The player who throws the first two stones in a curling team is called the lead. This position is crucial to the success of the team, as they are responsible for getting play off to a good start. If the lead stones aren’t played well, this can change the entire team’s strategy for the rest of the end. As well as throwing the first two stones, a lead needs to be a strong sweeper as they will be brushing for each of the other player’s shots.
As the lead throws the stones at the start of an end, there usually aren’t many stones in play for them to have to navigate. However, the placement of lead stones still need to be precise in order to ensure the second, vice, and skip have the best chance to make their shots.
A lead will very rarely throw takeouts, as any guards cannot be removed at this stage due to the free guard zone, and the house will often be empty this early in an end. Instead, their main shots will be to setup their team by drawing behind opposition guards or placing guards of their own. However, there are three specialty shots for leads that they may throw late in a game…the tick shot, the throw-through, and the peel of shame!
Beyond setting up each end for their team, leads also have other responsibilities. In club curling, it is usually the lead who meets with the opposition before the game to decide the hammer. Then of course, the lead will sweep for their teammates as they throw stones three through eight. While sweeping they will likely use a stopwatch to time stones, and to keep track of the ice.
Together with the second, the lead forms the “front-end” of the team. They will be working together the most often, and their relationship is critically important if a team are to be successful. This front-end duo need to be strong sweepers and develop a great chemistry, constantly discussing the ice conditions and communicating them with the skip.
There is sometimes a stigma in curling that because the lead throws first they are the worst player, or the least important in a team. This could not be further from the truth, as without a good lead it is very difficult to win a curling match. Leads are given the responsibility of throwing two great shots to set the team up for the rest of the end, and their sweeping and knowledge of the ice can make all the difference to the shots thrown by their teammates.
For more on curling terminology, visit our glossary page!
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