Curling: love it or not, there is no denying there is a high level of passion for the sport, especially in Saskatoon. And for those of us passionate about curling, there is no greater fun than introducing new people to the sport.
A week or so ago, I was invited to help introduce a group of young exchange students from Nicaragua to the roaring game. Needless to say this was a totally new experience for the 14 Nicaraguans and also for a few of their Canadian hosts. I confess it is more than a few years since I stepped on the ice for the first time. But watching these young people enthusiastically heading out onto a sheet of ice and getting into the game brought back more than a few memories of my own first tentative steps on the ice back when I was about the same age. It also brought one or two insights, and perhaps a dose of humility.
Having played for many years, the game is as natural to me as breathing; I do it and understand it without thinking about it. I have achieved a certain level of unconscious competence. By contrast in teaching others who had never seen it before, I was reminded how incredibly complex the sport is for those just starting out. Everything is new, the language of curling is strange, the motives are unclear, the strategy is obscure, there is seemingly little purpose or direction. But as the game went on, little by little our guests started to pick it up. Three ends in and you could visibly see the confidence growing, the movements more sure and the understanding deepening.
And that is when the light went on. No matter what we undertake in life, we all start out as beginners. Never do we undertake something new and immediately do it at a masters level. The things worth doing always start with faltering hesitant steps when everything is so strange as to be incomprehensible. It takes time, effort, practice, repetition, and persistence over time to achieve competence and ultimately mastery. Curlers do not play at Brier level the first time on the ice.
That is where humility comes in. It’s hard to be a newbie. You have to risk looking clumsy, being incompetent, making mistakes. No one likes it, but that is the way it is; no gain without this sort of pain. Sadly, this stops a lot of people in their tracks. I think it gets worse as we get older too. Easier to stick with the tried and true, the old and familiar than to risk failing or looking foolish at something new. There is a price to be paid for that of course.
My Nicaraguan friends had a great time, and so did I. It will be a while before we see any of them in the Brier, but I have no doubt that it could happen if one of them chose to do it. It starts with willingness to step on the ice. Then it just takes effort and persistence to get just a little bit better every time.