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If you are a seasoned curler or just starting out, you most likely have one or several treasured bling items called pins! There are serious collectors who dedicate years of their time and finances displaying their prized collections of thousands at museums and curling venues across North America. Then there are those who modestly exhibit their prized memorabilia on personal items, their curling jackets, hats, or bags. Pins are a great conversation starter when socializing! Stories are excitedly shared when asked about a particular club pin and how it was obtained. Pins can be exchanged during bonspiels, or given as gifts to visiting club members from across the country. Serious collectors continue to search for the elusive and exclusive pins that hopefully, one day, will complete their collection.
As a Lone Star Curling Club member, we hope you will flaunt your “curling bling” wherever you travel and on whatever display medium works for you. This is your “story board” to share with other curlers and non-curlers, your unique game experiences, and encourage them to encounter their own.
To commemorate the year of 2016, the Lone Star Curling Club 10th Anniversary, each club member will be given a new 10th anniversary pin to either start or add to their collection. Wear it, swap it, or trade it with Lone Star pride!
How will you boast about your curling happenings through your pin collection? We would like to catch a glimpse of and listen to your unique Lone Star Curling Club pride. See you on the ice!
League play at the Lone Star Curling Club has two sometimes contradictory goals. First, the club aims to be competitive. Second, the club will attempt to allow curlers who want to play together to do so.
The board starts by deciding how many weeks we want to curl, or as it sometimes ends up, how many weeks Chaparral Ice will let us have the ice to curl. This gets us typically to a 12 or 13-week schedule. With 13 weeks, we can have 12 teams with each team playing 10 games, 2 byes, and 1 playoff week. With 5 sheets of ice, we have a very balanced schedule and every team can play the same number of games although not all teams play each other.
Now that we hopefully have 48 curlers, I start to put together the 12 teams. The first rule is that no teams gets to dominate. So if a team won the championship, I have to determine if it was a one-time fluke, if the team has won more than the single championship, and if they’re likely to dominate again. If I think they’ll dominate, the team will be “broken up”. Perhaps a single player may swap in and out or perhaps all curlers go to new teams. I then look at the teams that didn’t make the playoffs and ask the same questions? Were they unlucky or did they under-perform? Are these experienced curlers that don’t play well together, or were there new curlers that are going to get better and perhaps be in the playoffs next season? Perhaps they just had curlers who had to miss games for whatever reason. I may consider replacing players on these teams near the bottom to bring them up a level. This analysis is time-consuming but when I see a half dozen teams fighting for playoff position like I saw last year, it’s rewarding and worth the effort.
So what about the teams that want to continue playing together? I look at these and see where they are in the standings. If they’re at the top, I may not want this to continue. If they’re in the middle of the pack or lower down, why not let them continue playing together? Sometimes it’s not the entire team, but just a couple that wants to play together (or not play together), and I will try to accommodate that too.
To further complicate the issues, we always have new curlers and curlers that leave the club or take a season off. With new curlers, they may have moved to the Austin area and have experience (as I did), or they have have just completed a Learn-To-Curl. These get factored in.
In the end, I hope we have a set of balanced teams and that most of the games are competitive. We guess as to which teams might be stronger or weaker than others (perfect balance is impossible) but there are always surprises. That’s why we play the game. On arena ice, any game can be won by either side on any given day.
If power-house teams want to play together, they’re welcome to do that for bonspiels. We may also consider this for mini-leagues as we did for the teams that represented the club at the US Arena Curling National Championships in 2015.
Once teams are formed, I then put together the schedule. When I look at the blank schedule, I’ll see that team #1 has byes on weeks x and y. If a curler has said that he or she can’t play on week x, I’ll put the curler on team 1. Sometimes I get lucky and I’ll have multiple curlers or multiple dates that can be accommodated. Having advance notice is the key here – once the schedule has been released, it’s too late to make any changes. Last season, I was able to accommodate every curler that wanted byes on specific weeks with at least 1 match.
As the season progresses, we have issues with curlers missing games and this happens regularly for a variety of reasons. We have a spare list that we encourage every curler to join. As opportunities are identified, we put out a call for spares. The earlier we know a curler is going to miss a game, the better. We have turned away subs in the past thinking we didn’t need them when we did.
Finally, it’s game day. We start with a list of matchups and the list of curlers who are expected to be there. We check email to see if there are any last minute cancellations. If there are any teams with only 2 curlers, they get the first shot at the spares so that we can have real games. If we can’t get a minimum of 3 curlers per team, the team forfeits (which creates a different set of issues). Assuming we have at least 3 curlers per team, I now look at the caliber of the players that are missing and the caliber of the players that are available to sub. The teams missing the best players get the best subs in an attempt to still keep the games competitive. It doesn’t always work out well because subs still have to throw lead so you may be replacing an experienced skip with an experienced lead.
