The email from Betty-Anne arrived last week:
“Hi Jean, I’m in charge of making up the teams for our Wednesday Night Business Women’s League. Could you let me know what position you’d like to play?”
With a thrill of pre-season excitement, I realized that team-building time has arrived.
Last season, my first at a new club, I joined a social league in which the teams were juggled into new arrangements every four weeks. I loved the chance to play with different skips, share the sweeping with a variety of front ends, and just generally expand my circle of curling friends.
This year, looking for a higher level of competition, I registered for a league made up of teams who stick together for the entire season. But the big question remained: who to play with? How to build a team? Considering that our club has fourteen leagues spread over six days (and evenings) on eight sheets of ice, I haven’t met enough people yet to go looking for players who want to play the same night I do. Enter the league convener and her list of teams needing players and players needing teams.
Every club, every league, every draw does it differently. And each method of team building has its own benefits and challenges. Some of my earliest, most enjoyable curling experiences occurred when I was thrown in with three players who I might never have picked as teammates myself, but who, like I did, went to the club bulletin board and saw our names listed together on the draw sheet. Our skip was a club legend, a retiree from the local manufacturing plant; our front end was a high school student at lead and an apprentice power line worker at second; and I (the stay-at-home mom with only a couple of years of on-ice experience on my resume) was the rookie vice. I learned more about the game – and had more laughs – during that draw.
On the other hand, I’ve had a few best-forgotten moments with teams that I actively helped put together, friends who probably should not have stepped out on the ice together. Our competitive natures went into overdrive and, although we enjoyed some success, tension developed over missed communications and a few lousy shots – to the point that the fun went right out of the game. And that, curlers, is when a team is finished.
The best season of curling I ever enjoyed was when I played vice to my husband’s skip, and our two good friends, completely new curlers, joined us to learn the game and get out for some social time together. We won some, we lost some, we laughed – a lot – and at the end of the season, we even took home the prize for our draw (yes, it was B-flight, but it was still exciting, especially for our new-curler teammates). I mention this because there is an oft-muttered caveat in curling: husbands and wives should not curl together.
It doesn’t matter if you’re married or not: there are some people who work well together, and some who don’t. Anyone who follows the tumultuous ups and downs of the best curling teams in the world will be familiar with the challenges even the Big Kids face when players just don’t gel or team dynamics simply change. Some call it “chemistry”, and it’s a valuable, enviable commodity – if you can find it and keep it.
So, back to Betty-Anne’s email. Knowing the challenges of completing that giant jigsaw puzzle that is a team-building exercise, I figured it was best to be flexible about positions. I responded with “Anything but skip.” A few minutes later, her email came back: Would I be willing to play second? Betty-Anne is building a new team and has a hot vice, a former junior. She’s trying to mix a bit of this with a bit of that and come up with the best team she can. Do I want to be part of the experiment? Of course I do. It might go well, or it might not. But I’m willing to take the chance on her if she’s willing to take a chance on me.
“Welcome to the team!” replied my new skip.
New season, new team. Game on!
A word about Around The House “burning questions”:
If you’ve been reading Around The House regularly, you’ll have noticed that each post ends with a “burning question”. I could write about my curling life all day, but wouldn’t you like to hear the sound of other voices? Think of this blog as a place to tell your stories too. All you have to do is send me a quick email with a story of your own. I’ll let you know if I’m able to include it in an upcoming post.
If you need some prompting, here are the burning questions I’ve posted so far this season.
The season is coming! The season is coming!: How does your club celebrate the start of the curling season?
Welcome to Planet Curling: What do you remember about your first curling club?
Volunteering comes naturally to curlers: What was your best/worst curling-related volunteering experience?
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories from the curling life, on and off the ice.