Following a historic gold medal run within the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, the nation was “swept” with a sport that concerned, nicely … sweeping.
Curling, one of many world’s oldest staff sports activities, had usually been missed by Individuals who by no means actually excelled within the sport till the underdog U.S. males’s curling staff defeated Sweden with a rating of 10-7 within the gold medal closing to win the USA its first-ever Olympic curling title.
Curling fever was maybe enhanced by the truth that our staff of unlikely heroes didn’t essentially match the mould of your typical Olympic athletes, making the game appear accessible to anybody.
As curiosity within the sport grew, curling golf equipment started forming nationwide. On the time, the closest membership to the Morgantown space was in Pittsburgh.
In 2019, native resident Jeff Ryan “sort of had curling on the mind” and would journey to Pittsburgh with a bunch of mates to follow the game.
On the time, the Pittsburgh membership was utilizing a neighborhood ice area and had the essential tools, stones and brooms out there to be used. The issue for Ryan was they have been driving three hours spherical journey for an hour and half of curling.
“I simply puzzled why we couldn’t do one thing like that in Morgantown,” Ryan stated.
He determined to do a GoFundMe to lift sufficient cash to begin a neighborhood membership and had overwhelming help.
Now realizing the curiosity was there, he contacted USA Curling, which he stated was very passionate about increasing the game following the success on the world stage.
Quickly after, West Virginia’s first and solely official curling membership was born, and Ryan drove to the USA Curling headquarters in Wisconsin — the place they supplied the rental stones and tools wanted to begin the Morgantown Curling Membership.
Official curling stones, typically known as rocks, are historically made from granite. However not simply any granite. To be official stones, the granite should come from a quarry on the island of Ailsa Craig off Scotland’s Ayrshire Coast.
Ryan was capable of get hold of sufficient stones from USA Curling for 3 “sheets,” or enjoying surfaces. The enjoying floor in curling is 150 ft lengthy and 16 ft, 5 inches vast. Every staff wants eight stones, so 16 stones are wanted per sheet.
The ice is ready up so groups can play in each instructions, that means the floor is symmetrical with a “home” at every finish. The “home” resembles a bullseye, and the aim is to complete together with your staff’s stone or stones closest to the middle, or button.
4 years later, the Morgantown Curling Membership now meets repeatedly on the Morgantown Ice Enviornment by the autumn and winter months.
Ryan stated membership has grown to round 15 paid full memberships with a core group of 12-14 individuals who come as usually as they’ll. On the ice area, they now have devoted homes set beneath the ice in comparison with beforehand having to attract the homes every time they met.
Nonetheless, some years have been higher than others as curiosity within the sport grows and falls.
“It’s feast or famine,” Ryan stated. “We’re in a non-Olympic yr. When it’s not on TV and never on individuals’s minds, it’s robust.”
I not too long ago joined the Morgantown Curling Membership for a learn-to-curl session and scrimmage. Newbies are welcome anytime the membership meets. These a bit extra acquainted with the sport can be part of the membership anytime for scrimmages.
Curling veterans Kevin and Heather Barclay, who’ve round 20 years of curling expertise, took the reins with our small group of 5 newcomers and went over the essential guidelines of the sport whereas stating varied questions of safety to be cautious of whereas on the ice.
Heather confirmed us the correct strategies for taking pictures the stones and the best way to place them to make them curl, or curve, for them to finish within the place you’re aiming for, or at the least ideally aiming for.
Kevin acted as our “skip,” which is sort of a staff captain and serves because the strategist of a staff, telling different gamers the place to place their pictures for the very best probabilities to attain factors or block the opposing staff from scoring. A “vice-skip” takes over that position when the skip is taking pictures.
The membership additionally supplied Teflon foot pads that allowed us to simply slide down the ice whereas launching our pictures – similar to the professionals who put on particular footwear with a Teflon sole.
Whereas the professionals make it look easy as they push themselves and the stone down the ice, it’s a lot more durable than it could appear. Actually, nearly all of our small newbie group ended up simply falling on the ice with the stone stopping nicely in need of the home.
With a bit follow, all of us improved and have been launched to the aim of the “broom.” When a participant takes a shot, staff members can use the brooms to brush the ice in entrance of the stone, which breaks floor pressure, inflicting the ice to soften a bit. Relying on how arduous or mushy gamers sweep, they can management the velocity and curl of the stone.
I don’t know if we have been truly serving to the stone with our newbie sweeps, but it surely was a number of enjoyable to run down the ice with the stone, sweeping vigorously in its path as our skip Kevin yelled directions on how arduous or mushy to brush.
After a bit extra follow, we performed a brief scrimmage match. We had sufficient time to play two “ends.” An finish is just like a baseball inning. Every finish consists of 16 stones, eight for every staff, with every participant taking pictures twice. Groups can rating on the conclusion of every finish and video games include ten ends.
Surprisingly, the follow paid off and every staff scored a degree, which felt like an actual accomplishment given we have been all falling on our faces and barely sending the stone 30 ft simply an hour earlier than.
Whereas everybody in our group that night was bodily capable of play historically, the Barclay’s talked in regards to the inclusiveness of the game and the way the stone may be shot quite a lot of methods, together with from a standing place utilizing a curling stick, permitting even these with disabilities the possibility to benefit from the sport.
Ryan additionally spoke in regards to the sport’s versatility.
“Once I curl up in Pittsburgh there are individuals in wheelchairs, there are individuals that can’t bend over – they curl with a curling stick. There are 80-year-old individuals on the ice curling, so it’s actually a sport for each certainly one of each means,” he stated. “You don’t have to have the ability to slide 30 ft on the ice to be roller. Getting the rock all the way down to the opposite finish is de facto sufficient to have time on the sport.”
After the session, I not solely felt like I had a primary sense of the game, however was desperate to take part once more – and nonetheless am.
Ryan stated previously few years, the Pittsburgh membership has constructed a devoted curling facility and has begun to host “bonspiels,” or bracketed curling tournaments, the place the Morgantown membership can compete with different golf equipment.
In line with Ryan, it could take a number of capital to construct a devoted facility right here in Morgantown and he doesn’t actually foresee the membership producing sufficient cash to take action anytime within the subsequent decade.
“We are going to simply must be the very best membership we may be with what we’ve got out there,” he stated. He does hope to acquire extra stones that might allow the membership to arrange 4 sheets on the ice area and permit them to have bonspiels proper right here in Morgantown.
The membership tries to fulfill as soon as each two weeks or at the least as soon as a month whereas the rink has ice, however are on the mercy of the hockey schedules and WVU soccer schedule.
“The place you see gaps within the schedule, these are hockey dates or soccer video games the place nobody goes to wish to come to curling anyway,” Ryan stated.
The following time the Morgantown Curling Membership will meet shall be on Nov. 24 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
All the membership’s scheduled periods supply “Study to Curl” lessons that are $50 with all tools supplied. Skilled curlers who don’t want any instruction can be part of the membership for scrimmage periods for $40.
Further details about the membership and the best way to register for periods may be discovered on their web site morgantowncurlingclub.com or by visiting the Morgantown Curling Membership Fb web page. You can too electronic mail [email protected] for extra info.