Pre-Game Meeting

Athletes, coaches and discerning spectators know that what goes on behind the scenes plays a huge role in what occurs on the playing surface. Hours upon hours of directed practice make what athletes and teams do seem so easy. Well, it’s not easy and only rehearsal under the direction of a knowledgeable coach can make it appear so. I’ll deal with but one facet of that preparation in this post, the pre-game meeting.

Step one, have one! I’m still blown away by the myriad of so-called elite curling teams who simply step onto the ice and “hope of the best”. If it happens, great! If it doesn’t, well, I’ll have a Diet Coke thanks very much! What a way to run an organization!

Establishing a pre-game meeting means that it’s mandatory that all the players on the team are ready to meet at the appointed time! No one is late! If warm-ups are to follow the pre-game meeting then time must be adjusted so that can take place in due course. And, a location must be pre-selected. You don’t have time to look for one at the last minute. That might take much more time than anticipated and you may not find one at all. When I’m coaching our national senior teams at the World Senior Curling Championships, I prefer to have all meetings at the hotel, not at the playing venue for a variety of reasons. I want our opponents to see that when Canada walks into the building, we’re ready to play, no last minute panic-laced meetings in front of opponents in a noisy, chaotic atmosphere. At the hotel we’re in control. At the venue, we’re not!

Step two, someone must “chair” the meeting and if you have a certified coach, well lucky you. He/she has been trained to conduct just such gatherings. If you do not have a coach, then either appoint the team member most suited or better yet, why not share that task?

Step three, what do we talk about in a pre-game meeting? Clearly, the sky’s the limit but unfortunately, not your time so here’s my two cents worth, oh yes, since the Canadian penny is on the endangered species list, here’s my nickel’s worth (we still have those don’t we?). There should be three standard items on your pre-game agenda. First, what is our game plan? Do we “start” the game pursuing scoring opportunities, defending against perceived scoring threats or shall we play carefully and see what our opponent brings to the table? Second, have we spoken with the ice technician and if so, what might we expect from the playing surface?* Third, each player states his/her performance goal for the game AND your team performance goal.**

I’ll can pretty much guarantee that if you have meaningful pre-game meetings that follow the guidelines stated above, your performance will improve. Try it. What do you have to lose?

* I make it part of my responsibility as coach to introduce myself at the earliest opportunity after first arriving at the venue. I ask a lot of questions about how the ice was installed and maintained. Before each draw I ask if he/she prepared the surface any differently. Along with a discussion about the ice, I ask questions about the stones. When I arrive at a venue for the first time the first thing I do is go to the ice surface and check out the stones. More about that too in another post later in the season.

** “Performance goals” are different from “outcome goals”. I won’t go into a long dissertation about goal setting, that too for another post but suffice to say that performance goals are much, and I mean significantly more useful than outcome goals. In a pre-game scenario the lead might state as his/her performance goal to get an interval time on each draw the opposition delivers. The second might suggest that he/she will check the “in-ice” thermometer after every second end. The third may have as his/her performance goal for the game to ask the skip before he/she leaves the house to make a shot to verbalize one more time, the weight to be delivered. The skip may, before delivering each shot, wish to ask the lead and second if they have noticed anything different about the ice surface as they are the ones moving up and down the sheet. The “team” performance goal may be to have a quick meeting after every two ends to answer the question, “What’s the ice telling us?”
These goals, simple as they appear, have common characteristics. They are all totally in control of the player/team stating them. They are measurable and therefore reviewable (an insight into what might be on the agenda for a post-game meeting). And, I’ll make one more observation about performance goals. When the team meets them, voila, performance improves! This is not a difficult game!

Author’s Note: For more about goal setting, go to “A Pane in the Glass: A Coach’s Companion” p.105 and read the article Goal Setting – A Lost Art“. All proceeds from the sale of the manual go to “The Sandra Schmirler Foundation”.
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