Curling: A Sport for Weekend Warriors and Olympians Alike

Housework still isn’t fun. But sweeping can be! Learn more about the Olympic sport of curling.

As the weather turns colder, we begin to turn our attention to wintry activities. One sport that receives notoriety during the Winter Olympics is curling. Curling is a sport played on ice with a heavy granite stone, also called a rock. While its exact origins are unknown, the first official rules were written in Scotland, and it is the Scottish who exported curling to the other side of the Atlantic. Curling derives its name from the trajectory of the stone down the ice. It is also called “The Roarin’ Game” because of the sound the stone makes as it travels1.

A curling team consists of four players, the skip, the vice-skip, and two others. These players take turns throwing, or delivering, the stone onto the ice during the eight or ten “ends” (rounds) in a typical curling game. Then the teammates use brooms to sweep the ice in front of the stone as it continues down the playing surface, also known as a “sheet”. The sweeping affects the stone’s travel by changing the surface of the ice so the stone is diverted in different directions2.

The curling team’s goal is to get the stone as close to the “house”—the target on the ice—as possible. In this way, curling is similar to shuffleboard and other games that require aim, depth perception, and an understanding of the relative amount of force required to move a certain mass a certain distance.

Until recently, the sport had not captured the imagination of the United States; its strategies and intricacies had not resonated. Increasingly, however, Americans are developing an interest in curling, with organizations such as the US Curling Association, as well as local curling clubs, providing information and opportunities to try curling. As a recent article from Yahoo Sports notes, participants do not have to be elite athletes to give curling a try, though the Olympic competition does occur at an elite level3.