The Sport for all

How to soop, avoid crossing the hog-line, and win a bonspiel

By Megan Garrison

In the 16th century, a Flemish artist by the name of Pieter Bruegel painted a series that depicted life throughout the seasons. One painting, “Hunters in the Snow,” has a curious game being played on the ice. While the sport is not the focal point of the painting, the men on the ice are an early representation of the “roarin’ game” during this time period. The long-standing tradition of throwing stones across the ice during the harsh winters would eventually be documented in 1540 by John McQuhin, a notary in Scotland.

The sport of curling, however, would not find its way into the competitive sporting world until the 19th century. Curling Clubs were formed in Scotland, and everywhere the Scots went, the game was sure to follow. The very survival of such a sport depended on the climate, making its home among the cold temperatures of Canada, the northern USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, and New Zealand.

The oldest known curling club is the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (its official name since 1843 when Queen Victoria changed the name from Grand Caledonian Curling Club after her enthusiasm for, and fascination with, the sport), which was the first club to have official rules to accompany the pastime that had become so fun for the Scottish people.

So, what are the rules? Well, not much has changed since 1843. The ultimate goal: to get your stones closer to the center of the target than the opposing team. At first, when the game was played with nothing more than flat river stones, there wasn’t much technique or strategy to be employed. Like playing jacks or marbles, it was as much about luck as experience. Over time, as the game became more established, the rocks used were 44-pound granite rocks (or stones) allowing players to take advantage of the aerodynamics of sliding across ice. 

Here is a crash course in curling:

1) Each player has two stones. The team, as a whole, has eight stones to throw in an end, a bullseye target on either end of the playing arena. A team member plays against someone with the same position as his or hers (i.e. first) on the opposing team.

2) Throwing stones isn’t your only job, though. Once you have thrown, as part of the rotation of players, you are now in charge of sweeping. This might look ridiculous from the outside, but it is an integral part of the game. Sweeping is all about reducing friction. Warm up the ice with vigorous sweeping, and the rock will curl less and move straighter. Sweeping gives you distance, and distance helps you win.

3) After 16 stones have been thrown, the score is counted based on the final placement of the stones in the house (the bullseye circle). Only one team scores during each end. One point is given for each stone that is closer to the center of the house in relation to the other team’s.

Sounds easy enough, right? Throw some stones, sweep some ice, score some points. The truth is that there is a lot of strategy to the game. So much so, that it’s no wonder that it was eventually added as an official sport of the Winter Olympics in 1998, after its demonstrations in 1924, 1932, 1936, 1964, 1988, and 1992.

Curling as a sport is unique in several ways: both sexes can play, it’s not expensive, it’s good for your health, you can play at any age, and its wheelchair accessible. These benefits of curling have made it accessible to a number of communities that are not often included in Olympic sports. 

Now, how do we get from the Winter Olympics to Troy, Ohio? The answer is simple, really. It all started with an interest, which led to a hobby, which then led to a club. 

“I was a member of a curling club in Columbus for years,” said Bruce Clingan, one of the founding members of Curl Troy. “My wife, three others, and I started Curl Troy in 2010 after that year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver.”

Clingan, who is commonly in a position called “Skip,” has worked diligently to build Curl Troy into the club it is now. Accepted into the Great Lakes Curling Association in 2010, the club’s teams now finds itself attending local and regional-wide competitions. With 3 to 4 teams and 6 to 8 local leagues, opportunities to compete in regular bonspiels (name for a curling tournament) have grown. To Clingan, though, their greatest success has not been the wins, but the connections.

“A couple years ago, we held a bonspiel of our own,” said Clingan. “It was a huge success. Teams came from all over the country, even from Canada. An Olympian came out.”

It’s awareness like this that Clingan and Curl Troy need to continue to grow in the Dayton community, especially with the hope of building a dedicated curling facility in the Miami Valley. It’s a project that has been in the minds of its members since the club’s founding that is only now feasible.

“We can’t expand our programs in the arena centers,” Clingan said, referring to their practice spaces at Riverscape MetroPark and the Hobart Arena in Troy. “Build Our House is important because three or four people can’t cover the cost of ice and the equipment needed to grow. We have to think about funding to build and funding to run the facility.”

These concerns fall heavily on the fundraiser chair for Build Our House, Jason Hillard, who has been an active member of Curl Troy, himself, for three seasons now.

