Throw­ing rocks

New club in­tro­duces Ne­wark­ers to sport of curl­ing

Newark Post - - Front Page - By JON BUZBY jon­buzby@hot­mail.com

What kid, or adult for that mat­ter, doesn’t like to throw rocks?

There were plenty of rocks thrown Satur­day inside the Fred Rust Ice Arena, but noth­ing shat­tered.

The “rocks” – or “stones” as they are of­ten called – be­ing “thrown” were 42-pound pieces of gran­ite that were de­liv­ered – that’s a curl­ing term for pushed – from one end of the ice to the other dur­ing a Learn to Curl open house hosted by the newly formed Di­a­mond State Curl­ing Club.

The pur­pose of the event was to in­tro­duce Univer­sity of Delaware stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff to the sport of curl­ing, a game many Amer­i­cans be­come en- thralled with ev­ery four years dur­ing the Win­ter Olympics. It’s a sport many watch and wish they could give it a try, and the Di­a­mond State Curl­ing Club is now mak­ing that hap­pen.

“We’re Delaware’s first and only curl­ing club,” said club pres­i­dent

Frank Sharp, who came to Delaware af­ter suc­cess­fully launch­ing the Curl South Jersey club in 2013. “We’ve bought, rented and bor­rowed enough equip­ment to be able to host pub­lic open house events. Curl­ing is an in­tensely vol­un­teer-ori­ented cul­ture, so when we reached out to [other clubs from sur­round­ing states], the out­pour­ing of sup­port was in­cred­i­ble. Their ex­pe­ri­enced curlers have vol­un­teered at the two events we’ve run so far at the Univer­sity of Delaware.”

The sport knows no bound­aries. As stated on its web­site, www.Di­a­mondS­tateCurl­ing.org, the club ac­cepts mem­bers of all ages, back­grounds and abil­i­ties. It’s also eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. The par­tic­i­pants on Satur­day fell into sev­eral cat­e­gories in­clud­ing adults, UD stu­dents, kids and re­tirees.

The first di­rec­tive by Sharp to the 50-plus in at­ten­dance was that the ice “is slip­pery, hard and cold,” fol­lowed by the in­struc­tion to “walk like a pen­guin and fall like a tur­tle” (tuck­ing your head). The at­ten­dees then split into groups of four and re­ceived be­gin­ning in­struc­tion on the ba­sic rules and tech­niques of the sport.

“You want to keep it sim­ple and fun,” ex­plained Steve Haack, who be­came hooked on the sport af­ter watch­ing it dur­ing the Olympics and for the past 10 years has trav­eled from Wilm­ing­ton to Paoli, Pa., to curl. “If you get too tech­ni­cal, peo­ple lose in­ter­est quickly. It’s a sim­ple game at heart, and I try to keep it that way when teach­ing it to begin­ners.”

Curl­ing is pop­u­lar in Scot­land, where it orig­i­nated in the 1500s, but Canada is cur­rently the world’s curl­ing pow­er­house, ac­cord­ing to Sharp.

“The sport has rapidly in­creased in pop­u­lar­ity in the United States since be­ing added to the Olympics in 1998,” he said. “But there are still rel­a­tively few clubs or fa­cil­i­ties avail­able. I think the rea­son that the sport is hav­ing trou­ble tak­ing off in the U.S. is that the spe­cial equip­ment needed for curl­ing sim­ply isn’t ac­ces­si­ble to an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion. ”

Sharp made sure there was am­ple equip­ment avail­able at the clinic, and at­ten­dees quickly learned that com­pared to other team sports, the rules are fairly sim­ple.

Two teams (called rinks) of four play­ers each take turns de­liv­er­ing eight rocks down a sheet of ice to­ward a tar­get at the other end. They push off of a “hack,” which is sim­i­lar to a start­ing block on a track, and use a de­vice called a sta­bi­lizer to sup­port their non-de­liv­ery hand and help main­tain their bal­ance while slid­ing on a slip­pery “slider” on one foot while drag­ging their other leg be­hind.

Once the rock is on its way, two team­mates move ahead of the rock with spe­cial brooms. “Hurry hard” is the di­rec­tive given by the skip to start sweep­ing, which low­ers the co­ef­fi­cient of fric­tion on the ice to make the rock travel straighter and faster.

Each team tries to get more of its stones closer to the cen­ter of the bulls­eye (called the house) than the other team. Once all the rocks are thrown, a point is awarded for that round (called an end) based on the fi­nal po­si­tions of the stones in the house. Only one team can score in an end. A team scores one point for each of rock that is closer to the cen­ter of the house than the clos­est of the other team’s. The scor­ing is sim­i­lar to the sports of bocce and horse­shoes.

Af­ter learn­ing and prac­tic­ing the tech­niques of the game, at­ten­dees com­peted in sev­eral ends to get a real feel for the game.

“It was fun,” com­mented Jen Bon­ham, a doc­toral stu­dent at UD. “It’s harder than it looks on tele­vi­sion, but I’d def­i­nitely come back and do it again.”

The groups of friends in at­ten­dance echoed Bon­ham’s feel­ings.

“Curl­ing is great fun to play, but there’s also a very strong so­cial as­pect to the game,” Sharp said. “There’s tremen­dous ca­ma­raderie within teams and be­tween teams, and life­long friend­ships fre­quently form across club bound­aries.”

In­tro-to-Curl­ing events open to the pub­lic will be held at the Fred Rust Ice Arena on June 17 at 6:30 p.m. and June 19 at 4:30 p.m. The club plans to use the events to gar­ner in­ter­est for a six-week in­struc­tional league this sum­mer. If there is enough in­ter­est, sep­a­rate leagues will be formed for youth, col­lege stu­dents and adults.

“We’re es­sen­tially in the ‘if you build it, they will come’ stage of the sport,” Sharp said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHANNON

Stacy Pechter demon­strates how to curl dur­ing a pub­lic open house ses­sion at the Univer­sity of Delaware’s Fred Rust Ice Arena on Satur­day.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHANNON

UD se­nior Matt Dermk­sian de­liv­ers a stone as ju­niors Sarah D’An­to­nio and Thomas Nel­son pre­pare to sweep.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHANNON

Curl­ing in­struc­tor Steve Haack shows par­tic­i­pants some of the equip­ment used for curl­ing.

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