There’s that old cliche about how it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. There’s some truth to it. In Midwestern river towns like the one where I grew up, it can take three showers a day to wash away the muggy August air. But a hundred degrees is a hundred degrees, and even in the dry New Mexico air you’d have to be a bit foolhardy to be out in the sun in the height of a summer afternoon. Maybe an ice rink isn’t the first thing you think of in the middle of summer in a small high desert town, but I’m glad we have one, and I’m glad that our town has a curling league with lenient admission standards that allow newcomers like me to participate.
When the Winter Olympics roll around, I always make time to watch the curling events. It’s like shuffleboard on ice. It’s mesmerising–the slow motion release, the aggressive sweeping, the satisfying thwack when one stone hits another. Like bowling or shuffleboard, it seems like curling takes an incredible amount of skill but not a whole lot of athleticism. And that’s something that a relatively uncoordinated fellow like myself can get behind. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, but until earlier this year I never lived in a town that had a curling league.
I haven’t been the most graceful newcomer. I wore a pair of tractionless shoes the first time out. I started out sweeping, and I didn’t even make it to the other end before hitting the ice hard. I was smarter the next time around and wore an old pair of running shoes, but it took another couple falls to convince me I needed to buy a specialty pair. As far as throwing goes, the first few matches have been trial-and-error in trying to stay balanced and judge the throwing distance. I am thankful for patient teammates.
I’m also thankful to occasional commenter and all-around amazing friend “thepitchforkemoji” for the wonderful birthday present. Smart Curling (tagline: Perfect Your Game Through MENTAL TRAINING) was written by Vera Pezer, a Canadian curling champion turned sports psychologist. I haven’t read the whole thing yet. Not all of the book applies to me: there’s a chapter on dealing with difficult teammates, which thankfully doesn’t apply to me. But she does offer some simple strategies to improve your game. I tried one this week. I don’t want to say that I’m great yet, but I can say that it helped. I no longer feel like I’m holding my teammates back. Quite as much. I’m somewhere between hopeful and confident that I’ll be able to hold my own by the end of the season.