Sunday, February 28, 2016

Eileen’s Curling Blog: “Good Curling!”
My Learn to Curl Adventure
Learn To Curl Class
December 19, 2016
I just finished my last Learn to Curl class at Cape Cod Curling Club and I can’t believe how much fun and challenging my Sunday evenings were with curling. I wanted to do the classes last year but there was no guarantee I would be in Falmouth every Sunday so had to decline. Now that I live and work here I eagerly signed up to take the Sunday evening classes which are a requirement to curl at the club.

Everyone else looked as nervous as I did that first night. What to expect? What will we be doing to learn how to slide that thing-what’s it called- across the ice? And did you know that the ice is not like smooth hockey ice but that it is a bumpy surface (called pebbled).

We gathered in a circle and did sign a release form (oh my! Is it that dangerous?). Then Joe and Kathy (amazing teachers) introduced themselves and talked about the sport of curling. We watched a short video on how to throw that 45-pound stone-but by throwing they actually meant slide!

We put grippers on our street shoes that were little rubber soles and they were held over our shoes with rubber bands. Then we had to get a “slider” or a white plastic piece to use on the ice when we were sliding to deliver the stone. to use too.

We went out to the sheets (that’s what you call the long icy game area) in groups of three. Joe had us get comfortable on the ice and then demonstrated how we were going to use two stones-one on each side-to practice the technique of sliding. My first time with my feet in the “hack” or the upright blocks where we start, went just fine. I have always had good balance and pretty athletic (ok I received the Most Athletic Female Award in my senior class and played two Division 3 sports in college) but the position of being low to the ice and having that stone was pretty unique. We took turns and practiced and some found it difficult to do. These people moved to what is called the stick group. Some people slide and some use sticks to push the stone.

We learned about how there are two “handles” or how you hold the stone to make it curl (at 10 or 2 o’clock). We learned how to sweep with our brooms. Sweeping makes the stone go further and not faster. I enjoyed the sweeping (great upper body exercise too) but I did “burn” the stone the first or second time I swept. Burning the stone means you touched the stone with your broom and that is against the rules and the stone then becomes out of play.

The next five Sundays we learned different parts of the sport and continued to practice either sliding or using the stick but my favorite part of the class was the last day. It was just like in Physical Education class so many years ago that we had to learn the skills then applied them into a game at the last class or last week. (Well, that’s another blog as my background is teacher preparation in Physical Education and research says that teaching with mini games is a more appropriate way to learn a sport. So…..I hope to get involved with the teaching next year or so as I have some ideas to assist so we are introduced to the game earlier in the class.)

So, my favorite was the last class as we played a few “ends.” An end is when both teams throw their eight stones to the other end of the sheet, alternating with the four players from each team. It was confusing who went first and the whole process of trying to aim! Long story short, we didn’t really learn how to play a real game but we had the fundamentals to begin to curl! Yea! It was a successful Learn to Curl class but I wondered why we didn’t have a graduation ceremony? Just teasing but it would be fun as we “graduated” to be able to curl at the Cape Cod Curling Club. I was excited but pretty unsure of myself of what would happen next but I was hooked and loved what I learned and wanted more!

Taking Initiative to Learn More or “TI” as my Family and Students Would Tell you
OK, I guess I am hooked on this thing called “curling.” I ordered as many books as I could (of course with my Amazon Prime for free shipping) and I even found a table top game for the condo so I could teach others about the game.

The books helped me learn some of the vocabulary with this new sport for me.
Let’s see off the top of my head-

The four players on a team-Skip, Vice Skip, Second and First

Hog line-the black line (and one of the books said it was 21 feet from the tee line) in front of the hack. The stone must be released before the hog line

Tee line-the line that goes through the center of the house

The House-The circles where players throw the stones

Button-the smallest circle in the house

End-the part of the curling game when each team has delivered their 8 stones

Hammer-the last stone of an end

Ok-there are many more but these are the basic terms you need to know.
Here is a video of one of the first times I tried the slide and delivery:

My last day of the Learn to Curl Class:

Celebration cupcakes I made for the class:

My First Complete Game of 8 Ends-
Thank you Thursday Guys!
First I need to share that I knew I loved curling and it became serious when I decided to buy my own broom and shoes! I am official now!

Second, it wasn’t until I played an entire game that I actually understood curling. Breaking down some of the skills, reading the books, watching at the club house, and even talking to people –this was all were fine, but it wasn’t until I actually went out to the sheet and went through an entire full end that the light bulb went off and I really understand how it all worked.

