Laurie Colwell had watched curling in the Olympics for years and decided she would start playing the sport a year ago when she found out about the Nutmeg Curling Club, which is based at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport.
“Now that we’re getting older I was looking for something to keep active that I didn’t think was terribly athletic,” said Colwell, 58, who used to play tennis and bow, and continues to cycle and go to the gym. “I figure this is something I can do for a long time. I tried it and I liked it.”
Colwell, a retired police dispatcher, and her husband Kevin are from Monroe. She retired two years ago.
“You get out of the house, it’s exercise, and the people are very nice,” Colwell said.
Colwell is competitive only with herself, which makes the individual aspect of curling appealing to her. But there is a lot of teamwork involved, and a plus is that participants have plenty of patience for each other.
“You all work together as a team. Everybody there has been very nice, very helpful, welcoming,” Colwell said. “You’re happy with what you’re doing so you want to share with other people.”
Teams of four compete against each other and try to score points by sliding a 40-pound rock across a long sheet of ice and into the center of a circle, or house.
“The ultimate goal is to closest to the center — and that’s called the button,” Colwell said.
Curlers strategize, placing rocks near the center or, when the situation calls for it, pushing teammate’s rocks closer, knocking opposing team member rocks away, or setting up rocks as guards to protect teammate’s rocks following a well-placed throw.
“It’s harder than what you think. A lot of it is mental,” Colwell said.
One the team members is the skip. He or she calls the shots from the house, directing the person throwing, and two players who sweep alongside the sliding rock. The sweepers actually melt the bumpy ice, pebbled to create less friction for the heavy game piece, allowing them to control the direction of the rock or allow it to go further.
The other team members are called a vice, lead and second. The vice helps call the shots when the skip has his or her turn to slide the rock.
“You’re all working together, whether you’re the sweeper the thrower or you’re the skip calling the shots,” Colwell said.
With practice, curlers get more accustomed to the game and as it becomes more natural the legs and arms take over. There is a lot that goes into throwing the rock – trajectory, strategy, considering the conditions of the ice, and placement of other rocks.
According to the World Curling Federation, stones or rocks curl across the sheet of ice when in motion. During delivery, players will give a turn to the stone handle. For a right-handed person, what is called an in-turn will cause the stone to turn or curl clockwise and an out-turn will cause the stone to turn or curl counterclockwise. Games are comprised of eight or 10 ends (kind of like innings) in which each team slides eight rocks.
“I think as a new curler there are so many things you have to be cognizant of. You really have to be focused and pay attention to what you’re doing,” Colwell points out. “It’s hard to describe until you try it. It somewhat resembles bowling and shuffleboard. Now I can watch the Olympics and know what they’re doing.”
Various leagues are offered for different skill levels, offering a chance for newcomers to the game to get their feet wet in an instructional league, and an experience for seasoned players to play on competitive nights.
The fall season runs from October through December and the winter campaign picks up in January and continues through March. There are options for curlers to sign up individually, with partners, or as teams, and options to join part way into a season.
For information, visit nutmegcurling.com.