What the Ice Taught Me

Growing up in north central Wisconsin, winter reigned supreme.  Winter sports reigned supreme. We got

2002-2003 Wausau East Lumberjacks Varsity Girls Curling Team...oh dear...

2002-2003 Wausau East Lumberjacks Varsity Girls Curling Team…oh dear…

out of school early on Fridays to hit the local ski hill, the Badger State Winter Games were the highlight of the season. Kids were dropped off at school on the back of their parents’ snow mobile…heck, CURLING was a high school sport!  In the old Wausau curling barn, the ice taught me a lot of lessons that I carry with me both on and off the ice even today.  Here are top 10 nuggets the ice has taught me over the years:

  1. Honesty and integrity– the fate of a game rests on your word.  Unlike other sports, curling has no refs; the teams are left to their own devices to make the calls that could cost them the game, and at times it’s very tempting to not call a burned stone, or miss-call shot rock to benefit your team. But the thing that makes curling such a unique game is its spirit – its heart – that upholds honesty, integrity, and fair play above all things.
  2. Grace, the physical kind – you’re running, sliding, and throwing stones on an ice field for goodness sakes!  Curling isn’t a game of brute strength.  It’s a game of finesse.
  3. Grace, the feel-y kind – losing stinks in any game.  But after a curling game, win or lose, you’re encouraged to ‘broomstack’, or share drinks and laughs with the opposing team.  The quicker you learn to leave the game on the ice, the better time you’ll have.
  4. Teamwork – sure, there’s one Skip calling the game, but without the entire team of four working in unison, you’re looking at a train whose wheels have fallen off the tracks.  It’s all about team chemistry, knowing your teammates backwards and forwards and having each other’s backs game in and game out.  My teammates are like my family.  I know they have my back, and I, theirs.  Plus a good team dynamic makes the aforementioned broomstacking an ABSOLUTE blast!
  5. Communication – you know all that screaming and yelling you hear on the ice?  It’s not angry yelling. It actually serves a purpose, and a big one at that!
  6. Sportsmanship – it’s right up there with that honesty piece, but even more so.No heckling, no badmouthing, no overzealous celebrating when your opponent misses a shot, or when your team makes a shot.  It doesn’t negate a competitive atmosphere by any means, but there’s something to be said for subtly.
  7. Open-mindedness – curling’s one of those great sports where no matter how long you’ve played, if you let yourself, you can always learn something new.  Whether it be from your team, the opposing team, or that rookie who just stepped on the ice for the first time, don’t discount what you might be able to pick up.
  8. Adaptability – ice is a fickle strumpet; sometimes she’s fast, sometimes slow, and sometimes she’s fast, then slow and slightly askew. A perfectly executed shot might do the exact opposite of what you want.  Other times you’ll completely botch a shot and get lucky.  You need to know how to adapt.
  9. Practice excellence – like everything else in life, you can always improve your game.   Mistakes happen, the best learn from them.
  10. Have FUN!!! – this one goes without saying, right!?  It’s at the heart of the game, and in the heart of those who play!  If you can’t have fun, why’re you playing in the first place?

Family Sport

My First Love

Looking back at my childhood, I now realize I had a magical place which nurtured my first true love when I was four years old.  It was the baseball fields and Doerhoefer Park – and that was the home of the Downers Grove Youth Baseball Little League.

Family at the Baseball Park

Proudly wearing the league’s “DG” baseball hats

I was there probably 6 days a week.  My older brother played on the VFW Post 503 team and I was the team’s biggest fan.  I couldn’t wait for the day that I could start wearing the royal blue uniform and play.  Although I viewed myself more as the “assistant coach”, I was just there to cheer my brother on and be the best damn bat boy I could be.

But it was more than just my brother’s team that made the park feel like home.  My father was a coach and the league president.  My mother helped at the concession stand.  My best friends were there – of course only because their brothers and sisters played there too.  We all grew up together. When we got our chance to play, our younger brothers and sisters were there to cheer us on.  Almost everyone in town played.  We had rivalries. We talked about it at school – probably too much according to most teachers.

