the shot you saw in the 1st end is the exact shot you need in the 7th end.  Knowing where the broom was and what weight was thrown will allow you to know exactly how to get the results you want.

Make decisions:

As a skip, it is your job to make the decisions.  Although it is a good idea to talk with your vice about the final 2 shots, keep in mind that you want to keep the game moving so that you can get all 8 ends in.  Look at your options and make a decision.  It does not have to be unanimous or even agreed upon by anyone.  You as the skip are responsible for keeping the game moving and you do this by making calls in a timely manner.  

As your opponent is getting ready to throw, you should be able to tell what their plans are.  You should be already thinking about what you are going to do if they make their shot and if they miss their shot.  When they release their stone, you will be watching the stone and know if its on track or not.  By the time their stone come to rest, you will already have an idea of what you want to call.   Walk to the house and deliberately make the call.   Humming and Hawing about each shot will break down trust between your team and you.

Remember, like chess, it is advantageous to think more shots in advance.  “If I put a stone here, they will probably do this, then I can do that, …”

Adjust your call:

Sometimes things do not go as planned.  Either the ice reacted in a way that you did not expect, or the delivery was off the broom, or the weight is too heavy or too light.  In any case, you as a skip need to make quick adjustments.  Have a plan B and C for the case where things are not perfect.  Changing your plans early enough will allow you to take advantage of the shot.  If you wait too long to make the adjustment, you will have a harder time making the most use out of a shot.

If you do not need to make adjustments, your sweepers should be able to judge the weight for you.  If there is an issue with the line (going to hit a guard or over curl) OR if you’ve decided to make a plan B, you need to communicate with your sweepers.  Remember that communication is not yelling.  Yes you will probably have to speak up to get them to sweep or stop sweeping, but once they have complied, you do not need to continue to repeating the command.  Adding “stay close” or “just past the guard” or “bring it deep” allows them to know what the change of plans is or why you are over-riding their role of judging the sweeping for weight. 

But again, do not vocally dominate the ice.   If a team next to you on the ice is vocally dominating the ice by yelling loud and constantly repeating the same command, it will be very difficult for you to communicate with your team.  So in-turn, avoid dominating the ice with your voice to allow other teams to also communicate with their team.  If the whole arena becomes a screaming match, no one will be successful at communicating. 

And last, but not least.  You can use hand signals to communicate calls to your team.  “If I do this, it means draw weight.  If I do this, it means sweep. …”  Having hand signals allows your team to visually understand your calls.  The key is to outline what these signals mean prior to using them (learn from my mistakes). 

Part 2 will be on the role of Sweepers.