A very special SHOUT OUT THANK YOU to the group that goes to Open Thursday morning curling! Everyone was so kind and helpful with me when I played my first full game. When you walk into the Club you pull out your name index card and place it on the desk. Then an experienced curler puts those who come for Open Curling onto teams that are fairly equal in ability. There were others who were beginners like myself and it was comforting to know we were all in the same boat-first real game. How will it go?

When we went out to the ice everyone was smiling and happy to be there in the cold. We shook each other’s hands and said “good curling” to each player. This was just amazing! What other sport has opposing players saying “have a good game” before the competition? What would happen if pro football, hockey, or basketball did this? Then the two Firsts turned a device with a coin to randomly decide who went first in the game. After heads/tails was chosen and the team chose to get the “hammer” or last stone, then the opposing team was allowed to choose the color of stone.

I actually had to throw the stone first – oh-that’s why the 4th person (or the first)_ is called First. The first person usually sets up guards in front of the house but it was my goal to get the stone over the hog line and in play. I did really well and although I did not have a precise handle (a little curling pun there) on how to aim, I did well. In fact, in curling, the Skip tells you where to throw so he/she uses hand signals with their hands and broom to show you where to put the stone. I also learned all about the hand signals during this game too. It was also good to figure out where to stand when not playing and how we need to work together to sweep. Again, the Skip calls out of we should sweep so we need to listen and look up as we move down the ice with the stone. I must admit it was pretty had to figure out what Skip was calling out “SWEEP!” as there were teams on all three sheets.

After players switched off and threw, or actually slid the stones, all 16 stones (8 for each team) ended up at the opposite end of the sheet. Then the Skip and Vice Skip decided the score. Closest to the button scores, so if there were 8 red stones and no blue there, the score would be 8 (this is the best possible score and it rarely happens). My first end score was 2 for red for my team. What was truly amazing was how the others after me aimed to put the stone where the Skip told them to place it. The score is then put up on the board and the next end begins.

With the Open Curling time, players play 4 ends (this takes about an hour) and then take a 10-minute social coffee break. You sit at the table that represents what sheet you were playing on so I was at Sheet 3 table. Curling may or not be the topic of choice but the first game it was the topic as I was asking about rules and etiquette and timing of play and……Everyone was so helpful and did not mind answering simple questions. This is another uniqueness about curling-people are eager to share all they know about the sport.

After coffee break time, we played the second half of the game, or the other 4 ends of play. I was already feeling better about understanding the rules, etiquette, and order of play. I did have to ask for help with hand signals but that will come too.

Finally, I was part of a winning team the first time I ever played a full game! The score was 6-2 so I was excited. I am a little competitive and it was fun to play well with good outcomes but for me, my take away with my first game was that I loved playing and being out there on the ice. There was also an 87-year-old on the other team so age doesn’t matter in curling. With Open Curling there may be 20-80 year olds out on the ice playing at the same level. So, thanks THURSDAY MORNING OPEN CURLERS AT CAPE COD CURLING CLUB. You know who you are that helped me with my first REAL game. I’ll never forget it.

One of the “regular” Thursday morning curlers who helped me. 
Thanks Bob and all the regulars on Thursday!

I’m in a League!
January –February 2016
I continued to play in the Thursday morning Open Curling time for a few weeks as I usually have off from work that day. The group supported me and helped me learn more about what I needed to be more successful with curling too, but I truly feel playing and not just practicing helps a beginner learn more about the sport. After a few weeks of Thursday curling, I had the opportunity to sub for the Saturday Schord League for players with 5 years and less experience. Ok, it was a step up form my morning curling but I liked the step up so I ended up registering for the start of a new session for the Saturday. Being part of a team that was going to play together each week appealed to me, too.

I’ve curled for two weeks of the Saturday league and have really enjoyed the experience. I was assigned to play Second (and not First) so I threw the third and fourth stones of the game for my team. I was very nervous about having to place the stone and do take outs when you knock out a stone. So, instead of setting up guards with the stone as a First, I had to place the stone in the house or take out one that was there. Yes, I’ve become better at reading the signals but I also learned more about the weight of my throw with the stone. A draw is when you place the stone in the house, too so you use a lighter stone weight.

