If you’ve ever watched curling in person or on TV, or curled yourself, you’ll know that there’s one aspect of the sport that kids would love. No indoor voices required!
Between the “Sweeeeeep!” and the “Hurry haaaarrrddd!” curlers are enthusiastic and loud athletes. Plus, it’s a sport that kids can play on the ice at a curling facility or in a gym with modified equipment, and they can learn and practice at home with some fun activities.
What is curling?
In a nutshell, the game of curling is a lot like shuffleboard. (Yep—that fabulous outdoor activity that might be thought of as a game played solely by an older generation but is SO fun for all ages!).
Two teams of four play against each other on a long rectangular sheet of ice that has two identical targets at each end.
The goal is to slide rocks as close as possible to the bullseye, or button. Both teams start at the same end of the ice and take turns sliding each of their eight stones from one end of the playing surface towards the target at the other.
With four players on each team, one person slides, or throws, the eight stones one at a time, taking turns with the slider from the other team.
After each team has thrown their rocks, the points are counted and a new round, or end begins, with the teams sliding their rocks in the opposite direction.
How to play
To throw the rock, the player crouches down and puts their dominant foot on a foothold called the hack.
(If you’re right-handed, your right foot will go on the hack with your right hand holding the rock by its handle. Your left hand will be holding a broom for stability and your left foot will be beside your right one.)
The player then slides the stone and their foot not in the hack, slightly back. They then push with the foot in the hack, slide forward with the opposite foot in front, and release the stone. Foot back, stone back. Foot forward, stone forward.
Two players have the job of sliding along beside their teams’ rocks, sweeping the ice with brooms to make it smoother for the rock to glide. The fourth player stands behind the target to let the sweepers know if the rock is coming in too slowly or too quickly.
That’s where the yelling comes in! If the rock is coming too fast, the person behind the target can tell the sweepers to “Sweeep!” or “Hurry harrddddd!” or, if the rock is coming in too quickly, to “Wooaaaaahhhh!”
When each team has slid their eight rocks to the other end of the playing surface, points are counted. The team with a rock closest to the centre of the target scores a point, plus additional points for all their other rocks that are closer to the button than the other team’s rocks. Only the team with the rock closest to the button gets points.
The team that scores then starts the next end.
And where does the “curling” come in? If you want your rock to end up to the right or the left, you can turn the handle on the rock either clockwise or counterclockwise as you’re pushing it away.
To curl, players need three basic pieces of equipment: a helmet and two pieces that can be attached to the bottom of shoes.
One piece is a gripper, which helps you to walk safely on the ice. The other is a slider which—wait for it—helps you to slide. Brooms and rocks are supplied by the curling facility (unless you want to lug your own granite rocks to the rink!).
How to get your kids involved
Kids can register for junior lessons at local curling facilities where they use smaller rocks and brooms. Some of the rinks offer programs that have teachers bring their kids to the rinks to learn about the game.
There are also curling programs which come to schools. Rocks and Rings introduces kids to the basics and gets them curling on the gym floor.
Don’t have access to a curling club or junior program or want to learn and practice the basics at home? Prepare for a whole lot of fun! Pick a smooth floor and use painter’s tape to make a curling target or house.
Wearing socks, have your kids crouch down and slide beanbags, bars of soap, socks, or margarine tubs with small items inside to give them a bit of weight.
If you have two or more children, one can slide the “stone,” while the others use mops with microfiber pads to “sweep” the stone towards the target.
The obvious goal is for kids to learn the basics and to have fun. The added bonus is that you’ll have your kids cleaning your floors without them even realizing it!
Curling might not be a sport you or your child has ever considered playing, but it’s fun, it’s a sport they can play with friends and family, and, of course, they get to YELL!