Improvement in any Sport requires good coaching and much practice, and curling is no exception. Faults in your delivery may lead to a lack of consistency and it is important to practice so as to eliminate (and not to consolidate) poor technique. Coaches can help you to detect any faults, but their correction requires practice and this is up to you.
First practice your slide without a stone. The aim is for a stable, straight slide with no drifting off the line and no need for a hand on the ice for balance. Practice your slide without a brush to develop even greater stability. Also practice your delivery with a stone, playing both hands, to the sides of the house as well as down the centre. You may find it helpful to set up brushes at the far end of the sheet to give some targets.
Finish your practice with some shots, starting with draws, then raises and hits (be careful if there are any adjacent games). Practice adjusting your draw weight for guards of various lengths and for raises.
TIPS FOR TEAM MEMBERS
Curling is a team game. If a team member has an off day the other three should try to play just that little bit better to compensate, and should encourage and not criticise their colleague. The art of good play for every curler is to consistently play the brush and to play the correct weight. An orthodox sliding delivery makes ‘hitting the brush’ much easier, but it is not an essential.
Know what weight is expected and play accordingly. Do remember, however, to keep your weight up at the first end both for strikes and for draws. The skip does not know the ice so will keep the brush tight (close to the target stone) for strikes. Few skips enjoy the front cluttered with short stones at the first end with attempted draws. Concentrate hard to find draw weight and then keep it for the whole of the game, bearing in mind that the weight may change variably over different parts of the sheet depending on which parts are played most frequently.
Always watch the progress of your stone after delivery. Many beginners turn their back on the stone and don’t watch what it does. Remember there might be a part of the sheet where the stone starts to curl a lot. Knowing where that is means you can pre-empt the big draw by sweeping your team mates stone early to try and hold the stone on line.
Always be ready to sweep and sweep well. Remember that on keen ice two good sweepers can increase the length of travel of a stone as much as 15 feet. Learn to judge the weight of moving stones. Sweep if the stone is slow unless told to stop by the skip who will call for line if necessary. Communicate both with each other and with the skip in judging the weight of stones. Always remember the skip is the boss on the ice. Never criticise the skip or your team-mates on the ice and especially not the opposition.
Learn the ice as quickly as possible especially the draw to the tee in both hands. Remember to watch for changes during the game as the pebble comes off or the temperature alters in the ice rink. Use the markings in the house as the reference point for giving ice, and to help you remember how the ice is behaving. Act quickly so as to keep the game moving. Be decisive and clear each time about what is wanted. Lengthy discussions are rarely necessary, and make the game boring for both spectators and players alike.
Play your team to the best of their ability. For example, if a player is a weak striker, ask for back ring weight. When feasible, play the hand your player prefers, and if a player consistently applies far too much handle, give him or her less ice. Never mislead a player. If the ice was wrong, indicate this or pass a message with one of the sweepers to tell the player. On the other hand frantic signs to indicate that the player was wide or narrow are not needed. These help the opposition by demoralising your own team.
The art of good skipping is making the best possible use of every stone. Whether it is wide or narrow, heavy or light, concentrate to see what you can do with it. Never turn away from a played stone however bad it might be. Learn from every shot played and have an alternative ready.
Consider the following when deciding upon tactics:
Who has last stone advantage?
What is the score?
How many ends remain to be played
The ice conditions
The strengths and weaknesses of the opposition
The strengths and weaknesses of your own team
Generally use side guards if you have the last stone, and keep the centre clear for your last shot. On the other hand, if the opposition have last stone, play centre guards and try to steal by getting a stone onto the button and hidden. Aim to keep it simple – if there is a choice of shot call the easier one. Let the opposition call the big shots.
In an even game, plan to give away one shot when they have last stone. If you happen to get something against the head treat this as a bonus. If the score is close don’t gamble without last stone unless it is the end of the game and you need to steal.
When you have last stone, you know the ice and your team has draw weight, go for two shots. The usual way is to gamble on the wings with guards. This leaves the way to the four-foot clear so that if things go wrong you can draw the last stone to save the end. When the game is going against you and, for example, you are three or more shots down at the last end, you will have to gamble. Draw rather than strike; use any stones in play as guards, or freeze up to shots in the house.