When the 2014 Winter Olympics roll around next February in Russia, Waupaca’s fifth-graders will have a better understanding of one of its events.
Students spent a half-day this week at the Waupaca Curling Club to learn more about the sport of curling.
Figure skating, hockey and downhill skiing may draw the most TV viewers to the Winter Olympics, but curling is growing in popularity.
Players slide stones across a sheet of ice toward a target area divided into four rings. Two four-person teams take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, called rocks, across the ice toward the house, a circular target marked on the ice.
Each team has eight stones and the purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game. Points are scored for the stones resting closest to the center of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed after both teams have thrown all of their stones.
A curler can induce a curved path by causing the stone to slowly turn as it slides and the path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the sheet, using brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the stone.
A great deal of strategy and teamwork goes into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation and the skills of the curlers determine how close to the desired result the stone will achieve.
Curling was included in the program of the inaugural Winter Olympic Games in 1924, but the results of that competition were not considered official by the International Olympic Committee until 2006. Curling was a demonstration sport at the 1932, 1988 and 1992 games and added to the official program for the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.
“In fifth grade, we feel the students are responsible enough that they can be out here on the ice and be ready to listen,” Waupaca Middle School phy ed teacher Brandon Temperly said. “When you get out on the ice, everybody wants to slide and move around. That’s fun, but there are some skills that are involved (in curling) that can be difficult. Fifth grade’s a good age to get that started.”
Temperly was on the ice with volunteer instructors from the curling club to help the kids get started.
“We practiced in the gym with some makeshift equipment that we have,” Temperly said. “It’s nothing like what we can do here, but we go over technique, strategy and what each position does. The students have a general idea of how the game is played. When they get here, they get to see how it’s actually done.”
Temperly, the former girls’ basketball coach at Waupaca High School, said the curling unit is different than introducing students to other sports, such as basketball.
“Usually, we get about two or three students in fifth grade that have seen it or done it,” he said. “The other sports are televised so much, so the students are pretty familiar with them. Other than the Olympics, (curling) isn’t on TV very often. It’s pretty exciting that the students get so see something new and something maybe out of their element. Students enjoy things that are a little bit different.”
It doesn’t take long for the students to pick up on the skills, according to Temperly.
“Here at the curling club, Jan (Hanke) and Neil (Wenberg) do a fantastic job of breaking down the skills and showing them the safe way to do things correctly,” he said. “They seem to soak everything up pretty well when they’re here.”
The club also offers a youth curling program that starts with fifth-graders.
“This year, we did the unit a little earlier,” Temperly said. “Hopefully, that can help the curling club receive some more young students for their program. Usually, we’ve done this toward the end of their curling season in February just because it fit into the phy ed schedule a little easier. This is the first year we’ve done it this early.
“We worked two weeks prior to coming here and this is kind of the culmination of our unit,” he added. “We’ll discuss some things. The unit’s pretty much over here, but they have the opportunity to continue to curl in the youth program.”