I was relieved in that I really didn’t have to “think” or “plan” what to do and I followed what the Skip told me to do. (If my son Brendan, a mathematician, ever plays he would make a good Skip as it is strategy with reading angles of hitting or placing stones as well as reading the ice.)
I tried my very best to do what the Skip said but sometimes it was hard because I am still learning the “feel” and how to slide and release the stone with the right handle.

My Skip and Vice Skip were just amazing helping myself and the First of my team curl the right way. We lost our first league game but I am pleased to report that the second week we won by quite a lot (11-2). We started to “gel” as a team and we all played well. I do believe teamwork and working as a team to support each other is an essential part of curling. I even feel more comfortable calling out is we should be sweeping.

With our Saturday League we don’t take a coffee break between the 8 ends, but instead both teams sit down together at the completion of the 8 ends (of course at the right sheet table) and share a beverage of one’s choice. While a team would rather win the game, one of the pros of losing in curling, at least at the Club where I play, is that the losing team gets a drink bought for them by the winning team.  The week my team lost, I was bought a drink by the Second on the opposing team but this week I had to buy that payer a drink as we were the winning team. What fun!

March 1, 2016

I have thoroughly enjoyed my curling time and have been talking about my new sport to everyone who will listen. People have come to see me and I think I may have a following and maybe even some who will want to try it. I feel “official” as I also bought a real pair of curling gloves that have grip textures on the fingers.

I even am hanging my broom in the ladies’ locker room.

I have an amazing team for the Saturday league (tanks David, Will and Caroline) and am improving each week. Like any sport you have good days and hard days but the past few times I have curled I have been able to deliver the stone better and vary the weight when I throw different types of shots. I signed up for my first Bonspiel March11-13 so I think I will write about that experience next. I’m eager to curl and enjoy the sport and keep talking and writing about it.  My hubby wants to learn, too, so that will be fun. Good curling all.

My new magnet on my Prius!

Thursday, March 3, 2015
Learning a New Role! I Vice-Skipped Today!

What a great morning of fun curling with the Thursday morning open curling group. It’s a drop in time at our club and it has been a time that has helped me to learn and even make mistakes with my new found sport of curling. When you walk, you take an index card out of a box and leave it on the desk. This way the organizers know when is there to play and they make teams that are equitable with experienced and novice players. When the teams are made, ay 8:55 before the 9:00 start time, someone rings the bell and then reads the names of players and positions on each team. I even

Well I had a shock today! The numbers were down and there were fewer players than normal and I was moved from second to Vice-Skip. Actually our team was going to play with three instead of four players, too. I said, “NO, I’m not ready! I was just getting used to moving from First to Second!” But, Mike Minior, kindly told me, “you’ll be fine, You’re with me.” I jokingly said I was nervous but eager to learn. Usually I just had to listen to the boss or the Skip and do what we call-throw to the broom with the appropriate weight but now I was a part of being the boss. What has happened here?

Off to the ice we went and we won the coin flip. When my teammate (Roger) threw his three stones I had to sweep and then I was up to throw. But let’s get to the exciting part….walking down the ice to confer with the Skip and then I used the hand signals!  (Heck two months ago I didn’t even understand the signals!) I even had to learn where to stand when the two Skips when down to throw their stones and the Vice Skips were at the opposite end in the house. Thanks Mark for reminding me to stand behind you when the other team is up. And the Vice Skip can sweep a stone when it crosses the hog line but can only sweep the opponent’s stone after the T-line in the house. Anyway, Mike, the Skip and my mentor shared what he wanted to do and how I hold the broom and proper arm out for the handle.

I must admit the new role was one where I felt more pressured to make the shots for the team. There was a combination of take outs and draws. But, what I enjoyed the most was having Mike talk to me about how the stones were placed and the strategy of what play to make. We talked (ok- I’ll admit I mostly listened and learned) and then I held the broom and handle arm as the Skip went to the opposite end of the sheet to make the play. Ah boy! Was he making some fancy shots today. The second four ends were our best and we own those with one end of a score of 5 in the house.

I have a new perspective of the Skips and Vice Skips. They do take responsibility for reading the ice, strategy, and what I call being the “boss,” but curling is still a team sport. Working together, playing well and “jelling” as a team are important. My Thursday morning curling group/team really jelled the second four ends. I was much more comfortable in the Vice Skip role as our game progressed. A very special thank you to Mike who shared his expertise and helped me with my first experience as Vice Skip. Although it was exciting, for now I think I ‘ll stay with being Second, but look out curling world as I think I may just want to move to Vice Skip again soon.

Thanks for putting up with me Mike! Best Vice Skip training ever!

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