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THE FIVE ELEMENTS of Curling Technique

LEARN TO KNOW THE SHOT, FEEL THE SHOT, FINISH THE SHOT


Contents Preface ………………………………………………….………………………………..........................….......................................... v Foreword……………………………………………………………………………………................................................................ vii Introduction .…………….………………………………………………………………………........................................................... 1 The Five Elements Concept/Model …………………………………………………………………………...........................…….... 2

Element 1 – Control of Center of Body Weight ……………………………….……....…….................................. 6

Element 2 – Control of Energy ……………………………………………………………….......................……………….. 20

Review Element 1 and Element 2 ...................................................................................................................61

Element 3 – Control of Stone Position …………………………………………………………….......................…….... 70

Element 4 – Control of Release and Finish ……………………………………………………….........................……. 88

Element 5 – Control of Head: Curling Intellect …………………………………………….................................. 102

Summary of Key Five Element Principles ....………………………………........................…………………………………..... 110 Afterword ...........................................………………………………………........................…………………………………..... 113 Glossary of Terms ….......……………………………………………………………………………………....................................... 114

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A National Framework W

hen I was asked to become part of the U.S. Olympic Team support staff in 2009, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to share the insight and experience I acquired over 30 years of competitive curling. I also knew that the technology and resources for the sport had been evolving rapidly in recent years, and that implementing new strategies and ideas would be instrumental if one wanted to succeed on the world stage. During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, I was able to witness how technology, information, and resources had evolved since winning the bronze medal with the Pete Fenson team during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. To win, and win repeatedly in today’s game, takes information, and knowing what to do with that information. More than ever, athletes and coaches have the opportunity to learn more about the game, and more about the way they play the game. This includes an individual’s technical role, being lead, second, third or skip, as well as each individual’s cultural role to create a great team dynamic. The Five Elements of Curling Technique© is an extraordinary resource that will help any curler establish solid technical routines to become a great shot-maker. I have worked closely with several players that have utilized this framework to improve their shot-making skills. I am excited about The Five Elements of Curling Technique© manual, published by our sport education program. The Five Elements of Curling Technique© is a first-rate read, an immense educational tool for curlers at every level. Having had the privilege to work in partnership with Rodger and Scott in Vancouver, I know them each to be skilled professionals in the area of sport education and the analysis of curling technique. I know each of these individuals will be valuable resources as we move ahead with our high performance and sport education programs. As the Men’s U.S. National Team coach, my goal is to develop elite curlers and curling teams to win World Championship and Olympic medals. The opportunity to have educational tools and resources driven by a national framework of high performance and sport education will continue to help me in my role to ensure future success at the World Championships and Olympic Games. I look forward to seeing many other players benefit from this great resource, and thank Rodger and Scott for their desire to make an impact in the sport of curling.

Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2006 Olympic Team Coach, Team USA 2010 U.S. Men’s National Team Coach Look for “Tips From The Bench” inserts, located throughout the manual where our coaches have shared some of their best advice.

Olympic Bronze Medalist Shawn Rojeski of Team USA scans the sheet during the 2011 World Men’s Curling Championship. Photo by Leslie Ingram-Brown, courtesy of USA Curling

vii


Introduction T

hroughout a lifetime of analyzing curling delivery technique it is clear that there is not one perfect way to deliver a curling stone. No two curling delivery techniques are exactly the same. Rather than develop a specific teaching methodology, we have identified the five most common elements that exist in the best techniques of modern day, world-class curlers and presented each within this manual. The Five Elements of Curling Technique© are based on the laws of motion—basic principles of human biomechanics and movement. The Five Elements of Curling Technique© model has been successful for the following reasons: • First, it is a model in which the concepts can be understood by anyone—the beginning curler, the club curler, the senior curler, the elite junior and the elite curling athlete. • Second, it requires every individual to understand the “why” behind what they are doing within their technique—an important factor necessary for improvement. • Third, it allows and encourages individuality and creativity from the athlete, the coach and the instructor because learning and applying each element within the model allows each individual to focus on the details of the individual’s delivery, which best fit the five elements. The Five Elements of Curling Technique© takes “the common threads” and weaves them into a simple format any new curler, parent, junior and elite curler can utilize to improve and hone their technical prowess— whether it be to simply enjoy the game more, win the local club championship, or develop into a world-class curling athlete. We hope you find this manual to be a valuable resource in your pursuit of individual excellence on the ice, regardless of the level you aspire to play and participate in. After reading and applying the concepts presented, we are confident you’ll know the shot, feel the shot and finish the shot and be on the way to your best season ever! See you on the ice,

Curling Academy Rodger Schmidt GmbH Technical & Team Systems Coach, Team USA 2010 Forty-two combined World and Olympic benches Look for some of my best advice in the “Tips From Rodger” inserts, located throughout the manual.

