Happy Feet & the Path to Success
This discussion breaks things down into discrete steps, making it sound like the delivery is a series of individual steps, that each have unique start and stop points. THIS IS NOT TRUE. A proper delivery is a fluid combination of all these motions, with one step flowing into the other. That’s what makes a perfect delivery a thing of beauty to watch, and a delivery that is “less-than-” frustrating to try correct on your own. But we’ll get there. I promise.
“It’s impossible to map out a route to your destination if you don’t know where you’re starting from.” — Suze Orman
As with any foundation, you build your delivery from the bottom up. That means we start with your feet. In particular, we will go over the role that your feet play in establishing the most important part of the overall delivery – The LINE OF DELIVERY (LOD) – the line from the shooter’s hack to the Skip’s broom. If the LOD is off, the shot will be too. When you realize that a shot with a LOD that is more than 6-8 inches off the broom at the far end of the sheet may not be recoverable with sweeping (in terms of line only), you’ll start to appreciate how critical the LOD is. That’s why the Skip is so gosh-darn obnoxious about “Hit the #@%& broom!”
Let’s Start Feet First
Step into the hack, HACK FOOT FIRST, and just stand there. Good Job. I told you this wasn’t going to be that hard.
Your feet should be just under shoulder-width apart, facing in the same direction as your hips and your shoulders. Your weight should be evenly balanced, going straight down and into the hack. Easy enough. Just relax. Now, take a look down at your feet.
Your hack foot is in the hack. Good enough. More on that in a bit.
Your slide foot is at rest beside the hack, just a bit forward of your hack foot, with the heel of your slide foot about as far forward as the toe of your hack foot. Perfect. Just leave that right there.
Get On The Line
Let’s go back to your hack foot – and even more precisely, the KNEE connected to your hack foot. They both should be pointing on a line perpendicular to your hips and shoulders, and directly down the Line Of Delivery (LOD) ending at the Skip’s Broom (more on that later, too). I DID NOT SAY THAT THE HACK FOOT SHOULD BE POINTED DOWN THE CENTER LINE. IT MUST BE POINTED AT THE SKIP’S BROOM.
Say your hack foot/knee are not pointing directly at the Skip’s broom – the broom is way the heck out there where angels fear to tread, outside the 12-foot, almost on the side line, as far over as you’ve ever seen it. Do you slide your foot to that side of the hack, still pointing down the center line? NO. You ROTATE in the hack until you point down the LOD to the broom. No one ever said that you slide down the center line for every shot. It’s not much of a rotation, but it is CRITICAL. Practice just getting set up like this, and you’ll get a feel for it.
Move your hack foot back and up, so that the ball of your foot is now resting against the back of the hack, as if you are in a starting block (think about it – you ARE). The arch of your hack foot should be about on top of the hack. Some people even rest the arch of their hack foot on top of the hack at this point. Your weight will shift a bit forward, and possibly even down, as you make this adjustment. Where your foot is pointing DOES NOT CHANGE. I can tell you’re starting to get the message.
Make sure your hips and shoulders are still directly perpendicular to the skip’s broom. THIS MUST NOT CHANGE. As soon as it does, your slide will take you off into no-man’s-land, maybe even onto the sheet next door. That would be bad. Your feet and knees set the line, your hips and shoulders keep it. I cannot say it strongly or often enough – ALWAYS – HIPS AND SHOULDERS SQUARE TO THE LINE, FEET AND KNEES ON THE LINE – ALWAYS.
Rock On – Ready…
Now we add the rock to the party. Let’s assume it’s in front of the hack, for convenience. If it’s not, put it there, go back to the beginning, and reset. Back here now? OK, good.
OK, so the rock is in front of the hack, waiting for you to throw it. At this point, we don’t really care if you throw an in-turn or an out-turn, as long as it’s comfortable for you. Just pick a turn.
