Jonathan and Ryan discuss the news out of the World Curling Federation’s Annual General Assembly. First, the rule changes that will be tested at the 2022 World Curling Championships. Does the version of the game we see on TV need to match what we experience at curling centers? Are we over-complicating things for potential first-time viewers? Next, the new Pan-Continental Curling Championships that will help determine future fields at World Championships. What major improvement do we think should be implemented to make this system better? Finally, we touch on other curling news from Poland, the USA and Canada.
James Runge (@twinetime14 on Twitter) has been to just about every curling event you can name. So he knows what advantages curling has as a spectator sport. He tells us what each of the major events he’s been to does best when it comes to catering to the fans. We also discuss how these events can improve. Not necessarily on the ice, but in terms of helping curling’s growth and diversity initiatives. We also dive into the origins of his blog and the ranking system he created for it.
How do you watch the Tim Horton’s Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts in the United States? What’s the difference between ESPN+ and ESPN3? We have the answers for you in this brief video explainer. The answer is that if you’re viewing this webpage in the U.S. you very likely have access to live streams of the Brier and the Scotties. If you enjoyed this content, consider checking out our podcast episodes!
“Run it Back” is our continuing series looking at important games from curling’s Olympic age. In this episode, we discuss the 2001 Scott Tournament of Hearts final between Colleen Jones and Kelley Law. Joining us is Sean Graham from the Game of Stones Podcast to discuss this game’s place in curling history. Among the topics: defensive curling, frost, hair brooms, Vince Carter, Frank Beamer and Sandstorm.
For the first time in almost a year we get to talk about major curling events. First, we preview the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts with Jonathan’s 10 things to watch. Then, we preview the Swiss Championships and Japanese Championships and tell you why they’re intriguing this year. Finally, we interject with an update on the cancelation for the Women’s World Curling Championships.
The future of curling will rely on our ability to grow the game with younger demographics. But how do we get the next generation to play the sport and watch it on TV? John Allgood, Assistant Professor and Academic Director of the Executive Masters of Sports Business at Temple University, joins us to discuss this and many more topics related to sports marketing. John made a career out of selling sports like minor league baseball, pro bull riding and soccer and now he teaches the next generation of front office staff how to do the same. Join us as we find out how an emerging sport like curling can stand out in a crowded market.
And now for something completely different. Author and pro beach volleyball player Travis Mewhirter joins the show to discuss that sports’ growing pains since joining the Olympics. How alike are the two sports? Well, beach volleyball joined the Games around the same time and features self-formed teams in a tour-based system. They even had a player boycott in the 90s. We’ll learn about their successes and challenges and how we can apply them to curling.
This season on Rocks Across the Pond we are going to do a regular curling strategy series. Our intended audience for this is the club curler who would like to improve their own strategy and also gain a greater appreciation of strategy for when they watch curling on TV.
Here I want to lay out a few basic concepts. My personal opinion is that curling strategy is often taught in one of two ways – either as a set of rules (i.e. “when you don’t have hammer put up a center guard”) or like chess strategy (if team A does this, then you should do that, then they will do this, and you will do that).
The problem with the rules approach is that every rule has an exception. Center guards are great, but perhaps not so great if you are leading by three in the eighth end. While curling is often called chess on ice, it is rare that stones end up exactly where a team intended. And so very detailed plans can go out the window with a strange roll or a jammed shot.
So instead of teaching strategy via rules or like chess, I am going to try to explain the general principles of strategy. By principles I mean the basic ideas behind curling strategy that will help you understand why you might want to call a certain shot, what the possible options are, and how you might choose between those options.
At its core, curling strategy is about recognizing what the options are in a given situation and then choosing the best option for your team in that context.
Let’s begin with a few definitions: First of all, by strategy I mean a plan to achieve an overall goal. In curling there are three levels of strategy – the team strategy, the game strategy and the end strategy.
The team strategy is the general approach a team will take into its games. Is a team a takeout-first team? Is it always playing to score a big end? Is the team primarily concerned with maintaining control of the scoreboard?
One thing that should jump out if you watch curling on TV is different teams have different styles. Teams playing any of the styles I’ve listed above are capable of succeeding at the highest level. One of the things that separates good competitive teams from average club teams is competitive teams put the time into figuring out what their preferred style of play is.
Lesson 1 from this post is to sit down with your team early in the season and discuss what you preferred style of play is.
The second level of strategy is the game plan. If a team knows what its team strategy is, then they should figure out how to modify that strategy from game to game.
The reasons you might modify a game strategy are numerous. The ice conditions may dictate what kinds of shots are playable. The strengths and weaknesses of your opponent may dictate that you adjust your strategy. If you are playing in a big event you may want to modify things to account for stress (either yours or your opponents). During the pre-game meeting one thing your team should discuss is how you are going to approach the game.
Lesson 2: Have a pre-game meeting and decide on your game plan.
The third level of strategy is the end plan. At a minimum, teams should have three basic end plans: a) a standard approach for when the game is close; b) an aggressive approach for when they want to try and score a big end; c) a defensive approach for when they want to try and stop the other team from scoring.
Teams can of course get far more sophisticated than this – modifying end plans for things like ice conditions, who has hammer, an opponent’s weakness and stage of the game – but at a minimum a team needs a plan for how to attack, how to defend, and how to probe. We will get more into these three concepts in the next post. The end plan should be discussed during a brief chat by the team between ends.
Lesson 3: Have a quick meeting with your team to agree on your end strategy between each end.
Most people think of strategy as individual shot selection. Most of the discussions on TV are about individual shots. Most time outs are called to debate individual shots. But in my book individual shot selection is about tactics. I define tactics as the individual shots a team uses in order to execute its strategy. Strategy is about the plan, tactics are about the execution.
I will unpack this in future posts, but for now I just want to note that most teams only think in terms of tactics. They only focus, discuss and argue about what specific shots to call in a given situation without thinking about how it relates back to the larger strategy.
In my experience that is the single biggest mistake that most teams make when it comes to strategy – they don’t have any plan about what they are trying to accomplish, so they choose their individual shots at random.
There’s a famous expression – “all tactics no strategy.” In curling this applies to the team that goes on to the ice without a team strategy, a game strategy and an end strategy. Then they end up selecting shots (tactics) at random without thinking through how all the shots fit together into a larger plan.
In my experience most — maybe even 90% — of club teams have no strategy. And most competitive teams set aside time to talk about their plans as a team, for a game and for each end. If you want to get serious about your strategy, the first step is to commit as a team to develop strategic plans.
–by Jonathan Havercroft
We debate eight ends vs. 10 ends and how eight-end curling would have changed some of the best games from the last decade. Also, the curling season is upon us. We find out how Jonathan’s new team came together with skip Rob Retchless, talk early season results in the Pacific Asia region and Ryan gets ready to head to Raleigh for Curling Night in America.
We are joined by Felix Price from Team Sugden (the junior team Jonathan coaches) to talk about curling etiquette. Three generations of curlers discuss when and how to teach it to new curlers with in-depth discussions on pace of play and the burned rock rule. All this plus the latest curling news, including the end of the Curling World Cup.