For years people have seen curling as an intimidating and cliquey sport. It is a cult of sorts, where players worship ice and stones, everyone knows each other, and outsiders are left to catch only glimpses with their noses pressed up against the warm side of the glass.The very fact that curlers are “club members” makes it seem unwelcoming. Fortunately, in recent years the curling world has been working hard to make the sport more accessible and friendly.
Most curling clubs now offer beginner clinics at the start of the season. Many clubs have also started beginner leagues where rookies can curl together with others of similar abilities before graduating to regular house leagues. It still isn’t always easy or obvious to figure out how to get started in curling. If you’re baffled by the process and long to play the roaring game read on.
The first step to take is picking up the phone. Give a local club a call and ask about their programs. They likely offer clinics or lessons where you can strap on a slider with another bunch of bambi-legged newbie’s.
If for some reason you don’t have luck reaching someone at the curling club (some smaller clubs don’t have a full-time staff or receptionist) try your provincial curling association. They will have listings of all clubs in your area and information about who offers clinics.
Once you’ve signed up for a clinic. The next step is to get prepared… and it doesn’t take much! Most clinics will provide you with equipment to borrow. All you really need is a pair of squeaky-clean running shoes (flat soled skateboarding or court shoes work well) and warm, loose, layered clothing and you’re ready to rock!
It’s best to arrive a few minutes early for your clinic to change your shoes and gather up a broom and slider from the loaner box (once you join a league you need to purchase your own broom and slider). If you can, ask your instructor if they’ll be doing a warm up. They usually do, but if not take some time to run on the spot and stretch out your legs and arms as this will ease muscle pain the following day.
When the clinic starts your instructor will guide you through how to sweep and slide and throw rocks. Towards the end of the clinic you will learn more about the game and play a few ends.
Don’t forget to speak to other people in your clinic about whether or not they have a team yet. Often times they will be looking to put together a team for a recreational league. Clinics are a great place to find teammates with similar abilities. You can also talk to your instructor or the curling club manager about what types of leagues they offer and have space in.
If for some reason you miss out on the beginner clinic you can always inquire about private lessons. These are often only available at larger curling clubs. However, you can easily take a lesson at one club that might not be in the ideal location then sign up for a league at the club of your choice.
Keep in mind that if you do plan to take a private lesson you may want to break it up into 3 or 4 half hour lessons. Learning all in one day by yourself can be tough on the body because you don’t get the same breaks you would in a clinic when others are sliding or sweeping.
If you still find you’re having difficulties finding a team for a league ask at the club if they’ll take your name down as a player looking for a team. Hopefully, they will be able to match you with a group of others looking to play or with a team which has already been formed and is seeking a player.
If you still have no luck a great way to get your foot in the door is to put your name down as a spare. It is usually very cheap to be a spare and it’s a wonderful way to try out different leagues and teams and figure out what works best for you. Often you can specify which leagues you want to spare in.
There you have it, a beginner’s guide to getting on the ice. Watch next week for further tips about curling for beginners.