How data analysis helped Team Homan triumph at the Scotties
Rachel Homan won 3rd title with thrilling extra-end win over Manitoba
Curling fans who watched Rachel Homan eke out a thrilling extra-end win in Sunday's Tournament of Hearts final might chalk up her team's dominance to intense training, brilliant strategizing, or simply a sheer passion for the sport.
But there's also the team's obsession with measuring almost every aspect of their on-ice performance.
"I think it's really important to just make sure that we're tracking everything that's going on out there," said team coach Adam Kingsbury on CBC Radio's All In A Day, one day after the Homan rink took home its third Scotties title.
"My face is buried in a laptop partially to collect data and, I think, to give me something to do keep the nerves away."
Ice speed, shot selection analyzed
While other sports such as baseball and basketball have been tracking minute in-game variables for years now, it's a relatively new practice in curling.
From the sidelines, Kingsbury uses a laptop and an iPad to keep track of variables including ice speed, shot selection and turn choice — as well as whether or not the shots are made.
For Emma Miskew, who throws third rocks for the Homan rink, it's important to have someone else tracking that data when the team is so intensely focused on making their shots.
"When we're in our games we don't really pick up on the fact that maybe, one spot on the ice, we're weaker than one other spot," Miskew told All In A Day.
For instance, the team's data from 2016 showed her out-turn draw (a shot that rotates counter-clockwise for a right-handed curler) was slightly less consistent than her in-turn (which rotates clockwise).
So Miskew decided she'd work on it.
"At the beginning of this season I just focused a little bit more on my out-turn speed and release, so that it would be more even with my in-turns. And I think I've been able to merge the two, now."
Better than using your gut
Shot tracking is only one piece of "a much larger puzzle," Kingsbury said. But the team's data collection practices give them clarity about their strengths and weaknesses, even if there aren't too many of the latter.
"We in general, as people, rely on our gut, on our emotions, to tell us what's happening in a situation. But the fact is multiple observations are needed over time to really give ourselves a better sense of what's happening," he said.
"We're going to look back [on the Scotties and see] that every single thing that needed to be done was done. And it's special."