New club introduces Newarkers to sport of curling
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.
Stacy Pechter demonstrates how to curl during a public open house session at the University of Delaware’s Fred Rust Ice Arena on Saturday.
UD senior Matt Dermksian delivers a stone as juniors Sarah D’Antonio and Thomas Nelson prepare to sweep.
Curling instructor Steve Haack shows participants some of the equipment used for curling.