It was family.  It was a community.

And I miss it.

 

My Kids & Today’s Youth

Now that I have three young kids of my own, I am hopeful of producing the same experience and memories for my kids.  But my fear is these programs don’t exist on the same level anymore.

Nowadays, it seems youth sports are more about traveling teams that frankly, in my opinion, play way to many games and travel way to far.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still great avenues for kids and families.  Local park districts offer great opportunities.  Schools  still offer some community based activities.

But nothing like Curling.

 

Family Curling

Baseball will always hold a special spot in my heart,  but that love is now being matched by Curling.

One of the greatest things about curling is that just about anyone can play.  It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how fast your are… doesn’t matter how old you are… and it really doesn’t matter how good you are either!

Anyone can curl.  Families can curl.

Family Curling

Photo Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

I have seen teams with 3 generations of family playing together.  Could you imagine in any other sport having your grandpa and mother play on the same team with you?  Or your sister and both parents?

I was lucky enough to have my brother, Jeff, and a good friend, Dave, join and start curling when I did.  I probably wouldn’t have joined without them – which would have been a huge mistake.  I can’t even begin to measure the opportunities curling provided for my brother and I.  It gave us a way to reconnect after both of us being away at college.  It gave us something to work at together, to grow together.  We are now closer than ever, and it is because of curling.  When we are in the club or away on a bonspiel and I hear someone say “The Galas Brothers” – it always reminds me of those baseball fields where family and community was so influential in my life.

I now look forward to curling with my own sons – after all I have built my own little men’s team.   Hopefully they’ll even let the old man skip.  I hope I’m fortunate enough to curl with my grandkids one day as well.  Seeing other families curl together is such an inspiration (even if they do fight a little at the same time).

The community that is curling is amazing and is only enhanced by the ability to curl with family and friends.

 

Share your Family

I know there are countless families out there with curling stories, so please feel free to share and inspire. And because it’s family… that especially includes the bickering – the nit picking – why did you call that shot – Grandma Sally could have even made that shot – comments!

Let us hear your stories – please share them in the comments.

 

It’s more than Curling; It’s Community

I was lucky enough to be introduced to curling in 2006 after the Olympics. Luckily my friends and I found a club, Waltham Curling Club, that was within a few hours of us and they had an Open House.

It was awesome.

The club members there were so inviting and welcoming.  They just loved the sport and loved sharing it with us.  We instantly felt like we belonged. I literally was giddy on the way home and when my friend suggested joining, I don’t think I could have blurted out my response any faster.  Yes!

So the three of us joined.  The first season was great.  We jumped right in and played in a league and every member there was ready to help teach us about the game.  We received countless hours of coaching and advice sessions.  We “broomstacked” with everyone as often as we could.  We were hooked.

The other members suggested a “bonspiel.”  So, we went to our first bonspiel. We signed up for the Watermelon Open at Pardeeville Curling Club (which might be the best first bonspiel for anyone to go to).  When we arrived, we were nervous because we had no idea what to expect.  They couldn’t possibly be as nice and welcoming as back home, right?  A bonspiel will be much more competitive and not friendly.  Oh were we surprised.  It was nothing like we could have ever dreamt of.   From the moment we arrived at the club, we knew we were in the right spot, the right bonspiel, the right sport.

We were used to highly competitive sports and were just amazed at the camaraderie, sportsmanship and community of curling.  In other sports you always would say nice shot or good game… but you don’t necessarily mean it.  In curling, you do mean it.  You want to see them make an amazing shot.  You want to congratulate them when they do.  After the game, you want to broomstack (where the winners buy the drinks). You really enjoy the companionship from the team that just beat you.  You want to share stories.  You want to be a part of the great community.

Looking back, I guess I wasn’t “lucky” to be introduced in 2006… I was unlucky to not be introduced so much earlier!

If you ever talk to a curler, I’m sure you will get this great feeling.

If you ever have the chance to curl… do it, no matter what.  You won’t regret it.  You will love curling, but more importantly you will love your fellow curlers.

It’s more than curling; it’s community!