Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Open Letter to Curling Officials

Dear Curling Official,
On behalf of my coaching colleagues & and the athletes with whom we're honoured to guide, thank you for your dedication to the sport of curling and the countless hours, many of them in below freezing temperatures, you devote to helping us enjoy the greatest game on ice. You are all volunteers who have studied the rules, attended officiating workshops & courses and have demonstrated proficiency in a task that largely goes unnoticed by many of us, and curling fans. At the highest level we can't play the game without you!

The game you've chosen to officiate is a curious one. The vast majority of the time it's contested without officials. In fact, there are thousounds, perhaps tens of thousands of curlers who participate recreationally for many decades, never to have played a game with an official of any kind present. Our summer companion sport of golf is played in a similar manner. Essentially, in both sports, the onus is on the player to both know the rules and to never take advantage of the fact that indeed there is no one to enforce them.

The very heart & soul of both sports is embodied in the notion that enforcement and application of the agreed upon guidelines of fair play are part of the responsibility assumed by the participant. Neither sport can be played without that understanding. The handshake that takes place prior to the start of a game of curling and a round of golf is a reaffirmation among its participants that the "code of ethics" is indeed the cornerstone of the sport and will be its guiding beacon throughout the contest. It's a clear statement to one's opponent that you know the rules, will not knowing breach any of them and if you happen to inadvertently do so you will divulge the violation. Our role as coach is to ensure that's the case!

It is our understanding that your role primarily is to be present to help us interpret and on occasion apply the rule(s) correctly if called upon to do so. We understand & generally appreciate your reluctance to be a constantly involved arbitrator.

Unfortunately not all players live up to their end of the tacit agreement outlined above. They do not know the rules and their adherence to the aforementioned "code of ethics" varys. When this occurs, hard feelings often are the residue of what should have been a wonderful experience.

When a player breaks a rule, regardless of the motivation, be it intentional or inadvertent through a lack of knowledge of the rule(s) we need you to step in, not wait for one of us to invite you in! When the onus is on us as player or coach, you place us in an awkward and frankly unwarranted situation. Often when we go to you for assistance we're seen as a complainer or whiner as opposed to someone who does know the rules, honours the game's code of ethics, and simply wishes to play the game in a fair manner.

The game of curling has changed in my lifetime. There are now large sums of money on the line and honours such as Olympic Champion which I never dreamed would be a driving force in curling. Mostly, those rewards give extra life to curling. For some, unfortunately, the prize has become so great that they will do anything to achieve it. On occasion the rules become something to circumvent rather than embrace.

This letter to you is to ask that you join with those of us who care about the spirit of curling by stepping into to a rules application situation without being invited to do so when, in your educated opinion, a rule has been broken and it's obvious the violator is not going to own up regardless of his/her motivation for not doing so. Please don't wait for one of us to ask you to step in!

I hope you agree, as distasteful as it might be and as much as it may be a change in operating procedure, it's time for officials to rethink their role.

And once again, thank you for all you do for us!
Coach Bill

Note to Curlers: As you can see by the open letter you've just read, it's your responsibility to know the rules, all the rules, not just the ones you "pick up" along the way. The curling rule book is not a voluminous publication and in most cases can be viewed on line ( You can read the rules that apply to the actual playing of the game in about 15 minutes. It's something I do before every World Senior Championship ( and I expect my players to do so as well.

While I'm on that subject, let me walk you through what one's role is in a rule violation. If you inadvertently break a rule, you have but one role, to indicate the breach. You and your teammates are done! It's now up to the offended team to apply the option afforded to it in the rules. If you and your teammates are "ticked" with the option selected, too bad! You caused the problem! Play on! To that skip of the offended team, you must know what your options are. That's why you need to know the rules.


  1. Thank you for the "Note to Curlers" at the end of this post. I wish more players would see this! What is particularly irksome is when your team admits your breach and the opposing team does what they need to do (no problem with this for me), and then proceeds to commit two blatant rule violations without taking any ownership or responsibility. That's not fair play at all. If you are going to benefit from the rule violation of another team, your players better darn well be ready and willing to admit when they breach!!

  2. The spirit of curling works both ways, too. I have seen two instances where a "non-offending" skip/vice-skip have called for breaches of rules. One was a hog line violation when they were at the far house and the other a touched moving stone from 20'+ away. In both cases, the "offender" was surprised by the accusation and the "non-offending" skip/vice-skip's own teammates disagreed that there was a violation. Regardless, not only was the skip/vice-skip insistent that a violation occurred but that the offending party was also violating the spirit of curling. Also, in one case the skip/vice-skip also said they had the right to make the call.

  3. Unfortunately, as an official (USCA Level 2, but it isn't all that different in Canada), I can't actually help you...

    We are taught, and evaluated upon, the fact that, except in the most egregious cases of issue, we are *not to intervene* unless invited by one of the two skips (or, at the very least, one of the 8 players on the off-ice coach as an absolute last resort), and even then, our stated mission is not to make a ruling (unless absolutely necessary), but to make sure both skips know the relevant rule and the remedies for the claimed infraction. The onus is still on the Skips to resolve the issue, we are only there for clarification, opinion, and as a mediator if a resolution cannot be agreed to.

    Should that, perhaps, change now that there is something at stake? Perhaps, but as an individual official, I am powerless to change the paradigm.

    1. Coach Bill: What is the e-address for the online rule book.?

  4. The Ontario and Canadian rules are published on the OCA website at

    As a coach, I read them at the start of each competitive season and carry a pdf copy on my iPad. I know of bantam and junior teams that have been subject to unfair interpretation of the rules and feel that I would be deficient in my role if I could not act as a strong advocate for my team in such a situation.

  5. This is something to be discussed in the next few years at the CCA/ WCF level. With more at stake and much more emphasis on winning, not just playing the game in the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie, we will need more "hands-on" officiating.

  6. Here's one rule from the WCF rulebook that I'm just waiting to spring on an opponent: "The non-delivering team players must not take any position, nor
    cause any motion, which could obstruct, interfere with, distract or
    intimidate the delivering team. If such an action occurs, or an
    external force distracts a player during delivery, that player has
    the option of allowing the play to stand, or of redelivering the
    stone after all displaced stones have been replaced to their
    positions prior to the violation taking place." ;-)