Tribute to the Lead
Our Fall Leagues begin tonight, so we're going to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the most unheralded of curling positions: the Lead. (All while not putting too much pressure on our new curlers who are playing Lead this season, of course.)
The Lead throws his or her team's first two rocks of each end. So, one may initially think that the Lead's rocks are the least important ones. In fact, during many curling broadcasts, one or both of the Lead's shots don't even make it onto television. By the time they get back from commercial, we may have already moved on to the Seconds. Why bother showing the Lead rocks, anyway?
Well, we like to think of things a little bit differently. We never, ever take our Leads for granted. We love our Leads!
It is true that a Lead never gets to throw the "money" shots. Usually, it's all guards and draws for the Lead. However, what the Lead does with his or her shots can have a huge impact on what happens for the rest of the end. Let's say the Lead throws her first rock into the house. Sure, the other team could hit it out immediately. But even if they do hit it out on the very next rock, you just prevented them from setting up something of their own. By putting that rock in the house, you dictated their game plan for them*. And that's assuming they even make the take-out; if they miss, then it's advantage you! Now you have a chance to guard that rock, and if you succeed, then the other team is going to be playing catch-up for the rest of the end, all thanks to you, the Lead.
(* - There is a wide variety of strategies one may employ with his team's Lead rocks, of course. That's a topic for another day.)
"Well...if the Lead is SOOO important, why do you make your new curlers play Lead, hmm?" Two reasons: there's less pressure, and it makes for great practice. If you want to practice your draw weight - perhaps the most important skill to acquire if you want to improve your game - Lead is the best position to play. Almost all of your shots are going to be draws or guards, and that repetition is great for developing one's curling ability. Outside of actual, dedicated practice, the best way to improve your game is to play Lead. So, what better position is there for our new curlers to play than Lead?
Another reason we love our Leads: sweeping. Who sweeps the most throughout a game? The Lead and the Second, of course. All the time, you're either throwing or sweeping. No breaks. It's a grind. And believe me, all the lazy Skips out there appreciate their hard work.
Finally, when the game's over and everyone chats about the game afterwards, "The Shot That Won The Game" may come up in conversation. Rarely will the shot or shots discussed be Lead rocks. The Skip or Vice-Skip always get all the glory. They get to throw the double take-outs, the final shot draw for the win, etc. But rest assured, Leads: if it wasn't for your setup shot, The Shot That Won The Game may have never happened. Oh, and who was sweeping on that Shot That Won The Game? The Lead and Second, of course.
Curling is a team sport. Every team member has something to contribute on every single shot...including the Lead. We're happy to have you, Leads!