20 in 10: Goose Perez
After beating Germany 6-5 in their third match of the tournament I caught up with the skip of the USA Curling team Augusto "Goose" Perez.
Perez is from Syracuse, New York and began curling in 2005. He was a member of the US team in Torino and was skip of the team that won a bronze medal at World Championships in 2008 and lost a bronze medal to Germany in 2009 on the last throw of the match.
Perez, father of five-year-old twins, is also a world champion in outrigger canoe.
At the beginning of each curling match they say, "You may now cool your wheels." What do they mean by that?
If you don't cool your wheels they're too hot and you'll melt lines in the ice, which is not good for curling. So that's a big no no. We roll around to cool our tires off.
How much warm-up time do you get in curling and are you really able to get a read on the ice before the match begins?
We get about eight or nine minutes before the game starts to practice. And everybody is keeping an eye out for what the ice is doing. We help each other out. We get to practice the night before for about 50 minutes. It isn't that much but it helps out.
Being the skip on the team you're spending most of your time on the opposite side of the ice as everyone else. How do you communicate with your teammates on the other side?
We do a lot of screaming. Also we have hand signals. I can tell them where a take out is with my hands. If it needs to be light, heavy or normal (weight), and I can tell them which direction I want the turn of the stone and also if I need them to move the rock in or out before they shoot. Almost, a little like baseball.
When you're throwing, do you set up the shot and tell your vice-skip where to hold the broom, or does Pat (the vice-skip) make the call?
(Pat) becomes the skip when I'm shooting. I tell him where I think the broom should be, then I go to the other side and double check. I double check with Jim Pierce (second thrower) and then Patrick confirms. It is a team effort, because it's hard to remember every single broom during the game, so everybody has to have input.
Is it any different these games coming in as the skip as opposed to when you were throwing second in Torino?
No no. More decision making on my part, but with the teammates that I have it's easier because I made sure for the last few years, I stressed that we all need to know some strategy. Everybody has their input. It makes my job easier. I enjoy it.
What do you talk about between ends?
Basically, in this particular game, when we're down, what I tell them is "that you guys have to believe that we can come back. We don't have to score four points, just score two and steal one, and steal one, and just little bites will take you to the win. And we just have to be patient and start executing a little bit better." And that's what we did.
Do you talk strategy?
Yes, every single end. If we have the hammer, if we don't have the hammer. Depends what the score is, we'll say we're going to go aggressive, we're going to go defensive, we're going to go for corner guards, we're going to go for take outs or we're going to keep it clean. We discuss what we want to do for that end.
Are different teams known for doing different things strategically?
Yes. Great Britain likes to draw. They're a pretty good drawing team. Korea is an excellent hitting team. You have to have a mix of everything, depending on your position on the team. Usually the seconds (second to throw) throw the most take outs because they have to clean out the house. The skip has to throw a little bit of everything. Either I'll seal the game with a guard, or I'll have to get one in to get a score or to get multiples. Sometimes I have to clean up with a take out.
What is the difference in mindset depending on whether you are throwing first, second, third or last?
Well our lead sets up the game. She will give us guards in order to get behind for a steal, or she will set up corner guards so we can go for two or three points. Second is usually the clean up guy. Third usually draws in and if the game goes our way I should be throwing guards. If not, I will draw extra points or sometimes I will have to throw a take out.
What is going through your head when you are lining up a shot?
We try to see in our heads where the shot is. You try to see the shot being made. If you in your head can't see the shot made it is one of two things: it can be it's the wrong call, or not enough broom (space for the stone to curl). If it's the right call you just focus on the shot in your head before you release.
Why do you hum when you shoot?
Attention Deficit Disorder. It concentrates me, blocks everything out. The only thing I see is the broom and the stone. The world could fall apart next to me and I wouldn't know.
What do you guys think of Vancouver?
We were here last year so we got to see a little bit. We've got the night off tonight, so I'm going to go downtown with my wife just to walk around a little bit. But it is a beautiful town, excellent people. There's so many friendly people, it's phenomenal.
How is your second Paralympic Games going so far?
Back in Torino, it was an excellent experience but I think I am more mature this second time around. I'm enjoying it more, the actual game. We're a more mature team, we play much better, we know more what we're doing. It makes it easier and more enjoyable.
How did it feel to get a little bit of revenge on Germany after what happened at the World Championships last year?
I don't take it as revenge because revenge will block your mind. I just take it one game at a time.
Part of the tradition of curling is to go to the clubhouse after a match and have a beer. What do you do after a match?
I don't drink so I just have-- I call it "my old lady's"--a cranberry and orange. We just chill out and talk to the other team. You congratulate the other team for the good shots they made. Then you do the Monday Morning Quarterback. You question the calls that you made.
Do you watch film?
Yes, yes. Every single game is recorded and as skip I spend a lot of hours reviewing the game. The toughest part is seeing the games that you lose but those are the games that you have to learn from. In order to become a better skip that's what I have to do. I review every single game.
Do you watch film of the other teams?
When we get a chance we do. Sometimes it's hard to record two games. Other times, if we are not playing we record other stuff just to see it. The strategy doesn't change that much. We have no control over what they do, just what we do.
You do a little bit of canoeing as well. Do any of the skills cross over?
The cardio helps your heart rate remain low when you shoot so you don't feel overcome. Also, to be able to do stuff under pressure. I basically don't even know where people are, I don't even know where my wife is in the stands. I tell her I don't know where you are until the game is done. Right now I belong to the ice and that's it.
How are you going to get ready for your next match?
Right now just get with the team. We're hoping to see the sled hockey team. Team USA is playing tonight so we're hoping to be able to support the guys. Pretty fun crew over there. Get my mind off the ice. We have two tough games tomorrow and we have to keep the momentum.