TROY — A lot of members of Curl Troy tell similar stories: the unusual-looking sport piqued their interest and they decided to give it a try. Then they got hooked.
That’s what happened to Mike Harwat of Tipp City, who went to one instructional session offered by the club and never looked back. A few years later, he is now the vice president of the organization.
“It’s so unusual, but in a good way,” he said. “You’re taking 45-pound rocks, sliding out of the hack and throwing them down the ice, and trying to get them to stop at the exact point you want 130 feet down the ice. It’s so different.”
The club was founded by Troy resident Bruce Clingan, his wife and their friends after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“We watched it on the Olympics in 2010 and drove all the way to Columbus to try it,” Clingan said. Excited about the sport, but not so enthusiastic about the drive, the group decided to start a club in Troy.
The club’s first clinics were hosted at Hobart Arena in Troy and later expanded to RiverScape Metro Park in Dayton and a facility in Springfield.
“We’ve got tons of Learn to Curls and tons of instructional leagues, like beginners leagues that are geared toward people that are just starting. We’re really prepared this year for the influx after the Olympics,” Clingan added.
The club grows every year, Harwat said, especially after an Olympic year. This year’s RiverScape league has 72 members — a new record high — many of whom took one of the club’s curling classes last year.
Curl Troy offers annual Learn to Curl classes, as well as competitive curling leagues. Several of the club’s teams have traveled in the U.S. and Canada to participate in curling tournaments known as bonspiels.
Misconceptions about the sport
“There’s a huge misconception that it’s really not a sport and this is a ‘go out and have some fun’ game, but if you ask any of these people at the end of the night whether or not this was easy, they’ll all tell you that they’re tired,” Clingan said at a recent league competition.
Harwat, who has been curling for about four years, agreed.
“It’s way more athletic than I ever thought it could be,” he added. “The first bonspiel I played in, I was surprised at how tired I was after three days of curling.”
The club always sees a spike in interest in Olympic years, when many people are introduced to the sport for the first time.
Many new curlers often find it’s a lot harder than it looks on TV, Harwat said.
“It’s a great workout, but at the same time what I like about it is it’s pretty much accessible to anybody,” Harwat said.
Accessibility of the game
Curling is unique in that it can be played at any age, by men and women on mixed teams, and can be adapted for wheelchair users and others with disabilities, Harwat said.
“We’re able to make it accessible to almost anybody. We had somebody out there in a wheelchair and we were able to do adaptive curling,” he said.
The use of a delivery stick to push the stone down the ice opens the sport up to those who might find crouching on the ice difficult or impossible.
It’s also the most accessible sport for beginners who want to give an Olympic sport a try, Harwat said, adding that not everyone can jump right into figure skating or bobsledding. Curl Troy provides all of the equipment, including stones and brooms.
The social aspect
“The best part of this game is the social aspect,” Clingan said. “We play our two-hour game and then we go and have dinner. It’s actually written into the rules of the game that the winning team buys the losing team a round afterwards.”
Each game begins with a handshake and curlers are serious about playing a friendly, sportsmanlike game.
“I’ve met so many cool people doing this sport,” Harwat said. He plans to travel to Canada in a few weeks to curl. “It is definitely my passion, but it’s also my way to give back to the community. Back in December, I ran 100 people through Learn to Curl classes.
“I’m just trying to share this passion with everybody.”
Josh Hazelrigg of Huber Heights is new to the sport, but has found he enjoys sharing his newfound passion with friends.
“It’s just fun to come out and play and be around this group,” he said, adding that the social nature of the sport is an added benefit. “It’s a fun sport to begin with, but then you add the social aspect and it’s a blast. I don’t think there’s any better sport to just come out and play.”
He recommends giving the club’s Learn to Curl sessions a try to anyone who’s curious about the sport. He went to his first instructional session just a few months ago.
“A lot of the fears that people have about curling, one Learn to Curl session and you’re good. You don’t worry about falling on the ice and those kinds of things,” he said. “I came to one and then came the week after just to help. And that’s how I got into it.”
Build Our House
For several years, Curl Troy has been working toward building a dedicated curling facility in the Dayton area. The club’s “Build Our House” campaign is an effort to raise money for the project.
“We’re limited in the programming we can offer,” Harwat said. “Right now, we curl twice a week and in a couple weeks, we go back inside and we only curl once a week. That limits us.“
With their own facility and a few sheets of dedicated curling ice, the club would be able to expand even further, Clingan said. Curl Troy would like to add more youth programs and more teams.
“We can’t do juniors curling where we get kids excited about the sport,” Harwat said. “That’s the only way the sport is going to grow in this area is if we can get kids involved.”
Clingan said he feels the club’s dream of playing on dedicated curling ice next year is likely to happen.
Eye on the Olympics
Harwat described curling as “the most-watched Olympic sport,” in part because it’s so different from other Olympic events.
NBC announced a planned 2,400 hours of Olympic coverage and 1,800 hours of live streaming online. The Winter Games open on Feb. 9, and begin with curling. Curling matches are planned through Feb. 24.
New this year is the “mixed doubles” event, Harwat said. The event is unique to other curling formats in that the team consists of one male and one female player, rather than teams of the same gender. The games are shorter, with fewer stones to cast, and the game structure is a little different.
Harwat also advised viewers to keep an eye out for Team Norway, not just for their level of talent — the team took home a silver medal in 2010 — but also for their famously loud curling uniforms.
Reach Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org.