Well I try to do some practicing at home- it’s obviously not as good as the real thing, but it’s helpful to keep my form and technique sharp in-between each of my matches. Before I get into what I do and what works for me, I’ll provide a little background.
My first time curling, I subbed for my mother’s team with absolutely no experience and no knowledge about curling. It was on dedicated ice and I absolutely loved it. For the next few weeks, I studied every curling video I could find, read through the whole of Wikipedia and other online articles to learn everything I could about curling. I then decided that I wanted to be on my own curling team and to work on my delivery to look like the pros. Learning about the proper form was easy enough to find online, but the tricky part was in how to practice it, especially without the help of an experienced and knowledgeable person at my side to correct anything. But I practiced everyday in my bedroom and living room, and by the time I started in my own league, people assumed I had curled for at least a year already and I was a much more consistent player from the start.
When I was first learning the delivery, I rehearsed all the steps as laid out on the USA Curling Association site and various instructional videos. I started by practicing on a carpeted surface first to maintain easy stability and to focus on more of the body mechanics. I started slowly at first and over the course of the first couple days I made it more fluid and rhythmic, like finding your swing tempo in golf. I would take video of myself and compare it to the videos I was watching- some of these included olympic curlers from the 2014 Sochi games. But I didn’t worry about looking like one of the world’s best, I would mostly focus on getting the mechanics first and building a solid delivery foundation. So today I do mostly the same thing, but this time I do it on a hardwood surface and use some slippery socks to help mimic ice slipperiness to work on my balance.
I have found that despite playing on arena ice once a week at most with no practice time, that these at-home routines can help tremendously in maintaining or even improving your form. Give some of these a try and put your own twists on them for what works for you and what your apartment/house gives you.
Having recruited Guy Davis, John Vesel, and my daughter Emily to the team, we set out the Thursday before Memorial Day to Shark’s Ice in Fremont, California for a weekend of fun and competition. I had developed a scratchy throat the night before, but my spirits were high and I was looking forward to the guaranteed four games. From a competitive standpoint Goal 1 was to play 5 games. Goal 2 was to play 6 games.
Draw One on Friday found us matched against Bone, a team from the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club (SFBACC). The weekend started perfectly as we won our match, had Guy throw a great tie-breaking draw (5-3/4 inches), and made some friends with some great people from the opposing side (this would be a recurring theme). Later on Friday we were grounded by “Joe Smith!, Joe Smith!” (Wine Country), a game that showed us how much pressure a good team can really keep on you. “Joe Smith!, Joe Smith!” would go on to reach the semis in the A division.
Watching the commentary on the replay of our second game late Friday night, where they were struggling with pronouncing my last name, the commentators found the team name that I had missed — “Sharks With Glaesers”. Oh well.
Saturday morning things started getting a bit interesting. I woke up without a voice as my throat was getting worse, due in some part I’m sure to the extensive sweep calling from the day before. In any case Emily and I headed out to pick up Guy in San Jose and then John from the BART station in Fremont where he was coming in from San Francisco just as we had done the day before. But where Friday had been a regular work day, BART was using the long weekend to do some track maintenance and John’s route now included a bus jump from one station to another to bypass the in-progress work. The delay was so much that it threatened our ability to arrive in time, so the remainder of the team headed for the rink so as to avoid the forfeit. Upon arrival, I asked at the registration desk, in a cracking and often inaudible voice, if there might be a friendly local who could pick John up and bring him back for us. Two of the ladies immediately volunteered, and while Emily set up communication between the volunteer and John, I inquired about the rules for playing with three and having a fourth join. We could indeed start with three, and for John to join he would have to make it for the start of the second end, otherwise we would have to continue without him.
Having no control at this point over that emergency, we turned our attention to our other issue of the day — my laryngitis. After joking about me texting sweep instructions, we decided that if I could not be heard, I would clap if I wanted the brooms in action. I actually used this method a few times over the next few days, and it worked for us.
Now it was time to head down to the ice and, including our team, the total number of curlers there to throw the game was three. For the uninitiated, I will tell you this is fewer than you would normally expect for a curling match. As the other games were getting under way, one of the players from the other team, Yo Banana Boy (SFBACC), arrived. She said that the others were in a car and on their way. So there we waited, in a bit of an awkward position, not helped by the fact that I really couldn’t talk. Finally, the rest of YBB arrived, and their first rock was thrown about the time John arrived, just in time for our first throw. The game itelf was another lesson that decent shots were punished and that we would need to be really throwing sharp to compete. We were never in the game and rarely in an end.
Our pool play was done, and with a record of 1-2, we were placed in to the C division for the elimination phase of the bonspiel, and Guy’s great tie-breaking draw wasn’t needed after all.
