Off the Clock: Move South Gets Canadian Professor into Competitive Curling

Posted: December 14, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Dominique Banville, associate professor, School of Recreation, Health and Tourism, had just moved to the Northern Virginia area about seven years ago when she attended the Alexandria Scottish Heritage Festival. While she was there, she saw a booth for the Maryland-based Potomac Curling Club.

Banville was surprised to learn there was a curling club in the area. And members of the club were shocked that a visitor to their table knew so much about curling. “You must be Canadian,” they said to her. They were right: Banville is from La Malbaie, a small town east of Quebec City.

Curling, a game of fitness, finesse and strategy, is hugely popular in Canada, ranking right up there with hockey in the national consciousness. There are more than one million curlers in the world, but about 90 percent of them are Canadians, according to the Potomac Curling Club web site.

Dominique Banville demonstrates curling
Dominique Banville, far left, demonstrates curling at the National Capital Curling Center.
Photo courtesy Dominque Banville

Curling traces its roots to 16th-century Scotland, where Scots would slide rocks on marshes and lochs. Today the game is played indoors; players slide a 42-pound rock across ice toward a target 42 yards away. The goal is for your team’s rocks to finish closer to the target than your opponent’s. Team members sweep a path on the ice to help “the rock” get as close to “the house” or target as possible. It is a bit like shuffleboard on ice.

“Curling is a very social sport,” says Banville, who is now the president of the Potomac Curling Club. “When you finish curling, it is expected that you will sit down with your opponent. The winner pays for the first round (of drinks). It is a lifelong activity. I don’t know of many sports that are lifelong sports and also team sports.”

The Potomac Curling Club meets at the National Capital Curling Center in Laurel, Md. Banville usually makes two trips during the week from her Prince William Campus office to Laurel for league games or practice.

Banville and her twin sister were introduced to curling at an early age. “My father is a curler,” says Banville. “I honestly don’t think he tried to get us into curling. I remember watching curling all the time. I was very interested. It is a highly strategic sport.”

As an undergraduate at Laval University in Quebec City, Banville was president of the student union and led outings to the bowling rink and the curling center. Later, as a physical education instructor at a French immersion school in Alberta, she also took students curling.

But it took a trip south of the Canadian border – and south of the Mason-Dixon line, for that matter – for Banville to become a competitor in the sport. She was teaching at McGill University in Montreal when she told herself she would start curling the next year. Then she got a job offer from Mason and moved to Northern Virginia.

“I always talk about (curling) in my class when I talk about motor development. My students (at Mason) know I am involved with it,” says Banville. In curling, a team’s sweeper can travel two miles in one game and expend the same energy as a sprinter in the 200-meter dash, according to the club’s web site.

What do people say when they discover Banville is a curler? “It makes them smile to see people sliding across the ice. A lot of times they don’t understand the rules or understand how it works. It is always a great starter for conversations,” she says.

Banville is a certified level 2 instructor with the United States Curling Association. She also plays golf and tennis, skis and swims. But her favorite sport is curling. “It looks like a sport anybody can do. They look like any regular Joes,” she says.

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