As you may have seen on the news or social media, the broader curling community in the United States has been in turmoil recently. Several issues contributed this chaos: namely, the (now) former CEO of USA Curling, Jeff Plush’s role as commissioner of the NWLS during the period in which numerous abuses have been detailed, and the decision by the Board to remove an entire regional association based on a strict interpretation of the bylaws and the use of extremely questionable data from COVID years.
Over the last six months, off-ice drama has placed unique pressure on the volunteers that make up the boards of USA Curling, the regional curling associations, and individual curling clubs, resulting in far more work than any expected. The USCA Members Assembly on Oct. 21, 2022 was a breaking point for regions, clubs and members alike. However, I want to assert that while the events that transpired at and in the lead-up to the Members Assembly brought these conflicts to a head, a much deeper rift that requires major change exists and has been made visible. While Jeff Plush has since resigned from his role as CEO of USA Curling, the Board’s inaction and lack of transparency when it was demanded by the regions and clubs continues to lead to mistrust among their constituents.
After the Members Assembly, I was pleased by the statements made by Dakota Curling Supplies, Goldline Curling Supplies and Hardline Curling Supplies. These statements helped to reinvigorate my faith in the broader curling community because these companies stood up and made a statement when it mattered. With them, I stand in support of those who have experienced abuse, misconduct, harassment, and other mistreatment while curling or otherwise. I would like to remind members of the Inland Northwest curling community that if they have experienced abuse, misconduct, or harassment while curling with the Lilac, Coeur d’Alene or Inland Northwest Curling Clubs in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene region, that they are encouraged to bring reports to me or other Board members and we will direct them up through the channels, be it criminal or via Safe Sport.
Judy Hopps from Zootopia said “Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with all of us.” We need to make sure that we aren’t the root of things, and we need to lead by example. To this end, I have shared Windy City Curling code of conduct with the INWCC board and have expressed that we need to have something similar as soon as possible.
For many of us, the curling community is so much more than a collection of teammates and opponents—it’s a rambunctious extended family. I started curling in April 2014 with Windy City Curling during their first on ice season. Those roots taught me some very important lessons about the curling community. With the other members, I helped carry stones to the ice, set hacks and pebble the ice at 9:30pm on every Thursday night for our only draw at 10pm every week. We broomstacked before games, so when we rolled off the ice at midnight and all had to work the next morning, we were able to get some sleep. I learned that everyone needed to help to make sure that the club was successful. This extended family reaches far beyond our individual clubs, with curlers making connections and cheering each other on at bonspiels across the country.
However, like many communities ours is hampered by the existence of an “old boys’ club” consisting of longstanding clubs, regions, and organizations that benefit from maintaining the status quo. It was visible in the Members Assembly, when delegates still had arguments to make but a few large regions were tired of hearing the issues and voted to stop the debate prematurely.
These groups often say that they want to help grow the sport and do the bare minimum to help, like loan rocks to get an arena club going and reduce dues for a period. These actions can grow the sport, but are like planting a seed and seeing the plant grow, but not watering and feeding it. Not all newer clubs grow at the same rate, especially without creating favorable conditions for growth.
Right now, I perceive that there are three classes of curling clubs in the US:
- Dedicated clubs that have been around for decades and are of the fabric of its community, just like most clubs in Canada;
- Newer dedicated clubs, which were likely started as an arena clubs, who had members who could afford to chip in large sums of money to get the club to dedicated ice; and
- Arena clubs.
Each of these groups have different needs and therefore we need to address them differently. The same conditions that allow clubs with more resources to thrive strangle clubs without these physical and monetary assets. As a result, these groups of clubs need to be treated in a way that recognizes their differences, but also like each is an equally important member of the curling community.
The viability of curling as a strong national sport with long-term success on the international level relies on the strength and vibrancy of the entire curling community. I urge each and every one of us to recognize that we all have a role in making change and support both individuals and clubs that have experienced mistreatment or been placed in conditions where growth has been impossible. This how we will continue to grow our family, become more diverse, bring better athletes into the sport, and improve our world on and off ice.
Matthew D. Moore
Inland Northwest Curling Club