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Around the House: The Big Switcheroo

As I write this, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts is taking place in Charlottetown and I’ve been glued to the daily TV coverage. It’s been a dramatic week full of great stories and even better curling. Hard to look away!

Heather Smith-Dacey (Photo: Andrew Klaver Photography)

One of the interesting features of this year’s competition is how many curlers have, for one reason or another, switched positions. Former skips playing vice (Team Canada’s Kaitlyn Lawes, for example). Former vices now skipping (Manitoba’s Cathy Overton-Clapham and Nova Scotia’s Heather Smith-Dacey come to mind). The commentators have been quick to point out how difficult it is to adjust your game so that you can thrive in a new position. Of course you have to make your shots, but calling a game at skip is a lot different from holding the broom as vice or performing front end shots and sweeping, sweeping, sweeping.

How do I know this?  Well, for the past couple of weeks, our Wednesday Night Business Women’s team has done just that: switched it up on the ice.

We’ve been languishing on the lower rungs of the ladder for most of the season.  It’s just been one of those years with lots of contributing factors, but the bottom line is that we haven’t been making our shots.

We’ve had fun – no problem, there. We’re becoming a cohesive team of five (yes, five – a built-in spare) after a shaky start.  But we just don’t seem to be able to get those Wins on the score sheet.

Until the past two weeks.

The trick?  We pulled a big switcheroo on the ice.

Last week, playing as a threesome, our skip moved to lead, our all-purpose spare skipped, and I played second/vice. What a great game we had!  All three of us got a feel for the ice and draw weight right away. We also got a feel for our opponents’ weaknesses and were able to make shots that put the pressure on them.

And we won. Handshakes after six ends, in fact.

So what happened?  I think our little shake-up injected a bit of excitement into our team. Looking at the game from a different on-ice perspective, we all played as if it wasn’t just another Wednesday night game, but something fresh and new.

So we tried it again this week. Vice played lead, skip played vice, all-purpose spare threw (my usual) second stones, and I skipped. Yes, me! In the house at last!

I confess I was actually nervous as I slid down the ice to take up my position in the house.  It’s been a few years since I’ve had to plan shots, place the broom and call the line. But it didn’t take long to feel the pull of the game’s strategy draw me in.

The running commentary in my head went something like this:

In-turn or out-turn? That side of the ice is curling, and that side is sticky. We’re on this wonky outside sheet, so watch for falling rocks on the in-turn going away and out-turn coming home. Did their second just miss two easy hits? Time to get more rocks in the house. Outside of the eight foot will draw the button on this ice. My vice throws straight, so less ice for her hits…

And on it went – for seven totally engrossing ends (we ran out of time and couldn’t fit in an eighth). Yes, we gave up one in the last end, but our opponents needed two to tie, three to win. Another big “W” on the score sheet for us!

I emerged from that game with a long-forgotten appreciation for the mental side of the sport. Apart from being really cold (if I’d known I was going to be skipping, I would have worn a few more layers), I was completely involved in my own thought processes and focused on executing my own shots (which, for the most part, I did). Coming up for air – and victorious handshakes – at the end of the game was exhilarating. And my teammates were right there all game, supporting me and, I hope, having as much fun as I was.

It wasn’t the Scotties, and I didn’t have TV cameras following my every move, thank goodness. There was no Vic, Linda and Russ analyzing my strategy or commenting on my execution. I’ll leave that for the Big Kids.

But in my little corner of Planet Curling, it was a good night, and I came away from that game with a stronger appreciation for the skills of those elite players who do it all so well, at every – and any – position.