Olympian Debbie McCormick Shares Her Curling Secrets

Editor’s Note: We asked Debbie McCormick, an Olympic-level curler, to share some of her thoughts about the sport she loves. McCormick will be competing in the upcoming Traverse City Curling Club’s (TCCC) Cherry Bombspiel tournament, which begins April 24. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of the tournament. Read on to find out how curling helped McCormick blossom as a kid and why it’s her passion as an adult. 

Curling and Team Sports Helped Me Break Out of My Shell. I was a quiet, shy kid. I started curling when I was eight, and I also swam and played soccer. Participating in team sports helped me find my voice because to play different positions, you really do need to be able to communicate. You can’t curl and be quiet. Being forced into communicating with other kids through sports improved my self-confidence, as did the awards and accolades that sports brought my way. Participating in sports helped me create a lot of friendships, some of which I still have to this day.

I Eat Lots of Healthy Snacks On Game Day. One game of curling typically lasts longer than two hours. In a tournament you might play three or more games in a day, so it’s important to plan healthy snacks and mini-meals ahead of time. I load up on healthy protein bars, fruit, nuts, and vegetables. When I eat right, I know my body will have the fuel it needs to perform. I also drink a ton of water, which is really important to keep my body from getting tight and sore.

Curling is a Physical and Mental Workout! Depending on which position they’re playing, players can walk or jog an average of two to three miles per game. The lead and second positions do most of the sweeping, which requires endurance and is the most aerobically challenging part of the game.  I currently play the Skip position which is basically being the captain of the team. I don’t do a lot of the sweeping, but need to be mentally strong so I can be focused and energized for the entire game. I recently started sprint triathlon training to make sure I’m physically ready every time I play.

Mentally, you need to be in the moment and focused. When I’m competing at my best, the crowd just fades away. It feels like I’m in a tunnel. The Skip’s role involves a lot of team strategy and by the end, you’re mentally drained. Some people have rituals to keep their head in the game, like chewing gum or singing a song in their head to calm down. I use a lot of breathing exercises when I curl and in everyday life to manage stress and stay focused.

I Love Being Part of a Team. There’s nothing better than sharing a victory with my teammates. Every member contributes and is important to our success. I love setting goals with a team and achieving those goals. I’m always trying to be my best and be a good teammate by encouraging everyone else. We’re all constantly talking and communicating, because one bad call or one bad throw means we have to change our strategy and adjust on the fly. Having good relationships on and off the ice really helps with that aspect of the game.

Failure Made Me Work Harder. At the 2006 Olympic trials, my team lost to a younger, much less experienced team. In our minds we had won before we ever stepped on the ice. We played well, but lost by a heartbreaking four inches. That loss was devastating and for a while, I really didn’t want to curl anymore. Watching the team that had beat us go on to compete at the 2006 Olympics actually motivated me to get back out there, because I knew I still had it in me to be better and contribute to a team! That taught me that no matter how hard it sometimes seems to keep going, you’ve got to persevere and dig deep. Find your passion in life and follow it, no matter how many times you fail. That’s what will make you the most happy.

There’s Not a Lot of Money in Curling. I wish this weren’t the case, but it’s true. Curling is something you do because you love it, not because you want to get rich! I’ve always had to work full-time jobs to pay for my “addiction.” Most curlers do the same. I’m fortunate that I now get to combine my love for curling with my work. I started a curling equipment and apparel business through my sponsor Goldline in 2010 that I’m able to take on the road with me – it’s the best of both worlds! I bring my mobile pop-up shop to competitions and love meeting people that way.

Everyone Should Give Curling a Try! Anybody can be a successful curler. There’s adaptive equipment available, which means anyone at any age, body size or shape can get in on the action. The curling community is very inclusive, and most clubs host learn-to-curl events for newbies. It’s a light, fun atmosphere and a great way to meet new people. Try it and I guarantee you’ll like it!

Watch McCormick and other curlers in Traverse City starting this Friday. If you like what you see, sign up for the TCCC’s Learn to Curl classes in May.

 

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