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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 a USWCA 5 & Under. These are bonspiels for curlers with 5 or fewer years of experience and some are open to both men and women. You might also want to consider Club Nationals, the Pacific International Cup, and the USWCA All-American or National - 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, like the Pacific International Cup or Club Nationals, you need to win your own club's championship to earn the right to register for the event. For other events, like Mixed Nationals or (Elite) Nationals, you can register for the event as soon as you have a team.
For events that require you to win a club championship, you need to contact your club's competitive curling coordinator and find out how the club picks its champion. Some clubs require you to win a league; some hold a special playoff. Here at the SFBACC, the person to contact is Thomas Vogelsang (firstname.lastname@example.org). At present, the club holds special playoffs to determine champions. If you do become the club champ, you'd then register for the event and begin the regional and national playdown process.
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 Mountain Pacific (MoPac) region, so we'd have a regional playoff with other MoPac teams to win the MoPac 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 SFBACC 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.