Drop straight down, into a crouching or squatting position, and take hold of the rock. This is not some kind of death grip, but don’t be scared of it, either; it won’t bite. Take it by the handle and make it do its job. You’re the boss, not that hunk of rock. It does what you make it do, nothing more. Your slide foot may move just a little bit forward with the motion to help preserve your balance. No problem; just don’t let it drift sideways – you MUST maintain your line of delivery until after the rock is released.
Your knees are still pointed at the Skip’s broom – right?
Now is when you move the rock to be aligned with you, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. You are the one in control here. The rock is merely the repository of possibility, the instrument of your awesome. Place the rock IN FRONT OF YOUR HACK FOOT, about a foot-length in front of the hack. You decide where the rock goes, so you make it start where you want it to start from – surprise, surprise – on the LOD. Keep your weight centered under you, and not over the rock; the rock is NOT one of your points of balance.
Your knees are still pointing right at the broom, and your hips and shoulders are still perfectly square to that line, RIGHT?
When you start your slide, you start with the rock coming back as far as it can, to right in front of your hack foot. Yes, this motion is, while backwards, also along the LOD – and remember, you only have about a foot-length here. This is when your hips come up and your slide foot moves straight back along the LOD, but only about that same foot-length. Move your slide foot any farther back, and your energy (and the power that goes with it) will be used up bringing that foot back into slide position – don’t waste the energy before it’s needed. The toe of your slide foot should be about even with the heel of your hack foot, and your hack foot is probably resting on top of the hack. Good.
Now our energy is all built up, ready to be released into the rock….
Start moving the rock forward, and bring your slide foot forward to follow it.
Drop – no, drive – your hips down and forward. This is where the majority of the energy in your slide comes from. Remember potential energy versus kinetic energy in junior high school science? You’re living it right now.
Push against the hack with your hack foot, letting your hack foot follow straight behind you. See – you’re pushing along the LOD – because you were lined up to. You couldn’t help it.
As you slide forward, you don’t have to try to force your slide foot “right behind the rock” – if everything has been lined up correctly, the slide foot will put itself on or parallel to the LOD as you slide. Exactly where your foot ends up varies from person to person a bit. If you try to force your foot over, you could set up a sideways drift in the slide that is nearly impossible to compensate for.
Your weight is still centered under your chest, and you’re on the LOD, yes? You should be, but get your eyes up and on the broom and make sure!!!
HELP – I’m moving! Now What?
Are you balanced? Are you in control, or are you just following the rock down the sheet?
Assuming you are, how far have you traveled down the sheet by the time you get to that re-stabilized point?
What we’re talking about here is called the “Point of Control”, where all the chaos that comes from putting the parts in motion reaches the “steady state” again. We’ll talk more about that another time, but suffice to say you’re looking for that to be probably somewhere around the near tee line. If you’re not there now, OK. No sweat. Just note where it is now, and try pull that point back a little bit with each “next slide” until you get there. You’re looking for that point to be in the green box shown below.
This is a large part of why sliding practice and warmups are so important. Watch the “Best Of The Best” warm up…. they often slide several times before they even touch a rock. We should, too. Yes, always review the basics – these first steps – during those slides. In addition to stretching and generally taking care of yourself, you’ll develop not only a stronger, more consistent delivery, but you’ll start to get a sense of when things change, and where those differences are. You’ll find what works for you and your body, and where individual parts of your delivery could to be modified to better fit you.
There is, as of right now in our discussions, one thing in the Delivery that cannot change. It must be constant, like the certainty of Death and Taxes, that Summer is the Season of Road Construction, that Broomstacking and Beer go together. YOU MUST BE ON THE LINE OF DELIVERY. Knees and feet pointed along the line, hips and shoulders square to the line. The First Time. The Last Time. Each and Every Time In Between. No Exceptions, No Excuses.
That’s enough browbeating. Set yourself up right at the start, and the rest will (eventually) follow. If your feet don’t start right, the delivery can’t follow on the right line; it doesn’t know where to go. But you do. It’s the Line of Delivery. Put your feet in the hack, get on the line, and slide.
Slide straight and shoot true,
— Coach —