But How Much Do You Actually Trust It?

I’ll be boarding an aircraft here in Victoria, BC bound for Fredericton, NB tomorrow (04.09.13). When those wheels touch down in that provincial capital, I’ll meet 10 Canadian athletes with much curling experience who will represent Canada at the World Senior Curling Championships. One of them is the most recent inductee into The Canadian Curling Hall of Fame: Cathy King. In fact, in my tenure as Team Leader and Coach for Canadian National Senior Champions, I’ve had the honour of coaching five members of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame (Pat Sanders, Millard Evans, Ken McLean, Marv Wirth, and Cathy). I suspect they’re Hall of Famers not because of me, but in spite of me!

This year’s wearers of the red and white are from the province of Alberta, Team Cathy King (with Carolyn Morris, Lesley McEwan, Doreen Gares and Christine Jurgenson) and Team Rob Armitage (with Keith Glover, Randy Ponich, Wilf Edgar and Lyle Treiber) who slightly more than 12 months ago earned the right to wear the Maple Leaf by winning the 2012 Canadian Senior Curling Championship in Abbotsford, BC. Interestingly enough, I already know who I’ll take to the 2014 World Senior Curling Championships as those teams won the most recent Canadian Senior Curling Championship in Summerside, PEI. They are both from Atlantic Canada, Team Wayne Tallon (chair of the host committee for the Fredericton event) and Team Colleen Pinkney. The men are from New Brunswick and the women from Nova Scotia. Team Pinkey is a repeat Canadian Senior Women’s Champion having captured that title in 2010. And, they were the 2011 WSCC winner!

Our senior national champions have one year to train in preparation for the WSCC. Each will work very hard to develop the skills needed to compete against the best senior curlers on the planet. Other countries have fielded strong teams for the Fredericton global showdown with former world champions reaching the 50 birthday candle plateau. This year, the Team Canada men will face a number of senior curlers who have competed for their country at the international level. It’s a tough field!

I was recently with teams King and Armitage in Edmonton. They are both very talented teams comprised of curlers with excellent skill sets. In those three days of training at The Saville Sports Centre on the campus of The University of Alberta, we honed both individual and team skills. But as skillful as they might be, those skills aren’t worth very much if those athletes don’t also have a high degree of trust in them.

In my years working with some of the best athletes in curling, I’ve seen world class skill sets but I’ve not seen an equal number of complete trust in those skill sets. Some of those athletes, for one reason or another, struggle with the “trust factor”! Elite athletes are very demanding of themselves and sometimes they cross the line to the point that they’re never satisfied with their own skill set. Now, on this point, don’t be misled. Elite athletes, by their very nature, will do just about anything to be just a little better at what they do. And there’s nothing wrong with that! The problem for some arises as they prepare to compete.

When you are about to compete in an event, you can’t all of a sudden become more skillful. I’ve said this many times, “You can’t leave your skills at home. Not even if you tried! But what you can leave at home is the trust needed in those skills.

I’ve had many talented athletes ask me to take a look at their delivery. Of course I always say “Yes”! As we walk onto the ice, I’m pretty sure I’m going to see a curling delivery that would be the envy of us mere mortals. I’m also reasonably certain I’m going to see a curling delivery that requires no augmentation. But I’ll bet the ranch most of my time with that athlete will be spent trying to determine why his/her level of trust in that world class delivery has diminished.

Sometimes the athlete comes off a less than satisfactory performance and quite naturally assumes there’s a technical flaw. Well, they may be right. A curling delivery is not static. It’s dynamic. It changes with you and that may be for good or ill. That’s especially true for young athletes whose body is undergoing change. A solid delivery the next month or two can look very different due to those physical changes with the athlete.

Athletes, especially elite athletes, want to perform well and perform well consistently. There’s nothing wrong with that. What can be wrong is when an athlete, after missing a shot, loses a degree of trust and runs to the coach asking, “What am I doing wrong?” When I get that question directed toward me, my answer is, “You’re not doing anything wrong. I will tell you what happened on that shot but that only means your human. Learn from it to prevent its continued recurrence.” In other words, there’s absolutely no reason to lose trust in your delivery.

Trust, don’t leave home without it!