The Morning I Learned to Curl


My whole life I’ve loved the Olympics, the sports and the spirit of competition.

When I was little I tried to be Nadia Comaneci in the backyard, Dorothy Hamill on roller skates in the driveway, and just this morning, I tried to be Debbie McCormick. Who? Debbie McCormick, the skip of the US Women’s curling team.

I did’t know what to expect when I joined some of the members of the San Francisco Bay Area Curling team on the ice in San Jose. I’d never tried curling before, and honestly never really even watched it on t.v.
My coach was Barry Ivy, who was born in Canada and has decades of curling competition under his belt.
He showed me to put my left foot on a slippery little pad that would let me glide after pushing off the starting-block-like hack with my right foot while holding onto the stone with my right hand and leaning into my broom with my left.
After a few tumbles (I can feel a bruise brewing on my right knee and one in my left, ahem, bun) I think I got the hang of it. Ivy says it’s a sport you can pick up quickly, then improve over a lifetime.
Once I stopped thinking about how silly I might look, I liked gliding over the ice. And once I remembered to let go of the stone so the sweepers could help it make its way home – the ultimate goal – I could see how these Bay Area curlers got hooked.
There are only about a hundred of them in the Bay Area, and they often practice at 10 o’clock at night after the hockey players, figure skaters and speed skaters go home. There are no dedicated curling facilities in the Bay Area, where in the Midwest and Canada, they’re as easy to find as a bowling alley. Still, the Bay Area curlers are enthusiastic about their sport, willing to teach anyone who wants to learn and welcoming of anyone who wants to watch with folks who can do play by play in person.
Curling has very few rules: let go before the blue line, if you touch a stone, you fess up on the honor system, and you don’t cheer when someone misses. It’s a dignified game that values good sportsmanship. Maybe that’s why I liked it.
I may not go pro, but I would definitely like to try again, and USN’t that what the Olympics are supposed to inspire? Tuesday, The US men’s curling team takes on Germany and the US women’s curling team takes on Japan. I will be watching, I hope you will be too.

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