The University of St Andrews is ranked as the top university in Scotland, yet it lacks a distinct icon central to Scottish sport: Curling. The sport which involves teams of four hurling granite stones along a sheet of ice towards a target whilst frantically brushing to adjust its speed and direction is uniquely Scottish and is exported worldwide. With humble origins on frozen lochs, what could better epitomise the uniqueness of where we are fortunate enough to live and study? It is therefore shocking that the University has a sports team dedicated to the likes of Handball yet lacks any base for those wishing to play curling.
There are extensive facilities within reach of St Andrews which could be used by a University curling team including the Dundee Ice Arena, a top-class facility which also acts as the home for the highly successful Dundee Stars Ice hockey side. In addition, rinks dedicated specifically to curling are also available in Kinross, Forfar and Perth. Furthermore, it is not unheard of nor uncommon for university sports teams to travel to play fixtures with sports like Futsal and Handball, as they both travel outside of St Andrews to participate in regular fixtures. Therefore the “lack” of facilities shouldn’t act as a barrier to establishing a university curling team.
Despite not being a particularly well-known sport to many students of the university, there is no shortage of competitions and leagues which could easily facilitate beginners who would likely form the core of a university curling side. The Dundee Ice Arena, for instance, hosts multiple leagues with weekly fixtures, many of which are also attended by professional coaches dedicated to improving group skills. There also exists a range of local teams, many of which I am fortunate enough to have already encountered, who are always extremely welcoming and very keen to attract new members and offer additional fixtures. Hence, prior experience should not act as a deterrence which might hinder the appeal of a new team.
Nevertheless, the most important reason undermining the case for creating a university curling club is the same as that which underpins all the sports teams at the university – It’s great fun & provides excellent rest bite from the stresses of academics. Unlike many sports on offer, it’s extremely accessible for complete beginners. I myself only began playing at the start of March, yet within five weeks I was playing competitive fixtures against a side participating in the Scottish Under 18 championships. To put simply, curling is a unique, enjoyable and distinctly Scottish sport.
Therefore, it would seem irresponsible and wrong for our University, which prides itself on its Scottish heritage, to not possess the structures to allow both incoming and existing students to experience curling. Curling clubs are common across other Scottish Universities and there even exists an annual Scottish university curling competition. Thus, the case for curling is a convincing one which I am hopeful will be recognised and acted upon by the University. With the curling season beginning in September, there is plenty of opportunities for the structures to be put in place before the upcoming academic year. As a Scottish University, we must embrace curling!