Some say hurry. Some say hard.*
It’s fun to learn the vocabulary of the game. It’s fun to learn the etiquette. It’s fun to banter with your teammates and opponents during the game.
I should have seen it coming. It started with my husband pausing a little too long on curling matches while scrolling through events during the winter Olympics . Soon it was full matches so I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked when he announced he was going to the Sutton Curling Club’s open house last fall. But when he came home and asked me to join too it was definitely a surprise. We signed up for two nights a week because, we were told, it was the best way to improve quickly.
Let’s just say there was a certain trepidation on my part. I love sports. I love anything requiring hand-eye coordination. I love competing but curling? Think bowling on ice and you start to get the idea. Bowling on ice with the slipperiest thing possible stuck to the bottom of one foot. What could go wrong?
There are no team practices so we went out onto the ice for our first game and met our team (two members other than my hubby and me) and the four-member opponent’s team. Fist bumps all around. The pre-game warm up consists of pushing off the hack (a little piece of rubber stuck into the ice) and sliding as long as you can without looking like an idiot. Once. Then, as the weakest member of the team, I get to go first while everyone watches. No pressure. The skip (the strongest member of the team) stands a hundred feet away and points hopefully at a spot on the ice where he wants your rock to stop and then shuffles a few feet to the left or right and puts the broom down, giving you something to aim at. That’s right, the rock doesn’t actually go where you aim it. It does for a while, but then the tiny little spin you give it when you release it starts to move it sideways across the ice – a lot.
Sometimes you throw it too hard, sometimes not hard enough. Most of the time the skip yells at the other two members of your team to furiously sweep the ice in front of your rock to make it go straighter or farther. Don’t let anyone tell you curling is not good exercise. I managed to get sweaty AND pull a muscle sweeping my first night out.
My first match was NOT memorable but every person on the ice was so damn nice about it. If you are open to coaching you will get lots of it and it works. A few games in, you begin to tell whether you should start sweeping the rock without being shouted at by the skip. You understand why you are being asked to put a rock in a certain spot and you actually, miraculously, start being able to put it there. You start to appreciate that the two rocks you throw actually contribute to your team’s ability to win. And it gets to be seriously good fun.
It’s fun to learn the vocabulary of the game. It’s fun to learn the etiquette. It’s fun to banter with your teammates and opponents during the game. And it’s fun to buy a drink for the team you beat after the match. Most of all it’s fun putting names to faces you’ve seen for years and getting to know them in a way you only can through sport.
I just bought my own broom. I think I’ve finally found my winter sport.
* Hurry and hard are expressions the skip uses to tell you to sweep.