After a spike in interest in curling after the USA won a medal in the sport at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Thomas Brunton, the Ice Rink Coordinator, began a competitive curling league for our own community. Open to the Andover public, the league consists of teams composed of town residents, Andover alumni; parents, and faculty, and hosts round-robin style games every Saturday night at the Gurry Rink. “In Living Curler,” an all-Andover faculty curling team, consisting of Sheena Hilton, Flagstaff Cluster Dean and Instructor in Chemistry; James McQuade, Visiting Scholar in Finance; Erik Morales, Associate Director of Analytics; and Shannan Clarke, Associate Director of Parent Development, rebounded recently to win its third match after a loss during the second week of the season, maintaining its 2-1 winning record.
Brunton said, “We looked into curling awhile back to spearhead another program here at [Andover] Ice Rinks. After we discussed the pros, cons, and costs of it, we decided to take the plunge into buying all of the equipment and setting aside ice time. Since the USA won the gold medal in the Olympics this past year, we had to launch it now, if we were ever to do it.”
McQuade said, “[Brunton] was blown away by all the interest in the area, and given it’s not a lot of [Andover] folks, it’s just a lot of people who live in the area and want to curl, it’s a chance to meet new people. It’s better that there are plenty of other folks from the community. It’s a more enjoyable atmosphere.”
McQuade continued, “It’s awesome that there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t necessarily cross paths with each other on campus much. It’s great to have them here.”
Without previous experience in curling, the members of “In Living Curler,” the only team in the league that consists of Andover faculty, learned about the league through an announcement on PAnet posted in the spring.
Clarke said, “I’ve never seen [curling] before. Before I started, I watched YouTube, and now I love it. In a questionnaire, they asked me how competitive I was, and I passed, so I was asked to be on the team. [Curling] is like a puzzle. They, the Olympians on YouTube, call it chess on ice, but I don’t think it’s chess on ice.”
Hilton added, “We’re working with feet, and [the Olympians are] working with centimeters in terms of the precision… I loved curling before I started playing it, so now I like it even more. I just watched a lot of curling in the past.”
The goal of curling is to slide stones into the center of four concentric rings on the ice, knocking opponents’ stones out of the way in the process.
“In Living Curler” also recruits other Andover community members to the team as substitute players, according to Morales.
“We try to pick up new people knowing that not all of us can make it on Saturday night, so we would give [Director of Admission] Jill Thompson’s husband, Mr. Thompson, who has been wonderful and plays with us, a shoutout, as well as [Associate Director of College Counseling] Mr. Silversides, Mrs. Silversides’ [Instructor of Mathematics] husband. He’s listed as a sub, and hasn’t come out to play. It’s us four, and we bring in a sub when one of us can’t make it,” said Morales.
The league is formatted differently from an Olympic game. According to Hilton, the Olympic curling matches are longer and more intense.
Hilton said, “In the Olympics they curl for ten ends. An end is an inning. We throw in one direction, then we flip and throw in the other direction. That means we’ve changed ends. Each team throws eight rocks in an end. Once all 16 rocks are thrown, it’s a new end. In Olympics they do ten ends. We’re on a time limit.”
According to the members of the team, the Saturday competitions have introduced them to a new type of mentality.
Morales said, “For me it’s different from any other sport. Like in basketball, there’s true competition in that sort of sport. But [in curling], it’s more internally. I view it like I view golf. It’s just you and the ice. In some ways, there’s no one else to prevent you from trying to do something. You have to make sure your throw is the right way in the right speed to get it in the house to win points for your team. There’s an internal competition, is how I approach it at least.”
“But it’s strategy in your mind. It’s internal competition, but definitely as a team you’re trying to beat the people you’re curling against that night. It’s a nice brain exercise I think. It’s good for students. Maybe you’re working on something big and you need an escape, but it’s still working your brain,” added Clarke.
The team members also say they believe that the idea of forming a student league is not far-fetched, and could make for a fun community activity.
Morales said, “You could get 32 kids if you did two or three rounds, 60 or 90 kids out here curling for a night. I’m sure they would love it. I’d be happy to come out and challenge any students.”
“I’d chaperone that. Our team versus them. I like that,” added Hilton.
Chris Capano, Director of Student Activities, said, “I don’t know if there is ice time available for a student league — but maybe we could host an intro night or something like that for students. Ice time is pretty expensive so I doubt my office could support multiple meetings but if it proves popular enough we would try and find a way to make it happen.”