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Practice makes perfect (unless you’re an arena curler)

By Brad Whitlock, U.S. Curling News columnist,


f you’re an arena curler, you probably find it difficult to practice for a couple of rea- sons.

Ice time for arena clubs is usually restricted to

one or two times a week. So, when the ice is avail- able the priority is running revenue-generating events (league, bonspiels, etc.) to offset the ice rental cost. Renting the ice just to practice is a luxury most clubs can’t afford. But even when the ice is available, it, of course,

is not immediately ready for curling. You still have to get the ice prepped (put in the hacks, draw the lines, get the stones out on the ice, etc.). It’s tough to practice when your “playing field” disappears each week back under the spectator stands. Oh sure, as an arena curler you may, occasion-

ally, throw a couple of stones here and there that aren’t part of a game. However, for the most part, when an arena curler throws a stone – it counts. Some arena curlers could care less about

practicing. Tey’re happy coming out on Friday night, throwing some stones, and then going back to the real world. But, a lot of arena curlers I know would like to make some progress in their delivery, even evaluate it to some extent, and see some improvement in their game. It’s fun to play, but it’s fun to get a little better, too. For those who would like to hit golf ’s equivalent of the driving range, it’s a need unfulfilled. Curlers on dedicated ice can have this issue,

too, if they’re just too busy, or if the ice/building is not readily available for “practice time.” Gen- erally, though, it’s the arena curler that, even if they’re in the mood and motivated, have no prac- tical way to step on the ice and just practice. As in all sports, some people are naturals at it,

but for many of us, practice makes perfect (or, at least, keeps us from falling flat on our face). It’s like anything in life – generally the more you do it the better you get at it – which can be a reward- ing feeling. Bottom line – arena curling just doesn’t lend

itself to practice. If you want to practice, and you can’t get on

the ice for regular practice sessions, what CAN you do? It will require you, and your club, being cre-

ative. You’ll need to offset that ice cost or find “free” ice (eh, free ice?) Skills clinics

Some clubs hold skills clinics at times during

their curling season. So, this event can serve as a structured practice where you not only get to throw some stones in a non-game environment but you get some advice and critique along the way. Tis presumes, of course, that you have the resources to run such a clinic and enough club members interested in participating (i.e., pay- ing for it). Tese clinics don’t have to be fancy. Tey can serve as a way to get on the ice without a game involved to – literally - practice. A few tips, here and there, from a couple of the more experienced curlers in the club and you’re good to go. Even just providing a quick video of each person’s delivery can be very valuable to the indi- vidual (as in any sport) since it’s very difficult to “see” yourself curling. If your club has only been offering leagues,

considering slipping in a skills clinic. Practice during league

If there is interest in the club, put a practice

session in for one or two nights out of your to- tal league nights. Tis doesn’t have to take away a game from the league. Practice can be for 30 minutes, for example, at the front end of that night’s game. I know , I know – tradition says you don’t throw any stones on the “pristine” ice prior to the commencement of a game. But, “pris- tine” ice, no matter how carefully prepared, just doesn’t exist in the arena. As an arena curler, is it really going to affect

the game play if some stones are thrown on your carefully-prepped hockey ice prior to the start of a game? Nope. In fact, it may improve that night’s game – stones will be colder, frost will be worn off the sheet, etc., by the time you start your game. And, yes, for that night, because your time is limited, you’ll probably have to shorten the game to five or six ends (another tradition destroyed!)

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USA Curling (( 7 Alternatively, designate one sheet during

league night (assuming you don’t have all sheets occupied) as a practice sheet. Tis can be es- pecially useful if the number of teams in your league allows one team a “bye” each week. Te bye team can come use that extra sheet for prac- tice without any additional cost (but providing additional benefit.) “Free” practice time

Check with your arena to see if there is a

time when the ice is unoccupied (presumably at some oddball hour since most rinks are full up regularly). Sure, they may want to charge you, but, depending on your relationship with them, maybe they won’t. If a few of you are willing to come out at, say, 11 p.m. one night for one hour, you might be able to get on the ice, setup one sheet, and get some meaningful throws in. You can throw a lot of stones in an hour – enough to make your legs feel like jelly. Have other ways you get practice in? Send

your ideas to me and I’ll discuss them in a future column.Q

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