“I first became interested after seeing a league offered at Riverscape about 5 years ago via an ad in the City Paper,” said Hillard. “Later, a friend would invite me to participate in an instructional league after seeing a billboard posting at a local arena. I’ve been hooked to the game ever since.”

Like many of the members, Hillard found his community among other curlers. As curling is a team sport that breeds cooperation and communication, players have a sense of camaraderie that is natural and easy.

“While definitely a competitive sport, I consider a ‘WIN’ as any chance that I get to get on the ice with my fellow Curl Troy members, either in one of our local leagues or traveling to a bonspiel,” said Hillard. “The draw to the club, are the friends that I’ve made through Curl Troy.”

While Hillard might not be counting all the wins, the wins are impressive. Hillard’s team has won a number of leagues, and were one of the two Curl Troy teams to be invited to compete at the USCA’s Arena Nationals in South Bend, Indiana. This year they hope to go to the competition in Las Vegas.

“The social aspect called broomstacking—which is when the competing teams sit down after a match over a beer or a meal; the winning team buys,” said Hillard when asked about his favorite part about the curling community. “This is an integral part of the sport, so much so that it is even done at the highest competitive levels.”

A dedicated member of Curl Troy and an enthusiastic second position on his team, Hillard is at the forefront of the fundraising for the Build Our House project. Beginning estimation has put the cost between $500,000 and $1.5 million depending on the location. Looking to repurpose a building, they need about 16,000 to 25,000 square feet.

“While the development efforts have begun, there are still too many unknowns to firm up a number, especially timing and location,” said Hillard, There are ways we, as members of the Dayton community, can help. “In regard to community support, we would love to be connected to anyone interested in learning more about our club, what a curling club might do for Dayton, and trying the sport of curling for themselves. Without members and participants in our programs, a facility and our club would be impossible to sustain.”

With the Winter Olympics this year, both Clingan and Hillard know this is an opportunity to pull attention to their club and its needs. 

“This season, while in an Olympic cycle, we are putting our best foot forward to focus on exposing the community to our club (and curling) through our Learn to Curls and instructional leagues offered at Riverscape and at the National Trail Parks and Recreation (NTPRD) Chiller in Springfield through May,” Hillard added. “Curling is the most watched sport during the Winter Olympics. Having a facility dedicated only to curling, in addition to the members that we believe it will attract, will allow the club to expand its programming to include youth or junior curling, college curling, and wheelchair curling, and will enable us to host regional, national, and international events. We would love an opportunity to provide a safe and fun activity for families and youth.”

Another member of Curl Troy, Patrick Connolly, started curling in 2015 with a group of five who all had daughters who figure skate. 

“You do not need to be an athlete to curl,” said Connolly. “It’s a sport that people of all ages and abilities can play. It is a great way to bring people from different parts of the community together in a social atmosphere with the additional benefit of getting a little exercise while doing it.”

A fan of curling since he was young, Connolly found himself hooked after he started playing with Curl Troy. Now an integral member for two years, he has competed with teams from around the US and Canada. On his primary team, he throws third and is the Vice Curl, but whenever he is asked to fill in as a sub for a bonspiel, he answers the call. 

“Once we have a dedicated curling facility, there is no reason why we couldn’t have a curler or team make it to the Olympics,” said Connolly about his hopes for the future of Curl Troy.

One of the best parts of curling is its accessibility. Curling is a sport that has been adapted and developed in a way that makes it possible for those with physical limitations to play as well. Curl Troy’s Learn to Curl sessions are open and offered to anyone at various times throughout the year and at multiple locations. At these sessions, wheelchair instructors are on the ice to help.

2018’s Winter Olympics are sure to be an impressive example of the athleticism of the world. For a sport like curling, it’s an example of teamwork and community, two traits that Curl Troy has by the truckload. With a little help from all of us, they could build a house that could produce the first Olympic gold medalist team in curling from little, old Dayton, Ohio. Wouldn’t that be something?

To find out more about Curl Troy, its Build Our House project, curling, or to Learn to Curl, visit 

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Megan Garrison
Megan Garrison grew up in the small town of Lampasas, Texas, spending her time immersed in Ernest Hemingway novels and dreaming of being a journalist one day. Now she attends the University of Dayton and is hard at work studying to be a war-time correspondent. Though she is very goal oriented and works hard to achieve her dreams she also loves to have a little fun. She DJs her own radio show on Flyer Radio and makes it a point to attend great movies and local concerts. But her greatest love will always be books.

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