Natalie Nicolson of Team USA directs the sweep during the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Photo by Michael Burns Jr. Photography, courtesy of USA Curling

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The Five Elements Model

Photo by Leslie Ingram-Brown, courtesy of USA Curling

Learning The Five Elements of Curling Technique© is fun and easy. While a curling delivery may take a lifetime of work to perfect, the concepts of the The Five Elements of Curling Technique© are simple and can be applied to any delivery regardless of age, ability, style or competitive aspiration. Each element gets to the heart of what builds a world class delivery. Our goal is to help teach you how to learn and apply the concepts in a way that builds your understanding of: • • •

The curling delivery and the concepts of the five individual elements The position and role of the specific parts of your body within each element How to incorporate the concepts of each element into your own delivery to improve shot-making

The Five Elements of Curling Technique© are:

Element 1 — Control of Center of Body Weight

The body and stone should be aligned and positioned on the desired line of motion so that the energy of the body can be transferred through the center of body weight (COBW) to the stone and on the target/broom line. •

Element 1 will develop your understanding of how the center of body weight affects energy, direction and balance to build and execute the perfect curling delivery.

Element 2 — Control of Energy

All of the energy created by the body must be transferred to the stone from hack to hog line. •

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Element 2 will develop your ability to create and transfer the correct energy from your body to the stone and build a technique that enhances your individual ability to feel that energy.


Element 3 — Control of Stone Position

The curling technique is a feel and finesse motion. A individual must be able to feel the speed as well as sense and control the direction of the stone position throughout the delivery. •

Element 3 will develop your sliding motion in which the energy of the body and stone must be coordinated to become one centered mass acting in unison to execute each shot.

Element 4 — Control of Release and Finish

The final finish applied in the curling delivery can make the stone curl earlier, resulting in more total curl – or later resulting in less total curl. A controlled release is critical to consistent and exceptional shot-making. •

Element 4 will improve your ability to release and finish the stone on the desired path by perfecting the details of your release and finish.

Element 5 — Control of Curling Intellect

When making a curling shot, the mind needs to be trained in the same capacity as the other four individual elements. A curling athlete, regardless of how much technical skill he or she has mastered, must know how to make the shot in any situation. •

Element 5 will provide thoughts to improve your ability to “know the shot, feel the shot, finish the shot.”

Photo by Leslie Ingram-Brown, courtesy of USA Curling

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Element Control of Energy •

All of the energy created by the body must be transferred to the stone on the broom line from hack to hog line.

In Element 1, you learned where and how to set the stone in position on the energy, target/broom line, how to align the center of body weight and where to position specific parts of the body and their respective and individual lines. All enable a proper position to be established so the correct sequence of movements in Element 2 may follow in a seamless fashion. The stone is an inanimate object and holds no energy of its own. All of the energy created by the body must be transferred to the stone from hack to hog line. The important concept to learn and understand in Element 2 is knowing how to create and transfer the energy of your body through the center of body weight to the stone and on the broom line. This requires building a technique that puts your body and the stone into a position of control, while transferring the optimal amount of body energy to the stone in a way that enhances your ability to feel the energy of the body and weight of the stone.

1. The center of body weight in energy, speed and balance. 2. Energy transfer from body to stone and drive leg to sliding leg. 3. The role and position of specific parts of the body.

