Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shotmaking skill is the focus in Scotland and Canada

Michael McCreadie, though taking a break from international competition, remains very much involved in the sport. His latest project is a recently announced Shotmaker Competition, organized through the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association.

The competition asks curlers to complete a series of drills at different locations, the highest scores to be submitted to the SWCA and a prize awarded for the player with the best cumulative score when adding their best result from each of three venues.

"The idea is to have a fun competition that raises awareness of shot-making that I think will carry over into regular play. If people practice specific shots their skills will improve, and so will their performance in games," Michael assured me.

"At the end of the season, not only will there be a winner, but the twelve best performances will earn an invitation to a Shotmaker event in Kinross."

The competition begins in November. You can read full details of the drills and the thinking behind the competition by downloading the aims, objectives and tests. You can register an interest in entering by filling out this form

Though ambitious curlers will already throw a range of specific shots during practice, charted drills allow coaches to gauge progress and compare athlete performances. That is a large part of the thinking behind the Team Canada booklet just released by coach Wendy Morgan to assist in the talent identification and player development program that will be taking place in venues across Canada this season.

Athletes who think of themselves as national program candidates, will have the opportunity to display their skills by performing a series of drills described in the booklet.

I can see the utility of scored drills in bringing someone who might otherwise be overlooked, to the attention of coaches. And I concede to Michael that anything that encourages structured practice has to be a good thing, if you practice as you play, as I have warned previously. (3rd paragraph)

But I remain sceptical about how useful drill totals are in judging potential game performance. For one thing, players on a four person team have lengthy waits between pairs of throws.

Every coach I have spoken to say their players have an inflated opinion of how accurate they can be in competition. High practice percentages are rarely seen in game situations.

Yes, practice will improve performance and drills can offer a framework that can make practice more disciplined and more efficient. In the context of Michael's shotmaker competiton it can also be more fun.

But I would not weight the on-ice performance element of my team selection on drill scores. I'd want to know how curlers can throw under pressure; perhaps by choosing, unannounced, single shots from a game where the curler is told just before they throw that this shot will become part of their record.

If all shots are charted, no shot is special and if all shots matter, then none matter. Matches are not like that.

Perhaps you'd like to share in the 'comments' how you practice, and what records you keep, and how you can tell whether you are improving as a player.

1 comment:

Bruce Cameron said...

It sounds like a fun idea which could and should produce higher skill levels. What happens during a practice rarely replicates verbatim to a game.