In early October, Chris Olander, along with Dwight Okahara, myself Liza Beres, and numerous other California curlers attended a skills clinic hosted by the Granite Curling Club in Seattle. At this clinic, Bill Tschirhart, Canadian curling coach and Karen Watson of Curl BC spent an intense weekend working on delivery, sweeping, strategy, team dynamics, mental preparation and more. I asked Chris to reflect on his weekend and write a blog entry for us. Here are his observations.
"Don't throw rocks, deliver stones
Our weekend ended on that note. That was the last thing that Bill said before he waved goodbye and left for his ferry ride back to Vancouver Island. We did not start there though. Before we got that nugget of wisdom, my brain had already exploded. Ok, exploded might not be quite the right word. Filled? Stuffed? Saturated? Saturated, I think that's more appropriate.
I spent the weekend in Seattle with 24 other curlers at a skills clinic taught by world renowned coaches Bill Tschirhart and Karen Watson. How do you process and comprehend all the wisdom two world class coaches deliver to you over a 3 day intermediate curling skills clinic? One thing at a time. On more than one occasion, Bill or Karen would say, "one thing at a time". Sometimes this was after a question about what to focus on when we were all learning so many new things. Sometimes it was just a reminder to us to slow down and focus on the one or two things that we really wanted to take away from this course.
This weekend was like a curling information buffet. We gorged ourselves, as people are often want to do at a buffet. Still, I'm sure we all had a few specific things in mind that we really wanted to improve. For me, it was delivery and tactics & strategy. I was really looking forward to the strategy and tactics part of the clinic since I am the skip for the 8 bit Sliders. Really looking forward to it. I want to get better at strategy and tactics...I can only learn so much from watching games off of TSN and curlingtv. That's almost all the video content I watch anymore. While that was a valuable session in the clinic and a blast to go through (and, the thing that hurt my brain the most), it's not the thing that really sticks in my head about this clinic. Addition by subtraction, that was the big one for me.
My delivery routine is where I kept my focus. More specifically, simplifying my delivery and routine to be more efficient and effective. That's what I spent the most thought on each time I stepped on to the ice. I joked at some point in the clinic that it was going to take me a half hour in the hack before each of my shots. I have come up with a reliable, repeatable checklist of things I need to do to give myself the best chance to deliver the stone that I want to deliver. While that time is a bit exaggerated there is a kernel of truth. I spent a few minutes in the hack the first time I ran through my list. It felt like an eternity. There are so many things to remember, though one at a time. Right now, for me, it still takes a while to run through all of the things on my list. I'm working on taking as little time through each step but this process is going to take a while to turn into an effortless routine.
The other thing I took away from this weekend was how much I appreciate Bill's style as a coach. His message of player empowerment really resonated with me. I remarked to one of my teammates...a coach who tells you exactly what to do every time is really placing you in a cage. Perhaps a successful cage to a point, but a cage none the less. You're bound by those rigid, static decisions. Bill's empowerment is like a key. It unlocks things and makes you free. He helped me discover things about my delivery, strategy, team dynamics, even things unrelated to curling. That truly is empowerment and a gift that will pay dividends for years to come.
So here I am, in the airport in Seattle, waiting to board my flight back to Burbank. I'm back to where I started writing a beer ago. I could have picked any number of other things to take away from this clinic and they all would have been great. For me, right now...Don't throw rocks, deliver stones. As much as this is about playing a curling match at any level, it's also about practice (and probably life too). I've always known that I should practice with a purpose but now I feel that I've been given the keys to practice on a whole different level. And there is so much stuff to practice. But one thing at a time. No matter how long the list, it's always one thing at a time.
- Chris Olander -
October 7, 2013