You probably watched curling during the winter Olympics, but odds are you don’t know much about it, and you’ve probably never tried it.
Drake student John Maher gave us the opportunity, and an education about the sport. “It began in the 1500’s in Scotland and was actually started by farmers tossing the stones on rivers,” he explains. “It’s a game of honor – there are no referees, even at the Olympic level so if you make a foul or touch a stone illegally, you have to call it on yourself.”
We quickly learned that curling is also a game of strategy that has its own unique terminology. We have no idea what John means when he says, “The goal is to get the ‘stone’ into ‘the house’ and you do that with the help of ‘sweepers’…”
The lingo doesn’t really matter. What does matter is learning how to slide. “We’re going to start out at the basic level,” John tells Sonya. “Okay, basic is good!” she replies with a laugh.
John shares a rhyme players use when it comes to getting into position. “It’s heel toe, down you go.” That’s the start of the slide. The ending is not pretty. “This is a lot harder than it looks!” Sonya says after wiping out. My attempt is no better. Once I’m crouching, John says, “Then you just slide out!” I laugh and say, “Sure you do!” right before I push off and end up face down on the ice.
John makes it look easy – probably because he’s been curling for years. He grew up in Wisconsin and his high school had curling as a varsity sport. When he came to Drake he brought the sport with him – starting the first curling club in Iowa. “It challenges you physically, but one thing that’s really nice is it’s accessible to anyone. You don’t have to be aerobically gifted or a big weight lifter to do it.”
We’re learning firsthand that curling takes balance and flexibility and is great upper-body workout. “Over the course of a curling game, you can actually do the sweeping for over a miles because you do it so much,” John says.
But the thrill of the sport comes in getting the “stone” in the “house”. Something Sonya does on her last slide. We cheer like we’re actually playing a real game and high-five… this is proof that anyone can enjoy the sport.
You can try curling this Saturday. The Drake Curling Club is holding an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 at the Metro Ice Arena. It’s $10 to attend.
For more information check out the club’s website.