Coaching Association of Canada

Paul Webster, ChPC - Curling

Developing Self-directed Athletes

In a sport with repetitive movement, such as curling, the challenge for the coach is to structure practice so that an environment is created whereby the athletes get to breakdown the movement themselves and develop an inherent understanding of what they are attempting to achieve. The challenge for the coach is to not go back to what you know and reverting to that ‘sage on the stage’. Educating even the youngest of athletes with a solid understanding of technique and outcome and what both look like when done properly, is what we strive to do on the curling ice.

In our sport, it would be a relatively easy practice plan to go out on the ice, hold the brush (target) for the athlete, and provide subjective feedback on whether or not the athlete hit the target. Getting the athlete to understand the nuances of where his/her alignment can be altered, and where a fault starts, is the real challenge for the coach. The line of questioning from coach to athlete then becomes key.

Asking questions such as: ‘How was that throw?’, ‘Did you like it?’, ‘If not, what didn’t you like about it?’ ‘And now, how would you fix it?’, or ‘Where do you believe you went wrong?’ This line of questioning allows the athlete to test the limits of their knowledge while also leading them, at times, to ask their coach: “What do you think?” Having a situation whereby the athlete requests the feedback really provides a powerful moment for that relationship – self-directed learning on-ice is what I guess you could call it!

We also need to be cognizant of the need to create athletes that can create self-directed practices. Working with them to create a repertoire of drills that they can do on their own, that provides them with factual objective output on technique is what we need to all strive for. Having provided that athlete with the tools to practise smarter is an amazing outcome for both parties.

I don’t want to downplay the role of the coach as it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. What I have come to realize, after coaching full-time for the last 11 years, is that I now rely less on myself providing the answers, and more on having the athlete provide their own answers. I simply ensure that the understanding is there that those answers are educated and evolved from a solid practice routine.

Paul Webster, ChPC
National Coach
Curling Canada