Our opponent for the quarter-finals was Bisons on the Bay, a composite team from all over, but all originally from Winnipeg. The Bisons were easy to pick out in a crowd — they were the ones wearing the huge, furry bison hats with horns. Once again we were facing a team that kept placing shot after shot, but this time we upped our game. The ends were very interesting and competitive, and we pulled off several key shots to keep the Bisons from getting a big end when they had control of the house. Our good play had earned us only a 6 to 2 deficit entering the 7th, but unlike our last two games we had limited the damage.
In the 7th we were able to split the house and put some pressure on the Bisons, and they finally missed some takeouts. With the hammer, we had a shot for a double takeout on touching, but angled rocks. A nose hit and stick would give us four and tie the game. Unfortunately, my line was not right and Guy was a bit off the broom. Not to the side that corrected my line, the side that accentuated the error. The miss left us sitting one and headed to the 8th down three and without hammer.
By the time that the back end of the final end was to be played, the house had stones all over the front of the 12 foot, and guards covering practically every shot. Bisons had one rock at the top of the 8 foot on the left side, the shot rock with plenty of cover. We were sitting 2, 3, 4 in the 12 foot, but needed to get shot rock out. Our 7th stone was an attempt at a light takeout through a small gap, which barely caught the guard. Bisons quickly and effectively replaced the guard to an even better position, eliminating any chance for the takeout. A straight runback was also not an option, as we couldn’t risk sending a Bison rock in. The only play was a runback of our outside guard, angling it back in and getting a direct hit on the shot rock six feet away.
Now the miss in the 7th came back to help us. There was some fall on the sheet (well, not compared to our ice, but, you know, enough to notice), but the recent line miscalculation was based on the side of the sheet playing true with no need to worry about fall. A line was chosen, a shot was thrown, and vigorous sweeping was employed to keep the stone on line. As the red Bison stone was swept to the back of the house and the promoted yellow now sat on the inside of the 12 foot, nearly equidistant with its two brothers and joined by another at the outside of the ring, yellow sat four. It had only been moments before that in analyzing the shot to be attempted a Bison had said “Stranger things have happened.”
Now it was time for the hammer shot — equally difficult for them if they were to remain in the game. A hit and roll was chosen and delivered. Off target, but nicking a guard, the shooter rolled into the house with enough weight to get to the 8 foot. As it headed in it kissed shot rock and spun to the middle of the 12 foot to sit fourth. The game was 6-6 and a skip’s shot would determine who would advance.
Guy went first and threw a perfect rock, and with some sweeping on and off throughout the shot, ended up at the edge of the one foot, just under 6 inches from the button. So maybe that tie-breaking rock from the previous day was important after all? In any case, when the Bison rock came up short, we had secured our spot in the semis for Sunday morning.
At broomstacking, the Bisons could not have been more friendly and gracious. We knew from the game that were great guys and a lot of fun, and we had a great time with them after. John headed back to San Fran and the next thing I knew Ken and Tim from the Bisons had recruited Emily and Guy to join them for live stream announcing duties for the last 15 minutes of Draw 11, Draw 12, and the start of Draw 13. I, of course, was physically unable to perform any announcing duties. There may not have been a lot of key strategy commentary delivered on the games in play, but here is an UPDATE!!! for you: there was a lot of fun and frequent Bison references to having their “guts pulled out of their stomachs”. There may have also been some libations in the booth. (Draw 12 can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL16q-VWchY)
On Sunday we cruised through the semis and had a short break before throwing in the finals. Again facing a tough team that didn’t seem to miss many shots, we played well (never gave up more than one in an end), but just couldn’t hit enough shots to pull it out, bowing out at 5-2 after seven ends.
It was great throwing six games and learning some “flattish ice” strategy as well as learning never to throw blue-handled rocks. It was alos a great confidence boost to play on ice that you could trust your shots on, it seemed to be easier to make shots as the weekend went on. It was awesome to take some Lone Star Curling Club pride to the west coast and show folks that we can curl a bit in Texas.
That gets us back to the award ceremonies, where we got our C runner-up medals. Great to be sure, but just a capper to a memorable weekend filled with curling, fun, pins, and new friends.
You can check out information on the bonspiel, results, and broadcasts at these locations:
Or feel free to ask Guy, John, Emily, or myself about the experience. We’d be glad to fill in some details, and will no doubt get you yearning to head to a bonspiel next season.
Even for curlers at the club level, sweeping is still very important. Aside from the obvious function of clearing debris from the path of the rock, the sweepers are able to affect the trajectory of the rock after it has been released by the thrower. In theory, the sweepers can start sweeping as soon as they want, even before the rock has been released. In practice, however, the sweepers usually begin their job at the hog line.
