Tuesday November 27, 2018
Winter is coming and I am headed indoors to keep cold and to curl. I just got back from a fantastic weekend in Toronto, where my newly formed competitive women’s curling team made the playoffs in a large curling tournament, otherwise known as a bonspiel. This season I am excited to be a part of a Great Lakes-based women’s curling team. My teammates are from both Michigan and New York. It makes sense that we play in Ontario because it’s halfway between both states, and we all know that curling is the second most popular sport in Canada. It is where all the top competition trains and competes.
As a member of Team Senneker (named after our skip, or team leader), I fall into several roles. I play second on the team, that means I throw the third and fourth stones (out of eight) and I sweep—a lot. Off ice I manage the team social media accounts, keep in touch with sponsors, chauffeur the team, and discover adventurous new dining spots for the ladies to try out. We are an amateur team trying to break into the competitive world, so that means, we pay out of pocket, try to find sponsors, and coordinate our busy schedules with the World Curling Tour’s competitive calendar. Our team age ranges from 18-50; we have one college student and four full-time working women. Balance is key between curling, working out, family time and work. Our team goal is to qualify for USA Nationals, which will be held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where we hope to be in contention for a bid to the World Championships.
Nothing beats being a life-long athlete. I could not imagine not competing in a sport. In 2006 I began curling, but I grew up watching it on the CBC in Detroit. Before I stepped on the ice I played rugby, basketball, lacrosse, and volleyball. Sport is in my blood. I began curling at the Detroit Curling Club in Ferndale, Michigan and competed at my first curling Nationals in 2010. Life took me to Chicago where I joined the Chicago Curling Club and then the Madison Curling Club in Wisconsin. I drove once a week from Chicago to Madison to curl with the best players in region and to work with an Olympic coach. I have curled all across the USA, Canada and in Switzerland; competed at US Women’s, Mixed, and Mixed Doubles National Championships, plus a slew of fun spiels.
Many of you know that curling is a winter sport that is played on ice, with brooms, where the players throw rocks and do a lot of yelling. In more recent news the USA Men’s curling team won a GOLD MEDAL at the Olympics this year. That is a huge accomplishment for this fringe sport, especially in a country that is next to Canada, where they expect to win the gold medal every time. More important, curling is a lifelong sport. Yes, there are elite curlers, but at local clubs you will find players of all ages. You can step on to the ice with an 80-year-old and a 15-year-old and play an entire game with both, at the same time. The sport welcomes all ages and abilities. There are opportunities for women and men of all ages and skill levels. Curling welcomes wheelchair curlers, deaf curlers, sight-limited curlers and able-bodied folks. Curlers love building community on and off the ice. If you are looking for a new sport to try out, this could be the one.
Did you know that Wigwam is based out of Wisconsin? The Spirit of Curling is already sewn into each pair. So Wigwam socks are super important! They are a critical uniform necessity, they keep my feet warm and dry. When you are sliding on ice for 5 hours or more, it is imperative that your feet stay warm. I love the crew socks, they keep my ankles warm and jazz up my feet. And they do not slide down like lesser socks. When you open up my curling bag you will always find at least two pairs of Wigwam Socks.
Like any sport, curling is evolving. It is changing on many levels—equipment, rules, athletes and playing population. Curling returned to the Olympics in 1988 propelled it to international fascination. This return to the world stage has led to many changes, especially in equipment. Curling shoes have become sleeker and faster (the sliding foot has Teflon or stainless steel adhered to the sole to allow curlers to glide.), but they are still rather unattractive. Broom-Gate occurred a couple years ago, where the fabric that covers the broom heads was called into question for giving users unfair technological advantages. Now all broom materials are regulated by the World Curling Federation. Before that you could use any fabric or hair brush you wanted while playing. And not that long ago you could use a corn broom. You think you need technique for sweeping with the modern broom, try sweeping with a corn broom. That is tough. And it is loud.
To make the sport more exciting the playing rules changed this year to a five-rock rule. So, if you place a “guard” in front of the house (target area) you cannot hit it/remove it out of play until the fifth rock has been thrown. This rule change has led to a more aggressive style of play leading to higher scoring games. This past year a mixed doubles (one female and male curler) debuted at the Olympics. Mixed doubles curling has its own set of rules, but makes it easier to learn curling strategy and keep folks playing. And wheelchair curling has its own unique rules and strategy.
It is a running joke that “dad bodies” are the shape of curling athletes. I can tell you first hand that curlers are working out more, practicing on ice more, and doing more of what other elite athletes do in and out of the gym and the kitchen. Curling uses a unique biomechanics, different from all other sports. You need to be physically strong in your core, legs and upper body, but you also need amazing balance, focus, communication and the ability to adjust to an ever-changing playing surface. We have not even touched on tactics. All in all, playing experience helps so much where you need to understand ice conditions the way a Mississippi river boat pilot needs to understand the river. Every curler needs to know how to adjust their rock delivery to the shot called by the skip in the house. It takes a lot of body control and mental conditioning to do it effectively. Curling is a real sport.
Curling is popping up everywhere in the United States and is no longer just a Minnesota and Wisconsin thing. In the past 10 years there has been major growth in the sport, often in hockey arenas. You can find arena clubs in California, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Nevada and even in Hawaii. Arena clubs are so popular they even have their own championship. Check out USA Curling’s website to find the closest club to you. I highly suggest taking your family or co-coworkers to a club to give it a whirl. Keep in mind it is a lot tougher then you think. One thing that is guaranteed is that you will have a ton of fun. Don’t forget to smile, wear loose clothes and wear your favorite Wigwam Socks! #myfavoritepair