Woman embraces the sport of curling

Exchange Getting Into Curling
1 of 2

Alyson Wiedenbeck delivers a stone at the Racine Curling Club on Jan. 14 in Racine, Wis. The Racine Curling Club has 122 members and operates several leagues that play on weeknights and weekends.

Exchange Getting Into Curling

The JourĀ­nal Times

Sunday, January 28, 2018

RACINE, Wis. — While curling might not be a popular sport among young women, it is opened many doors for Alyson Wiedenbeck, 20, a local veteran of the sport.

Wiedenbeck got into curling when visiting the Racine Curling Club with her seventh-grade class at St. Rita School. Her teacher at the time, Pat Heim, is a club member.

“It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but there was so much interest from the class that she started a little six-week mini-league with us,” Wiedenbeck told The Journal Times.

From there, Wiedenbeck began playing at the club on weekends and joining leagues within the club.

She stayed on as a member until she left for college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she continues to curl. And she still visits the Racine club during school breaks.

The Racine club stressed sportsmanship and encouraging the other players.

“It’s a social sport, and that was fun because I got to make friends,” Wiedenbeck said.

While Wiedenbeck started in the curling world at a young age, David Rank, 42, a current member of the club, got into the sport around four years ago, during the last Winter Olympics.

Although Rank lives in Round Lake, Ill., he attended an open house in Racine, and then played as part of the club’s short Olympic league that year.

“That’s what really hooked me, is actually playing the game,” Rank said.

Then he joined as a regular member the following fall.

Rank also enjoys the social aspect of the sport.

“I like the camaraderie,” he said.

Curling is played by four-person teams on a sheet of ice.

One person delivers the 42-pound stone from one end of the ice toward a target on the other end of the ice, while two other teammates sweep in front of it. The fourth person stands on the other end of the ice and directs the thrower’s shots and sweepers’ efforts to affect the stone’s path.

The goal for everyone is to direct the stone — as it glides down the ice — as close to the center of the target as possible.

“You want to be closer than the other team’s stones,” Wiedenbeck said. “Exact center would be perfect.”

Curling is played on a different kind of ice than skating ice.

“It’s a pebbled texture, so it’s not smooth,” Rank said.

Sweeping does two important things to the stone.

“It allows the rock to stop curling, so it puts it on a straighter path, as well as it decreases the resistance on those little pebbles that are on the ice,” Wiedenbeck said. “So you’re actually melting down those pebbles with the friction you’re causing so the rock is also allowed to travel farther down the sheet — not necessarily faster, but farther.”

For the most part, the team members rotate through the positions. Games typically include eight “ends” wherein each team member throws two stones from one end, before switching to the other side of the ice.

“Really, what it comes down to is making those shots that the person on the other end wants you to make, and strategy,” Wiedenbeck said. “They do call it chess on ice.”

Wiedenbeck enjoys the finesse that goes with each part of the game, including delivery and release of the stone.

“I really like the style that goes into it,” Wiedenbeck said. “Once you’ve been playing for a few years, you kind of pick up a certain style and it does depend on what club you started at and what club has influenced you the most. That’s definitely Racine and southern Wisconsin for me.”

While participating in curling, Wiedenbeck picked up some expertise in communication and cooperation, as well as some soft skills.

“I’ve learned a lot because I started when I was in the awkward middle school years,” Wiedenbeck said. “Being a social sport, I think that kind of stopped me from being weird.”

She also said she’s lucky to have been given a lot of leadership roles within the sport.

In March, she will be running the National College Bonspiel (a curling tournament) in Eau Claire.

“Obviously, I just keep accumulating more skills and that’s really awesome that I get to do that within the curling world,” Wiedenbeck said. “I like being able to kind of mesh those two worlds together. It’s fun.”