Curling Etiquette & Player Communication
The rules of etiquette and typical in-game communication protocols are presented together, because the communication protocols often serve to achieve the following general objectives of curling etiquette.
General Objectives of Curling Etiquette
The rules of curling etiquette are generally oriented towards realizing these three objectives:
1 - Maintaining a friendly, courteous, conflict-free atmosphere among the players,
2 - Preserving the quality of the ice for the best possible playing conditions, and
3 - Having a well-organized game with good pace of play, so that it will be possible to play all of the scheduled ends.
[Before the Game ]
Off-Ice Before the Game
You’ll find that some of these rules are more oriented towards arena curling scenarios, instructional leagues, or other situations where teams may change from week to week.
- Be aware that scheduled game time means “first rock”, not “let’s start moseying onto the ice”.
- Make a point to knowing (well before game time) who your Skip will be and what sheet you’ll be playing on.
- Arrive early and be ready to play before the posted game time.
- Upon arrival, let your teammates know you’re there.
- Be ready to play early in case the ice is available ahead of schedule.
- Make sure your shoes are clean -- curling shoes should be worn indoors only. *
- Wear clothes that don’t shed much lint, and brush pet hair and other debris from clothes before stepping onto the ice. *
* Arena ice tends to be dirty, so arena players be sensitive to the importance of these particular rules when visiting dedicated ice faciities.
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On-Ice Before the Game
- Upon entering the ice, congregate with your teammates near your assigned sheet so the opposing team knows you're ready.
- Shake hands with each player of your team and the opposing team, wishing them all 'good curling'.
- If any of the players on your sheet are people you haven’t met before, introduce yourself while wishing them 'good curling'.
- Leads should flip for choice of hammer or color about a minute prior to the scheduled start of the game.
- Some clubs have vices flip for choice; meld into the local culture and do it their way.
- The Lead who loses hammer should be standing at the hack fully prepared to throw their first rock by schedule start time.
[During the Game]
During your opponent’s turn
- Only the player who shot last and the player to shoot next may stand any closer to the delivery hack than the near hog line, and if so should stand quietly behind the opposing shooter (well beyond their peripheral vision).
- Any player may stand between the hog lines at any time; within 12" of a sideline and at least 4' away from the hog lines.
Avoid interfering with the opposing team's communication, line-of-sight, concentration, and movement. So, for example, if
the opponent is likely to call a shot to one extreme side of the ice, both sweepers should clear the ice to the opposite side.
- Keep your between-shot chatter upbeat, positive, friendly, and humorous; "The team that smiles the most wins!"
- As soon as the opponent releases their stone, the next shooter and sweepers should quickly move into position for their shot.
- When moving on the ice while your opponent's rock is still in motion, avoid crossing the ice between a shooter and the rock.
- Skips or Vices at the scoring end should be positioned directly behind the opposing skip, with brooms held horizontally, remaining quiet and still during the opponent's delivery.
- Skips should be planning two possible shots: (1) what will I call if they make this shot? and (2) what will I call if their shot doesn't change the landscape? If either of those two conditions occur, the Skip should be ready to call that planned shot immediately.
- If any player has any concern about etiquette, courtesy, or rules violations by the other team, those concerns should only be communicated to your own teammates, and that communication should be made discretely out of earshot of your opponents. Your Skip has sole discretion on whether to mention the issue to the other team, and if so will mention it privately to their Skip.
During your team's turn
Delivering Player should:
- Be aware of when your shot is next and be prepared to get ready quickly.
- Have your rock cleaned and positioned before all rocks come to rest from the previous shot.
- Have your gripper off or slider in position, and stabilizer or broom in hand, before all rocks come to rest from the previous shot.
- Be standing behind the hack ready to delivery before your Skip is ready to communicate the shot call to you.
- Once the shot is called, quickly confirm that your sweepers know the plan, then take the shot - avoid dawdling.
- After releasing the shot, communicate to your sweepers how it felt, such as "felt a bit heavy" or "it's narrow!" -- they can use that information to recalibrate their opinion of whether sweeping is warranted.
- After releasing the stone, quickly remove your knees and hands from the ice – avoid creating "melted" patches that ruin shots.
Sweeper responsibilities (overview):
- Stay between the sidelines of your own sheet at all times; avoid stepping into the field of play of neighboring sheets.
- Prevent rocks on your sheet from rolling into adjacent sheets.
- Clear the ice quickly (by moving to the sidelines) after your team’s shot is complete.
- Watch for lint and debris and remove it from the ice.
Sweeper etiquette and communication during your teammate’s delivery:
- Make sure all team members know what shot the Skip has called.
- Share your opinion with teammates on whether you think the ice is fudgy, normal, or keen along the called line-of-delivery.
- Decide which sweeper will “take the rock” (i.e., sweep closest to the rock), before the shooter begins to deliver.
- Starting position for the shot should be no farther from the shooter than the tee line, and within 12 inches of a sideline.
- Starting posture should be relaxed, with broom at your side rather than sticking out into line-of-sight of the shooter.
- During delivery, walk to keep pace with the rock but don’t “move in” from the sideline to the rock until it is released.
- Accept that the Skip is calling the shots; avoid second-guessing or grousing about the Skip’s calls during the game.
- If you feel strongly that the Skip is making the wrong call, it’s okay to occasionally say something to the Vice like, “do you think she consider the tap-up?”, but only the Vice should communicate any such alternatives to the Skip for consideration.
