Curling clubs busy with Olympics fever
MILWAUKEE - It may be cold outside, but many are staying hot with Olympics fever! Some are learning more about the sport of curling, which is becoming more popular over the last few Olympic Winter Games.
“All of the clubs across the country enjoy this huge spike in interest and take advantage of it by teaching a lot more people to curl,” Jay Packard explains to TODAY'S TMJ's Jesse Ritka.
The sport may be gaining popularity because curlers don't have to have the body or endurance of a typical Olympian, “It's played by normal people, normal looking people, moving at regular speeds,” Packard says.
The Milwaukee Curling Club has been around since 1845, the longest continuous club in the United States. Ritka put her trust in them and Packard to learn how to curl, but even stepping onto the ice with the foot equipment proved to be harder than it looks, despite the ice not being as smooth as a typical ice rink.
Packard explains that there is a "5-step delivery and it starts with the rock, foot, rock, foot then drive." The rock moves backward, the foot moves backward, the rock moves forward, the foot moves forward and then the other foot drives the body forward by pushing off what looks like starting blocks for sprinters called "the hack."
Getting the feel for releasing the 40-pound rocks at the right moment to reach the center ring can be challenging. You not only have to have the proper delivery, but you need the right amount of force, spin and aim.
Packard says sweeping done by teammates can help move the stone an additional six to ten feet, but you have to be careful to not touch the rock with the broom. Curlers who do this honestly declare a penalty on themselves.
"Very honest sport, in addition, curlers begin the game and end the game with a handshake and wish good curling," Packard explains.
Knowing many of the Olympians curling in Sochi, Packard adds that team communication can make or break a game. "The curling team, this women's team or this men's team that's curling...they spend years together just honing their communication."
But for Olympians and enthusiasts alike, curling is a fun, social game that creates bonds over the ice.
Packard adds, "It's very much a social game, you're able to talk with your teammates and your competitors the entire time, you spend two hours with them curling a game and then there's the social part of the club on the other side of our glass after the game. Your whole team works together to shape the shot, to get it in the right spot, and then to have the satisfaction of hey we worked together, we either won the game, lost the game...we had a good time.”
If you want to try your hand at curling, the Milwaukee Curling Club has "Olympic Learn to Curl" lessons starting this weekend. You can register here, but spots are filling up fast. The two hour sessions cost $25 and include the lesson, a game, and pizza, soda or beer afterward.