Many times you will see the skip or the thrower join in the action for various reasons. This is not normally encouraged because the effectiveness of a third sweeper is fairly minimal since they are far away from the rock. Unless there is only one sweeper, the skip should always stay in the house and let the two regular sweepers handle the rock. This is because the skip needs to be watching the line and giving sweepers commands.
The sweepers may sweep the rock for most of the length of the sheet. While the rock is in motion, the sweepers are responsible for judging the speed of the rock. If it is heavy or just right then no sweeping is necessary, but if it is light, the sweepers should just start sweeping; no command is necessary from the skip. In fact, for an experienced team, the skip expects the sweepers to judge every rock like this, while he concentrates on the line and whether the rock is curling too much or not enough. Sweepers will also communicate with their skip to let him know the speed of the rock and where they expect it to end up as it travels down the ice. This is perhaps one of the most advanced functions of the sweepers at the club level and a skill that takes a great deal of practice to get right.
Once the rock crosses the tee line, the throwing team may have only one sweeper sweeping. At this point one sweeper, normally the skip, can sweep an opponent’s rock that is in motion. Each team may, in fact, have a player sweeping the same rock. If multiple rocks are in motion beyond the tee line, each team may again have only one player sweeping, so that player must decide which rock to sweep. Though mix ups sometimes occur, at no time may the sweepers from opposing teams intentionally interfere with each other.
Perhaps the least understood aspect of sweeping is what happens when a rock is burned. If a rock is burned between the hog lines, the practice is for the offending player to declare the infraction and pull the rock off immediately. Once the rock crosses the hog line, the play should be allowed to continue if the burn does not significantly alter the path of the rock. The offending player should still declare the infraction and then it is up to the skip of the non-offending team to decide if they want to play the rocks where they lie or pull the burned rock out of play and replace any moved stones. In the third case, if a rock is burned after the thrown rock hits another rock then they play should be allowed to continue and once it is over, the non-offending team’s skip will decide where any affected rocks would have ended up if the infraction had not taken place.
The curling club uses the Chaparral ice rink located in Northcross Mall (Anderson Lane) and the club/league plays most Sunday mornings. Several times a year “learn to curl” events are held for interested people to try their hand at curling. A lot of the participants have no idea what they are getting into, and some have even said they thought it was the lazy person’s sport, so they figured it would be easy. All are surprised once they get on the ice.
As a side note, it never fails to amaze me how many people show up without gloves and/or warm clothes. You are on ice. Best thing is to wear layers of clothes (long sleeved t- shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket). If you get too warm from “sweeping” you can peel off a layer. At one curling session, a woman showed up wearing platform/wedge shoes. Again, you are on the ice – you need flat, rubber soled shoes (tennis shoes or flat bottom shoes).
A typical “learn to curl” starts off the ice. Participants watch a short video and hear about the basic skills that are needed. All participants are given a broom to use, and then they step onto the ice which holds the stones and sliders. Everyone is put into groups with an experienced curler teaching them the skills.
People of all ages come to curl. Families come for an experience. It seems that everyone is intimidated at first. Learning how to “throw” the stone (you never pick it up) comes first. To help you slide on the ice, you are given a “slider” to wear on the gliding foot (the other leg and foot trail out behind you). A slider is very slick, so balance is key. As is taking off the slider after you throw and before you stand up.
It takes a while to learn to balance while sliding your body and the rock forward. Almost everyone looks silly as they learn the correct body positioning and a few people flail and slide their whole body down the ice. While that does not literally break the ice, it does break the tension and team mates begin to relax. Repetition and practice are the keys to getting the feel for throwing the stone.
Another fun skill is sweeping. Participants are always shocked how much energy it takes and how fast you have to hustle. Sweeping and keeping up with the fast moving rock is usually a new activity and it takes balance and agility.
Curling is a fun way to meet other people, encourage others, and learn a new sport. There is lots of laughter and lots of yelling. Not bad or mean spirited yelling, but directional yelling. The “skip” will yell to direct the sweepers whether to sweep or not. In an ice rink with 8 or more people yelling at the same time, it can get loud.
A “learn to curl” is an introductory session aimed at educating and letting you get some practice. Many people have so much fun that they sign up for the league. For others it is bragging rights. But all agree, “Curling Rocks”.
If you want to get notified of future “learn to curls”, sign-up for email notification when we schedule another one.
During the 1st live spot Tania, discussed our club and curling with Buck.
During the 2nd live spot Tania, was shown how to take a few shots with the help of Pat. This spot is up on the Fox 7 Austin site.
During the final live spot Tania was shown how to sweep with the help of Buck.]]>
1) Curling Night in America
2) ESPN 3 Streams Top Level Canada Season of Champions
Watch the top level curlers and keep more curling events on TV!