- If the Skip calls down asking for the Shooter’s opinion (e.g., “do you like this ice?”, “would you prefer the in-turn or out-turn?”), recognize that it’s a question for the shooter, not you.
- If using stopwatches, agree in advance which sweeper will be ready to sweep an extremely light shot immediatley (while the other sweeper checks the split time and puts their watch away).
Sweeper etiquette & communication while your team's shot is in progress:
- Call out your best guess at weight immediately after the release, then give “updates” at least 2 more time during the shot.
- If you don’t know the number system yet, describe weight relative to what the Skip asked for, like “light”, "good", or “heavy".
- If you think a rock is light, yell "Light" and start sweeping; the Skip doesn’t want you to wait for them to call "Sweep" in that case.
- Encourage teammates to have their own opinions about weight, and to make sweep decisions on their own. Don’t chastise them for sweeping when you’re not, or vice versa. Instead, act upon your own instincts, and give the respect of allowing them to make mistakes (that's how we learn!).
- Prevent rocks from your sheet from rolling into other sheets; keeping rocks on your sheet is a higher priority than sweeping!
- catch rocks in motion as soon as they touch the side line.
- if a rock in motion is drifting towards sideline and you feel “squeezed out”, fall back and walk behind the rock so that your feet remain on your own sheet. Let your sweeping partner take the rock, while you prepare to catch it with your broom.
- As a rock approaches the scoring end, anticipate the motion of all secondary rocks that may be put into motion, then:
1) be ready to catch any rocks that might roll into neighboring sheets, and
2) avoid stepping into paths where any of the rocks might bump into your feet.
Sweeper etiquette & communication after your team’s shot completes:
A team’s shot is considered to be completed as soon as all rocks in play come to a complete stop, and all rocks knocked out of play have been moved to behind the back line.
- After the shot, immediately move to either sideline then briskly walk out past the scoring end hog line.
- If your team has more rocks to play, walk back within 12" inches of the sideline and stop about 4' from the delivery end hog line.
- If you think the opposing team is likely to call as shot towards one extreme edge of the sheet, then both sweepers should return on the opposite side of the sheet to avoid distracting the opposing shooter.
- While returning to the delivery end, pay attention to the next shooter; stop walking/talking as soon as they touch their rock.
- After your team's last rock, wait outside the scoring end hog line until Vices declare the score; only Vices are allowed past the far hog line until the score is declared… even the Skips should remain outside the hog line as a matter of courtesy to the Vices.
- After the score is declared, the Lead of the team that scored should find their first rock and move directly to the hack to get ready, and the Vice of the team that scored should immediately hang the score; all others in the area should help clear the rocks.
- When clearing rocks, keep all rocks in motion close enough to be able to quickly stop them with your broom.
[After the Game]
- Shake the hand of every player on each team and thanks them for a 'good game'.
- Be humble, polite, and friendly in both victory and defeat.
- Compliment those who played exceptionally or made incredible shots, regardless of who won or lost.
- Never tease others about their mistakes or gloat about events or scores. Avoid embarrassing other players.
- Help with clean-up immediately after the game. *
- The losing team should offer to run the fuzzy mop over the ice to clean up any loose debris. *
- If you won, offer to buy a drink for the same-positioned opponent. *
- If you lost, offer to reciprocate later with a second round. *
- Avoid (at any time afterwards) rehashing any issues about etiquette, courtesy, or sportsmanship that might have occurred. Those issues belong permanently to the discretion of the Skip, who should generally just let them be bygones.
* Cleanup activities and broomstacking protocols often vary significantly for arena clubs, so watch members of the club and attempt to fit in helpfully and cheerfully with that club's particular culture.
Skip & Vice etiquette & communication when in the house:
- Have two possible shots planned and ready to call quickly in the event that the opponent either makes their shot exactly as called or misses the shot in such a way that the landscape is unchange.
- Communicate loudly and clearly with your sweepers, with 1 or 2 word instructions rather than full sentences.
- Avoid calling for sweep with similar sounding opposites, like "Yup" to sweep and "Up" to stop, or "Go" to sweep and "No" to stop.
- Communicate respectfully with your sweepers; they're teammates, not slaves; they're here to have fun, not to be chastised.
- Avoid calling "sweep" for weight, let your sweepers own the weight. Giving them your opinion, like "it looks light!" is fine, but if you're do their job for them, it's difficult for them to get any better at it.
- If a sweeper was wrong about the weight, avoid snarky retorts like "you call that tee line?". Instead, thank them for at least communicating their opinion, and reassure them that they'll get better at it.
- If you have no intention of sweeping rocks behind the tee-line, get out of the way early to give your opponent the house.
- If a player needs line-of-delivery feedback, give it subtly by showing them their actual line with a quick tap of the broom. *
- If a player needs other correction, call your Vice over to explain the issue, and have them discreetly advise the player. *
* Many players are doing their best, appreciate feedback if presented discreetly, and feel resentment and humiliation if corrected loudly or publicly.
- If a stationary stone is inadvertantly moved, or an external force disturbs a rock in motion, DO NOT unilateraly start placing rocks where you think they should be. Discuss rock position corrections with the other skip before you start moving rocks around!
- If there is ever any debate about the correct/appropriate position for a rock that has been disturbed, the offended Skip (i.e., the Skip who's team did not cause the problem) should be allowed the final decision, and should act within the spirit of curling.