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Principle 1: Perfecting Energy, Speed and Balance The Center of Body Weight and Energy On every shot played there is an optimal amount of energy required. Your body can produce this proper amount of energy but, if your direction or your balance is off, this energy will be lost and not transferred into the stone. You can feel the precise amount of energy that your body creates. If all the energy from your body goes to the stone then it is easy to feel (measure) and finish (release) the stone with confidence and precision. If energy is lost, it is difficult to sense how much energy went into the stone and measure how much energy was lost. This is not a recipe for success. How and where you place the center of body weight, essentially your belly button, is the key to creating the correct energy and learning to transfer that same energy to achieve the correct speed and feel of the stone. Figure 2.1 shows in Element 2 how the body creates and then transfers energy (green line) into the stone. Figure 2.2 shows the path the center of body weight (red dot) will take in Element 2. In the same sequence of movements, the role the COBW plays in centering your body and your energy to the broom line can be seen. A primary goal should be to control the transfer of energy while maintaining your center of body weight in position on the stone/broom line.

Figure 2.1 Transfer of Energy Body to Stone.

Figure 2.2 Path of the COBW in Element 2


Getting the correct amount of speed into the stone is dependent on how well you manage your center of body weight. The red dots in Figure 2.3 show the direction and height the center of body weight will take with the direction and height of the drive leg knee (green dot) through this phase of the delivery in Element 2 (Control of Energy). The yellow line within the ice indicates the stone’s path or broom line with the green arrow indicating how energy comes together before the tee line through the stone. Figure 2.3 Path of COBW and Drive Knee in Element 2

It is important to note in Figure 2.3 the following: •

The stone must lead the action and be in position to receive the transfer of energy from the body

The center of body weight (red) and energy/broom (green and yellow) lines work together to ensure that the energy generated is concentrated on a line over and then through the stone

Your goal should be to sense every bit of energy generated and feel it being transferred into the stone. To achieve this, the body has to be in complete control. Take caution that the body does not drive down too hard and too early into the delivery. It is preferable to bring the body down slowly and in control so that every bit of energy generated by the body is felt and transferred to the stone. The energy should go forward and not down into the ice. By doing so it is not only easier to control the sliding foot and maintain balance, but it allows the body to best measure speed.

“To control body height and transfer of the body’s energy to the stone it is necessary to have strong legs. It is much easier to control the transfer of energy in the curling delivery if you can apply leg and core strength as required. Make time in your schedule for strength and conditioning as well as movement screens and training for injury prevention.”

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In order to transfer your energy from your body to the stone (transfer number one), the body must generate energy with the legs. This is shown in Figure 2.14. The white shaded area indicates the path or line of motion the legs will take in the transfer of the body’s energy to the stone from the hack to the tee line. Figure 2.14 shows how the center of body weight and the balance point of your sliding foot stay in proper position through this motion. It is important that your center of body weight be high enough so that by moving forward at that height, you can place your sliding foot and sliding leg underneath the imaginary box. The reason for this is to first bring all the energy generated by your legs through your center of body weight to the stone, with no energy loss to the left or right or to the ice via the pull of gravity. Figure 2.14 Position of COBW and Balance Point of Sliding Foot in Motion

Figure 2.15 Shoulder, Hip and COBW Position in Motion

Figure 2.15 illustrates when the hips are high and the center of body weight position is maintained, the shoulders and hips stay in the box moving forward to allow room for the balance point of the sliding foot (red triangle) to fit easily into position to transfer energy from your body to the stone.

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Figure 2.16 shows this same concept, however, with the addition of the drive leg (green dot) and sliding leg (black dot). In Figure 2.16, notice how the balance point is highlighted and stays in position underneath the box, in line and correctly positioned with other key parts of the body. Figure 2.17 combines Figure 2.15 and Figure 2.16 into one illustration to highlight “all the details” of how the energy of the body is generated from the legs to begin the transfer of body energy into the stone. You will notice in Figure 2.17 since all the energy is targeted through the COBW, no energy is lost left or right or down toward the ice via gravity. Figure 2.16 Balance Points and Positions under the “box” in Element 2

Figure 2.17 The Key Body Positions and Details of Energy Transfer in Element 2

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Figure 2.18 shows energy transfer number one in Element 2, body to stone, without the “box concept� and the specific parts and positions of the body highlighted. Figure 2.18 Body to Stone Energy Transfer

The photos below show starting positions of top international players using varying COBW heights in Element 2 to begin the transfer of energy from the body to the stone.

