Athletes views considered in length and pace of game discussions

© WCF / Céline Stucki

As part of its Maximising the Value project, the World Curling Federation has surveyed its athletes on the number of ends in a game and the pace of game-play, to understand the views of its vital stakeholders.

 

Prepared by the World Curling Athlete Commission, the survey was predominantly targeted at athletes who have competed at World Curling Championships or Olympic Winter Games since 2012. During May and June of this year, 290 curlers from 46 Member Associations completed the survey.

 

Another topic covered was athlete and coach interaction during games. Mixed results arose from the questions regarding the number of ends, but there were generally more unified views on other topics.

 

World Curling Federation President, Kate Caithness, said: “Understanding all the varying opinions regarding the pace and length of games, and the implications of any changes, is a priority for the future of our sport. It is important that we start the process, hearing the views of all our stakeholders, beginning with the athletes.”

 

Athlete Commission Chair, Nolan Thiessen, said: “The voice of the athletes is valued and needed in any discussions about the sport of curling. The survey this year has been a crucial tool in that pursuit. It has allowed the Athlete Commission to obtain a wider range of thoughts and opinions. The insight provided will be valuable in further discussions with the sport’s stakeholders and a crucial tool in the process of valuing the sport to its fullest potential.”

 

8v10 ends

The survey primarily set out to gauge elite athletes’ views on the number of ends played in games at World Curling Championships and the Olympics Winter Games. Currently, ten ends are standard at these events.


© WCF / Richard Gray

The sample size ensured that the majority of respondents had played at competitive competitions under both eight and ten end rules.

  • When asked if ten ends were appropriate for championships:
    • 51% of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed
    • 49% of all respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed
  • When the same respondents were asked if eight ends were appropriate:
    • 65% of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed
    • 35% of all respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed
  • When asked if longer games – ten ends – “enables the most athletic and talented teams a greater chance of success”:
    • 60% of all respondents agreed or strongly agreed
    • 40% of all respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed

When considering athletes who had competed in the last eight years only, results varied.

  • When asked if ten ends were appropriate for championships:
    • 44% agreed or strongly agreed
    • 56% disagreed or strongly disagreed
  • Or if eight ends were appropriate:
    • 67% agreed or strongly agreed
    • 33% disagreed or strongly disagreed
  • When asked if longer games – ten ends – “enables the most athletic and talented teams a greater chance of success”:
    • 57% agreed or strongly agreed
    • 43% disagreed or strongly disagreed

There were some other variations. Considering gender alone, a higher percentage of female athletes preferred eight ends – 70% – than male – 64%. Also, a higher percentage of male athletes – 73% – felt that the ten end games enabled the more athletic and talented teams a greater chance of success. Only 40% of female athletes agreed with this.

 

Pace of play

This portion of the survey set out to establish if elite athletes preferred a thinking time allocation for the entire game, or per end. End timing was tested at the Curling World Cup in 2018-2019. Thinking time per end sought to provide a definitive window in which a game would start and finish, for broadcasting clarity.

Responses showed a clear majority – 84% – of athletes in favour of the current system of thinking time per game – which allows athletes to have more control over how they manage their time. When asked about shortening the time allocation, 77% disagreed or strongly disagreed.

 

© WCF / Céline Stucki

Coach interaction

Currently, in competition, athletes can call one time-out per game and another during each extra end. Coaches being given the authority to call time-outs, as well as the athletes, was a suggestion within the survey. Also, rather than a limited number of time-outs, either allowing coach interaction between every end, or at any time during the game, within the time allocation.


The survey produced the following results:

  • Women’s, men’s and mixed doubles athletes were 56% in favour of coaches calling time-outs. Wheelchair athletes were more in favour of this suggestion, at 65%.
  • For interaction between ends, women’s and men’s athletes agreed, 69%. Meanwhile, slightly less mixed doubles athletes agreed, 56%. Wheelchair athletes less so, 35%.
  • 78% of all respondents disagreed with coach interaction at any time.

 

Next steps

The World Curling Athlete Commission will take the findings to the World Curling Federation Board and Competitions and Rules Commission to determine the implications of the results as part of the Maximising the Value project.

The project acknowledges strong, evenly split, views are held on reducing the number of ends. It recognises that the introduction of mixed doubles at the Olympic Winter Games has heightened the discussion around the pace, as well as the length, of games.

During its Congress, in September, the Federation set out the objectives, stakeholders, considerations and timeframe for the project. More information about the Maximising the Value project can be found here.

 

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Perth, Scotland

15 October 2019