Stirling’s Newest and perhaps coolest sports team will sweep you of your feet.
It was a chilling blast of cold air that hit me when I walked into Perth’s curling rink for the first time, perhaps due to my time spent in the toasty coffee shop upstairs watching teams prepare to take to the ice for the first university competition of the season. Stirling has two teams present for the first time this year, varying experience from freshers new to the game and members of the farming families who dominate curling in Scotland and set foot on Ice as soon as any other surface. As I settle into watch the first game I am hit immediately by the realisation that the stereotype of curling as a leisurely sport for the elderly was way off. Screams of sweep from skips desperately trying to judge the speed and line of a stone as it travels towards the scoring zone, or house as I now know it to be called. A game lasts nearly two hours, two hours of frantic sweeping the ice to melt it in the right places, two hours of tactically measuring the opponent and above all else two hours of extremely exacting consistent technique. The way that the players lean down low one leg trailing behind them the other holding all of their weight pushing them forward and propelling them towards the other side of the ice, a plastic sole on their shoe (presumably because walking on ice just isn’t slidey enough for them) is frankly astonishing. Quite how they manage to maintain balance in such a contrived body shape is frankly beyond my comprehension.
As a spectator I was also shocked by just how exciting it was, getting carried away as Stirling 1 defeated Herriot Watt with literally the last shot of the game giving them victory. Two hours of action coming down to one do or die throw is what sport is all about, the pressure on the Stirling skip James (who has represented Ireland internationally) must have been huge. Another striking difference between curling and other sports was the reaction of the Stirling players to victory, there were celebrations of course but the very first thing they did was shake hands with their opponents and agree to fit in a drink together before their next match. I began to realise over the day that as competitive as curling is there is a real community spirit behind it, the more experienced players who have been playing with and against each other for most of their lives were fast to include their fresher teammates into the community even I as an outsider, unable to step onto the ice due to both a striking lack of balance and a surgically repaired knee, felt like I was making friends that would last beyond that day. If there’s anyone reading this at Stirling who’s looking for a new skill, some new friends and an opportunity to travel the countries ice rinks I can’t recommend curling enough. For more information on the society you can get in touch with the society’s president Robert at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and beginners are always welcome. You can also keep up with the society at https://www.facebook.com/stirlingunicurling/ where they post post-match reports and pictures from their games. Their next training session for beginners will be on November 1st at the Peak, give it a try just don’t blame me if you get addicted to sliding up and down the ice.