Kristin Skaslien, Norway

Natalie Nicholson, United States

Linn Githmark, Norway

Photo credit, from left to right: Bob Cowan, courtesy of Skip Cottage Curling; Jerome Larson, courtesy of USA Curling; Bob Cowan, courtesy of Skip Cottage Curling

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Transfer of Energy: Drive Leg to Sliding Foot — Transfer Number Two In order to achieve a position of control (getting the stone and body aligned to the target/broom line), the transfer of energy and weight from the drive leg to the sliding foot must occur in a smooth fashion. The transfer of body energy at this point is critical. If done correctly, it will set the body into a proper position of control early in the delivery, as early as the back line and no later than the tee line. This will enable you to maximize Element 3 (Control of Stone Position) and create more time to feel, release, and finish the stone in Element 4 (Control of Release and Finish). How does this transfer of energy from drive leg to sliding foot occur? Stated simply, the drive leg throws the body forward and the sliding leg has to “catch it.” This is simple to state, but the most important and difficult action in Element 2. It is difficult because the body and your legs have to do this in a controlled fashion. You must control “the energy” of this transfer in Element 2. This is shown in Diagram 2.19. Notice the position of the sliding foot and drive knee. Figure 2.20 shows this movement. Notice the box, center of body weight, energy line, and balance point through this motion on the target/broom line. If you apply the box concept, the top of the box is essentially the upper body with the shoulders being the upper box corners and the hips being the bottom and box corners. This represents the bulk of the weight that needs to be set in motion and carried in balance throughout the rest of the delivery as the foot catches the weight of the body in this second transfer of energy. Figure 2.19 Drive Leg to Slide Leg Energy Transfer

Figure 2.20 Key Positions in the Drive to Slide Leg Energy Transfer

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Element Control of Stone Position •

The curling technique is a feel and finesse motion. An individual must be able to feel the speed as well as sense and control the direction of the stone position throughout the delivery.

The real success of executing perfect shots depends on the ability to feel the energy of the body and weight of the stone as “one unit.” If all of the body energy has been transferred smoothly into the stone in Element 2 (Control of Energy), you now have the best chance to measure and feel how much speed is in the stone in Element 3. You can control the stone position. The reason that all the attention to detail and training needs to be done in the first Element 1 and Element 2 is so that the body can establish a position of control early, by the back line or tee line, to create the opportunity to be in a feel position with the body and stone for a longer time. By the time you get to Element 3, 97-99% of the energy transfer has been made onto your sliding leg. Your body and stone should be traveling at the same speed. What matters most now is ensuring that the energy given to the stone when it departs the body during the release and finish is precisely what is required to make each shot. This is done in Element 3. If all of the body energy has been transferred smoothly into the stone in Element 2 you now have the best chance to measure and feel how much speed is in the stone and set up the perfect release and finish in Element 4. Element 3 (Control of Stone Position) is the feel aspect of the curling delivery. There can be a great deal of individuality in Element 3. Individuality can relate to positions of body balance, body height, and the position of individual parts of the body based on the size of the individual. However, it is important to ensure that the concept and actions built into the first two elements of the delivery are continued and maintained. The energy created and transferred up to this point must be managed with immense sensibility.

1. Stone Position in relation to body position. 2. A Position of Control—the correct feel position. 3. Correct Feel and position of key parts of the body.

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Center of Body Weight and Sliding Foot Diagram 3.3 shows how the sliding foot and center of body weight get on the target/broom line early, before the tee line, to get to a position of control early. Diagram 3.4 shows a late transition. This could be extended to show positions that are on the ball of the foot, nearer to the toe or even further to the outside of the foot—the point is to find the exact point that best fits your position of control and to use this point every time in all elements of your delivery, especially in Element 3. As shown in Diagram 3.3, the shift of the center of body weight must happen early and get on line to the target, and behind the stone so the speed and direction of the stone can be felt by the body at this point in the delivery. At this point in the delivery in Element 3 there should be a sensed connection from this belly position (between the hips and below the shoulders) to the stone and the throwing hand. This is why Element 3 is called “Control of Stone Position.” Diagram 3.2 COBW and Target Line

Diagram 3.3 Early Transition of COBW

Diagram 3.4 Late Transition of COBW

“The most important part of Element 3 is to establish and maintain the best feel position of the stone in relation to the body.”

