|Me and Ann sweeping during the final in the national
championships earlier this year.
|Erika motivating me and Ann to sweep a rock into a good position|
|Erika encouraging us to sweep harder|
|Deb is working the stopwatch and Ann is doing the visual,
preparing to sweep
HHHHHUUUURRRRRYYYYY HHHHAAARRRRDDD. Line's close... Clean... It's a 6, cleaning...SWWWWEEEEPPPP!!!! Weight's good! WHOA! RIGHT OFF!! YES!!!!! CLOSE!!! HURRRRRYYYY!!! … GREAT SHOT!
Curling — one of the few sports where you can yell at your teammates, then high five after the shot is made.
Communication is a key element in curling. Every member on the team plays an important part of each shot. The team member delivering the rock releases at the intended target. The skip is calling the line, watching the rock to see if it is curling as expected, curling too far, or running straight. The sweepers judge the weight of the stone as it travels down the ice. It is the sweeper’s job to communicate as accurately as possible to the skip where they feel the rock is going to end up in the field of play.
If the rock is running slower than intended the sweepers will communicate that it is slow and it is their job to sweep to keep the rock in motion.
If the rock is curling too much, the skip will communicate that they need to sweep for line to keep the rock moving straight.
Maureen (Brunt) Clark (teammate in the '06 Games) and I always joked that we wanted to sweep like men. It's proven that speed and pressure combined is most effective in manipulating a curling rock into position. Male sweepers are generally more effective because of their upper body mass and ability to move the brush at lightning speed. So...I have decided to take on Lolo Jones' training and her diet of 9,000 calories to bulk up. Watch out boys... I've been trying to find a good excuse for burger loading... :) (kidding!!)
A team with strong sweepers — male or female — is a huge advantage. We not only carry the rock further by sweeping, we can also make the rock curl or stay straighter depending on which side of the running band on the rock we are sweeping on. The sooner the sweepers pick up on how fast the rock is traveling down the ice and communicates that to the skip, the sooner the skip will be able to predict the line that the rock will travel and this will result in more made shots. Sweepers use stop watches to time the rock at various points down the sheet of ice, to aide in determining the speed of the rock. Ultimately we rely on our instincts to help us judge the weight of the stone.
After you absorb all that is going on "behind the scenes" of a great shot, I will not forget to mention how the ice surface plays a role. Curling ice is completely different than hockey ice. There is a "pebble" that is put on the ice surface that feels like the texture of an orange peel. This allows air to flow under the curling stone. The air and the rotation of the rock allow it to slide down the ice. Every sheet of ice is different, similar to a putting green, and the effect of sweeping can vary based on the facility, weather conditions, the type of pebble laid down, time of day and oh so many other factors.
A great shot (whether it's a guard or a triple take-out) comes down to four players on a sheet of ice all communicating and taking on their role in that shot. It's a beautiful thing.