Husband & Wife Start Local Curling Club After Being Inspired by Team USA
The scene is the 2018 Winter Olympics, the crowd is cheering, and Team USA just won its first gold medal for curling. It sure doesn’t seem like this ice-based Olympic broadcast from Pyeongchang, South Korea, would have had much of an impact in Louisville, Kentucky.
But it did.
In the wake of Team USA’s victory, Bethaney and Brett Curry were inspired. The couple sought out local curling clubs, but soon found that there were none within a two-hour drive from Louisville. So, with the determination – but not the experience of Olympians – two people who had never held the brooms or thrown the stones started their own group: the Derby City Curling Club.
Starting a club meant learning the basics of curling first: rules, terminology, and equipment. For a club game, two teams of four attempt to ‘throw,’ or slide, a 44-pound stone closest to the ‘button,’ or the bullseye that is found in a set of concentric circles drawn on the ice, to earn a point.
For each stone closer to the button than the opponent’s closest, the scoring team gains another point. As the stone slides, teammates sweep the ice in its path with their brooms. This heats the ice, affecting the amount of curl in the stone’s journey. After eight rounds of eight stones per team, the game ends, and the team with the highest score wins.
But curling is far more than rules of play. When Derby City players step out onto the ice, they go out to bypass the basics and break barriers.
“Our primary goal is to bring curling to the state of Kentucky in an adaptive way for both youth and people of all ages,” Kendra Felix says. As president of the club, Felix’s goal is to continue the sportsmanship that curling brings. Felix was elected after founder Bethaney Curry stepped down from the position to pursue a PhD.
Today, the club actively brings curling to all ages and offers Learn to Curl sessions. The club also offers adaptive classes so that those with disabilities can join.
“Anyone can do it. You can curl from a standing position or a squatting position,” Felix says. “You can curl from a sitting position, like in a wheelchair.”
Open to all ages, the club’s website noted the youngest participant is 8 years old and the oldest is 81.
“We have a lot of people who are interested in curling,” Felix says. “We have a lot of people who don’t know at all what it is, and that’s ok. That’s why we’re here.
The ‘that’s why we’re here’ mindset is the cornerstone of the international curling community and the basis of the club’s mission.
“Curling is all about people, honestly, when it comes right down to it.” Felix says. Once the game is done, there is a tradition called ‘broom stacking.” At the end of the game, everyone stacks their brooms and goes to socialize and talk.
Felix noted that many times, athletes go to a curling competition and don’t know anyone else. There could be people from different parts of the world and after the game has ended, athletes are sitting around a table and sharing a meal and chatting.
“It’s really fun and it’s how you meet more people,” Felix says. “You get more involved in the clubs; you get involved more in the sport itself and you build networks that support you no matter what. It’s like growing a family.”
Beyond visiting with other teams, Felix also discusses the interactions between Derby City Curling Club and the professional world.
“When Team USA won the gold, one of the players, the vice skip of that team, decided to retire and became a sports ambassador,” Felix says.
“His name is Tyler George, and he visits different clubs. He came to our club just to chat and talk to us and show us his gold medal . . . he is the nicest guy; you wouldn’t even know he’s an Olympian,” Felix says.
It’s this involvement that strengthens the community, Felix explained. “You can be brand new at curling and go all the way up to the Olympic level and still be friends with these people. The friendships that we’ve gained, not only on a local and national level, but also at the elite level, make it something I wanted to pursue.”
Yet despite a wonderful community and a focus on inclusion, the Derby City Curling Club has certainly had hard times. Founded only a few years before the start of a global pandemic, the fledgling group lost an entire season to the COVID-19 virus before returning to the ice for the 2021 – 2022 season.
Yet, the time lost wasn’t time wasted. The club took the opportunity to improve ice maintenance at Alpine Ice Arena, their current home. Although coming back was exciting with new opportunities and fresh ice, the club was certainly different–whether from pandemic-related concerns or other factors, many players didn’t return.
“We kind of had to start over,” Felix says.
Now, the club is moving into the future, retaining the ideas of family and adaptivity while looking to expand.
One goal is to establish their own curling facility.
“On arena ice, you’re going to be competing with ice skating and hockey and other ice sports, and it makes the ice not ideal for curling,” Felix says. “The idea is to have a warehouse space that we convert to an ice floor. That will further increase the growth of the sport because we’ll be able to do more classes, clinics, workshops, leagues, and competitions.”
Yet without more members, the club can’t grow. Derby City strive to increase membership with options for people of all ages and skill sets.
“The first step to joining a curling club is taking a Learn to Curl, the signature two-hour class that gives an introduction to the sport,” Felix says.
Felix laughed when she talks about the classes. “Once you’re hooked after those two hours, you can become a member and curl on a regular basis.”
She also encourages those interested in competing to join the club. “Our membership is so low that leagues can’t really happen yet,” she says. “We need people to join so we can talk about leagues—there’s truly something for every curler at Derby City.”
Felix reflected on her experience so far. “The game of curling attracts really good people,” she says.
With such a strong emphasis on relationships and sportsmanship, it’s no wonder. Curling is truly a sport centered around unity and family – that’s the real ‘button’ players aim for. The equality, value and mutual respect that comes for a collection of so many passionate athletes is a road sign pointing toward a unity of love and belonging –like a family – far beyond sports and ourselves.
Making that road sign more prominent is the future of the Derby City Curling Club – one stone at a time.
For more information or to sign up for a Learn to Curl class, visit www.derbycitycurlingclub.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.