“The Five Elements of Curling Technique,” co-authored by by Higgins, with U.S. Olympic Team Technical Rodger Schmidt’s method for understanding and improving delivery mechanics. Schmidt curled at an elite level in Canada and Europe in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He now runs a curling school based in Switzerland and has coached many Olympic teams, including the 2010 US squads.
For a bit of perspective on where I’m writing from, I am a 6th year curler from California where, yes, we curl in arenas. I’m now playing at what I’d call “close to the top of the pack” in US women’s curling. (My team tied for 5th at Nationals in 2010.) Because I don’t live in a region with dedicated ice, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road training in Vancouver and Seattle. And, because I’m a curling nerd, I’ve worked very hard to study with as many “masters” as possible.
This book was my first major exposure to Schmidt’s approach and it is very different from anything else I’ve seen – especially in the lengths it goes to to explain *why* top athletes move the way they do
Schmidt’s, however, attempts to explain in physics and body mechanics terms why it’s necessary for your shoulders to be square and why your rock or foot or hips should be in a certain place at a certain time in your delivery.
The book breaks down delivery into 5 elements:
1. Control of Center of Body Weight
2. Control of Energy
3. Control of Stone Position
4. Control of Release and Finish
5. Control of Head: Curling Intellect
So what does that mean to you? Here’s my super-brief interpretation of the Schmidt delivery for non-lifters: When you stand in the hack, feel your center of gravity and identify the line of delivery. With your draw back and push out, accelerate your center of gravity into motion behind the rock. Transfer your center of gravity onto your slide foot and continue to focus your energy behind the rock as you and the rock move into alignment on the line of delivery. Once you have reached your slide position – feel, feel, feel. When the time comes, use that feel along with your deep experience as a curler to finish the shot as needed.
The biggest strength, in my opinion, of The Five Elements of Curling Technique method is that it can be applied to all types of deliveries – from tuckers, to lifters, to flat-footers – you name it! I know this will help me teach. In the past, when a tucker came my way, the best I could do was advise them to watch Jeff Stoughton video. Now I will be able to explain why they are fishtailing in terms of force, center of weight and the timing of their push.
The material is dense and complex so don’t judge yourself if it takes you a while to sort out the nuances. (I did most of an astrophysics major at Princeton (I eventually got my degree in art) and found myself flashing back to those 2 am study sessions at times.) As an ex-near-physicist, I did have some minor quibbles here and there with some of the ideas and images and I’m not sure I’m fully on board with everything that’s said – or not said – about line of delivery. But that stuff aside, I’m glad I read the book and I found it very interesting to think about delivery in this new light.
I’m a visual learner, so I appreciated all the photos and computer illustrations. In some places, I think it might have been helpful to take pictures specifically for the book, for example, with concepts that needed to be shown head-on, like eye-dominance and rock alignment.
All in all, I think this would be a challenging first curling book for novices, but the principles should be part of all curlers’ vocabulary.
By Gabrielle Coleman