Waltham Curling Club member explains why her sport rocks
Tara Keeling knows that people will take an interest in her sport of curling when the Winter Olympics are on TV, but they'll most likely see it as a simple game lacking skill.
Like the stone in the sport, she lets it slide.
“You have to know how to read the ice; that’s why it’s called curling,” Keeling told the Illinois Valley News. “You have to know which way the stone will curl. It all depends on which way you hold your hand. If you sweep the ice, the stone goes straighter and faster. If you don’t sweep, it goes slower.
"Usually, the skip is a more-experienced member of the team. Like I said, it’s easy to pick up, but it takes a long time to get good.”
Curling teams are made up of four members: the lead, the second, the vice and the skip. Each team tries to land eight stones (or rocks) in a target at the other end of the ice. A match is made up of eight or 10 rounds, which are called ends.
At the start of an end, the skip stands at the target area and points to where his teammates should aim. The lead then throws a stone, and the second and vice sweep the ice with brooms to help it on its way. Players rotate positions throughout the end.
Keeling is a member of the Waltham Curling Club in Triumph, which was founded in 1884 and has three sheets of ice. Keeling said the club has more than 100 active members, with new players joining all the time.
“The Olympics coming up helps, too," she said. "Every time we have an Olympic year, we always see an increase in interest. We’re starting a new program on Monday nights for anyone who is interested in getting started. It’s new curler nights, and we do instructional curling.
"We also do open houses throughout the year, where people can learn about curling.”
The Waltham Curling Club is a member of the Illinois Curling Association and one of six such clubs in Illinois. The curling season starts in late October and ends in March. Throughout the year, Keeling said anyone interested in learning more about curling or joining the team can find more information about the sport and the Waltham Curling Club by visiting www.walthamcurling.org.
In mid-November, the club will host a tournament for curlers who have been playing for five years or less. Several events will also be held in the next few months. A full schedule of events is available on the Waltham Curling Club website.
“Everyone is really friendly, and it’s a really social sport,” she said. “People will bring food up there, and we get to have a good time and eat as well. It’s competitive, but it’s very social-based. I would say they should definitely go try it because it’s something different.
"A lot of people don't know it’s even here. It’s also a good conversation piece and a pretty cool skill to learn. You can also make some really good friends.”