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The Role and Position of the Throwing Elbow The elbow position in Elements 1 and 2 of the delivery will be straight, however the position should soften and bend slightly once a position of control is established in Element 3. A slight bend is necessary to capture maximum feeling for the stone and allow the arm freedom to add finesse and touch to the release of the stone. The elbow is generally best placed behind the stone with the elbow pointing down the ice as near to the stone line as comfortably possible. The best position for the elbow is inside the box and in the line in front of the hip on the throwing side and above and on line with the drive knee. Do not let your elbow wander too far outside of the box. The elbow should hold this position and should not rotate during the release and application of the turn. The arm is constructed to allow the wrist to rotate in an in-turn and out-turn fashion without the elbow needing to move from its position and off of the throwing line during the release. The elbow should be in a position pointing down toward to the ice with the flat, inside part of the elbow facing upward. The only action allowable is forward, through the stone and through the broom. This action is usually made with an extension of the arm to a straight position while the turn is being applied and the selected release is being perfected. Good illustrations of this positioning are revealed in Photo 3.9, Photo 3.10 and Photo 3.11.

Photo 3.9

Photo 3.10

Photo 3.11

Photos by Leslie Ingram-Brown, courtesy of USA Curling

The Role and Position of the Throwing Hand and Wrist The energy that has been transferred to this point through Elements 1 (control of COBW) and 2 (Control of Energy) in the curling delivery will now shift to rely on the hand, wrist and fingers to finish and perfect the shot. It is most important to understand that any final energy applied to the stone in Element 3 (Control of Stone Position) and Element 4 (Control of Release and Finish) will be done by the hand and fingers through their connection to the handle of the stone. Therefore, establishing a proper throwing hand and wrist position is essential. This is a good time to recount that the stone has a center of mass of its own and that the handle is placed well above this center. In order to ensure energy control of the stone, pay attention to the fact that the handle is connected to the stone via a long bolt that runs directly through the center of the stone. On this bolt, about half way between your hand and the ice, is the actual center of the stone. This is shown conceptually on the opposite page in Diagram 3.5. You should be playing with the center of the stone and not the handle. You want to be sure that the last bit of energy that is given to the stone before it begins its journey to the other end of the ice is applied through the center of the stone and finishes on the desired line.

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Diagram 3.5 Cross Section of the Curling Stone

How you plan to release the stone in Element 4 will determine how you grip the stone and place your hand and wrist in Element 3. The completion of the turn and any last tweak of energy will be applied in Element 4 in the release and finish segments. To make this work successfully, the positioning of the hand, wrist and fingers in Element 3 must be set accordingly. There is no reason to have the hand too high on the handle at this point – think connection to the center of the stone and fit your hand and fingers accordingly. The wrist and hand position you choose to take should make sense in relation to the type of shot you are playing and the type of action that you want the stone to take. How high a position that you take on the handle is individual and based on what you know about your own technique and delivery. Probably there is no need to be higher on the handle in Element 3 then in Photo 3.9 and no lower than Photo 3.10. All of your individual skills and finesse can best be applied from somewhere in between these two position examples. This will be further addressed in Element 4. Photo 3.9 High Throwing Hand and Wrist Position

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Photo 3.10 Low Throwing Hand and Wrist Position


From Our Olympic Skip Every athlete’s curling delivery is unique and different. Using The Five Elements of Curling Technique© is very helpful to the athlete and coach. This system is helpful in order to define problem areas that may arise in the delivery. Once defined, the athlete and coach can work together on that key element for improvement. During the training period leading up to the 2010 Olympics, I was introduced to The Five Elements of Curling Technique©. I felt that this system is valuable in order to simplify delivery improvement. Although each Element is important during the delivery, I felt that Element 2, energy control, was very valuable to me. It helped me focus on transferring my body energy to the stone. Energy control then led to Element 3, stone position, in respect to the body during the delivery. All five elements tie into each other with ease. It is very important to visit each of these elements during practice, but I suggest only one element per practice. I found that working on Element 4, finish or release of the stone, was valuable to me as well. The release is the very last component of the delivery and is often the difference between a great, good or bad result. I feel The Five Elements of Curling Technique© will help the athlete, at any level, prepare mentally and successfully complete the desired outcome.

Deb McCormick Three-time Olympian (1998, 2002, 2010) 2003 World Champion Eight-time U.S. National Champion

Photo by Michael Burns, Jr. Photography, courtesy of USA Curling



Five Elements of Curling