Glenn Paulley said it best
“sweeping is what makes curling an Olympic sport, but it is the most under-coached aspect of the game”.
Sadly my own curling has been put on hold this year, but that means I’ve had way more time to watch a lot of curling, and am grateful to get to work with a bunch of athletes in the Better Brushing Strength Study as we pick apart what’s working & what’s not in their brushing performance.
Biggest takeaway so far? (And something I’ve been seeing for YEARS).
Between BOTH those who play exclusively in leagues, and those competing on tour…
We are continually mixing up the open and closed position and footwork.
What am I talking about?
How we hold the broom puts us into an either an “open” or “closed” position in terms of the direction of travel.
If I sweep on the L side of the thrower, with my L hand down that “closes” my chest off to the direction of travel. We call this position “closed”.
Now if you are on the L side of the sweeper with your R hand down, this allows the chest to present in an “open” position to the target, so we call this position “open”.
& It’s the opposite if you are on the R side of the sweeper.
Next I’m going to walk you through a couple of issues I’ve noticed:
We typically like our dominant hand down, which means on one side of the thrower we are open and the other side we are closed.
—Is this you?
Ok, we’re getting closer to the problem.
Then, most people try to get their sweeping to look the “exact same” on both sides, even though one side is open, and the other is closed.
Following me so far? Are you nodding your head ‘yes’?
& at one point, maybe it was at a clinic, maybe it was the commentators on tv, but someone told you that to be a better brusher you want your “back flat and parallel to the ice and the bottom hand as close to the brush head as possible so you can get your weight over the brush while you sweep”.
This is great feedback! … IF, and only if, you are sweeping in the closed position, and you have the strength, confidence and footwork to support the position (you will see below).
What happens is, you are in an open hand position with a closed body position, which makes the footwork hard, and therefore difficult to a) getting your bodyweight over the brush head, b) move your broom, and c) avoid injury or discomfort.
I encourage you to take a video of your sweeping. IF you are in the “closed position” but your feet and hips are working really hard to face the direction of travel … you need to do 1 of 2 things:
1. Work on footwork and gain the strength and confidence to own the closed position.
2. Switch which hand is down so that you are in the open position, raise your hands so your shoulders are above your chest, and master the cross country ski motion.
Why #2? Because if you are twisted you’re setting yourself for injury, and if you can’t support the position then you are wasting a lot of energy that could be better used letting your feet face forward but open the chest to the target. It‘s a lot easier to apply pressure to the brush head if you can actually lean on it and move your brush.
I believe that there is not one way to sweep a rock,
but there is an efficient way, and that is based on what your body can do.
If your body can support the closed position, get to it —it has been shown to be more effective based on the opportunity to apply more of your body weight over the brush head.
But if you can’t; your knees hurt, your back hurts, your feet are all over the place, or you lack the strength and confidence to be in this position. Switch it up.
Someone who has mastered the open position is far more effective than someone who is forcing the closed without the necessary prerequisites.
Now, before you get your tail feathers in a knot and email me back like “I can do it, I am working on it” —that’s exactly what I want to hear. There is no way that I am not all for someone willing to put in the work to get stronger, and more comfortable in a position they don’t have just yet. Get to it curling fam.
The problem arises when you toss this post aside and think “nah, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing’. Because let me tell you, I bet your back hurts, or your shoulders/neck hurt, or your wrist or you knees. Something, eventually is not going to feel good about being in that twisted position with your shoulders one way and feet the other.
So, how “should” you sweep?
First note that the position required, and the footwork that is needed is different between open and closed.
Refer to photos above, and below:
Do you see the differences?
Open — Inside hand is down, back is flat, but shoulders are above the hips. Body (shoulders, hips, knees, feet) faces about 45 degrees to direction of travel. Athlete is up on the balls of the feet with a forward lean as if trying to shovel heavy snow.
Closed — Outside hand is down, back is flat and ‘parallel’ to ice surface (meaning shoulders and hips are relatively at same height). Body (shoulders, hips, knees, feet) face the rock, so athlete is moving in a more sideways motion down the ice. Athlete is up on the balls of the feet with a sideways lean down the ice.
What you can’t see in the photos, is the footwork needed:
Open — Hips & feet face about 45 degree to target and use a a cross-country ski motion of feet forward and back
Closed — Hips & feet face more square to the rock, and the feet need to do these “half moons” to get them out from under their hips.
Newsletter Subscribers (sign up here) gain access to a more in depth video on positioning and how to practice both open and closed off the ice)
Main takeaway: As a beginner, the open position is not only safer but a lot easier to master. The closed position is great to practice because once you can master it, it’s been shown to be more effective than open.
My “1 tip to make you a better brusher?”
Let your hips and feet dictate which position is going to be the most effective for you.
If you prefer the cross country ski-lean forward footwork, sweep open and go crazy. If you are excited and confident getting the sideways footwork, go for closed.
But don’t force something in a game that isn’t effective.
Take care, (wash you hands, wear a mask, virtual hugs only, and be kind)
If you love this, and want more —newsletter subscribers have access to a compilation of sweeping tips and tricks. Sign up here for more info.
And, stay tuned —Round 2 of the Better Brushing program will launch early 2021. You can find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The EPVIP program runs all year, and Performance Audits are quick and easy ways to get a coaches eye on your sweeping or delivery, and give you a small on- and off-ice program to help you improve.