Getting Started in Competitive Curling
So, you want to get involved in competitive curling? Here’s a general overview of the process:
Pick the event that’s right for you. If you’re just getting started, try attending ‘fun-spiels’ put on during the course of the year, bonspiels run by curling clubs around the region – they’re great places to get experience and meet other aspiring competitors.
Put together a team. This can be the toughest part of the process, and the only solution is to network, network, network. Bonspieling is a good way to meet players from outside the club. And remember, you don’t need to be a skip to build a team.
Sign up. For some events, you may need to win your own club’s championship to earn the right to register for the Regional event. For other events, you may register directly to the Regional event or even a National event like Mixed Nationals or (Elite) Nationals, you can register for the event as soon as you have a team.
Win your regional qualifier. Some events are very popular and must hold regional qualifiers. The format of these qualifiers varies a lot from event to event. For competitions like Club Nationals or Mixed Nationals, where one of the goals of the event is to encourage the growth of competitive curling in smaller regions, you play a regional qualifier in the zone where you live. (For example, we are a part of the Illinois Curling Association (ICA) region, so we’d have a regional playoff with other ICA teams to win the ICA berth in the national championship.)
Other events, like the (elite) Men’s and Women’s Nationals, hold “regional qualifiers” but these events are just aimed at narrowing down the field to the top teams and have no relationship to where the players live. For example, a team with players from Massachusetts or Minnesota could play in the West regional qualifier. (Unlike other events,(elite) Nationals also has a second round, called the “Challenge Round” or “Second Chance,” for some of the teams that don’t qualify for national championship directly from the regional playdown.)
There are some events that do not have any regional qualifiers. Mixed Doubles is currently one of these events, though that may change as the event grows. Also, in some years, Women’s (Elite) Nationals does not have more than 10 teams register, and in those years, that event does not have regional qualifiers.
How good do I need to be to compete at the elite national level? Top curlers routinely shoot in the 80% – 95% range. In other words, they always make the open hit and they usually make the roll as well. When they’re sweeping, they are able to tell exactly how fast a rock going as soon as it leaves the shooter’s hand. Not to worry if you’re not there yet, though – there are plenty of fabulous competitive events where you can hone your skills until you get to that level!
And remember, if you have any questions, always feel free to talk to your clubmates who have done this before!
The CRCC does not have any funding available for elite curlers or teams at this time. Some USCA events offer partial reimbursement for teams that make it to nationals. The USWCA has a Future Fund that provides small grants to women. Some teams also get their own sponsors.
- USCA main site
- USCA championship site
- USCA national events
- USCA Rules of Curling and Competition
- World Curling Federation
Below is some of the summary, background and regional information about the events. All of these rules and guidelines for teams are subject to change, so please check the USCA’s rules for this year to be sure your team will qualify!
- *(Elite) Nationals (men’s and women’s) – This is for the most elite curlers in the country. The winners go to the world championships and Olympics. Teams consist of 4 players who can be from anywhere in the US. They must playdown, but they can chose to do it in any of the announced ‘qualifier’ sites in the US. All team members must be US citizens.
- Mixed Nationals (4-person teams) – Teams are made up of two men and two women. The rules for team composition currently state that teams must have at least two people from the region where the team will play down. Please check the ‘USCA Rules of Curling and Competition’ for details. Participants must be at least 18 years old to enter. Players must be US residents, but do not need to be US citizens. The gender order of the shooters must alternate (for example: if a woman skips, then a woman must play second.) Teams must win a regional championship to qualify. (Teams do not represent specific clubs, so no club championship is necessary.) We playdown within ICA.
- *Mixed Doubles (2-person teams) – Teams are made up of one man and one woman. Winners may be selected go to the World Championship. No playdowns are held all teams go to the national championship. US rules may not be exactly the same as WCF rules. Check the ‘USCA Rules of Curling and Competition’ and playdown requirements closely each year on this one!
- *Senior Nationals (men’s and women’s) – Senior Nationals is like to Elite Nationals, except it’s for people at least 50 years old by June 30 the year before the championship takes place. Due to the relatively small numbers of participants, the Senior Men’s and Women’s National Championships are a non-geographic championship. There are no regional or state playdowns at this time.
- *Junior Nationals (men’s and women’s) – Like the Elite Nationals except for participants must be 21 or younger by June 30 the year before the championship takes place.
- *Wheelchair (currently combined men’s and women’s team) – Individuals register for and attend a national tryout event where a team will be assembled by USCA officials. Tryouts will typically be held in September or October each year.
- *World University Games (men’s and womens) – Similar to the Olympics, this event is held biennially and is organized by the FISU – International University Sports Federation. National trials are held and 1 team will be nominated by the USCA, to the USOC, to become the US representative. All players on the team must be US citizens by specified date (Players need not be US residents). All competitors must be at least 17 and less than 28 years of age on January 1 of the year in which the games are being held and must be students who are officially registered for and pursuing a full-time course of study at a university or similar institute whose status is recognized by the appropriate national academic authority of their country.
- *Youth Winter Olympic Games (‘mixed’, 4-person teams) – Similar to the Olympics, this event is organized by the IOC and will be held every 4 years. The 2012 edition was held in Innsbruck, Austria. For the sport of curling, the players are to be aged between 17 and 18 years old at the time of the event. National teams will compete in 4-person ‘mixed’ format competition at the beginning of the games. Following that, an ‘international mixed doubles’ competition will take place. The make-up of the mixed doubles teams will be decided by performances in the 4-person event, with each team having one male and one female player, of two different nationalities.
The *(starred) events are/may be World Championships and/or Olympics track events.