The skip is often seen as the leader of a curling team, as they usually throw the final stones of an end and are responsible for strategy. However, it is important to note that they cannot do this on their own and massive amounts of credit must go to the way they are supported by every other member of the team. While the skip often gets the spotlight, we must remember that the lead and second will be sweeping the skip’s stones, while the vice-skip will be holding the broom in the house and calling the line.
Skip can be a lonely position, as they spend most of their time at the far end of the sheet away from the rest of their teammates. The two opposing skips might have a bit of a chit-chat at times, but most of the time they are laser focussed on developing and implementing their team’s strategy. Some refer to curling as “chess on ice”, as it is important for the skip to plan multiple steps ahead. This includes what might happen if their team make or miss the current shot, as well as what the opposition might be plotting.
For each shot, the skip communicates their plan to the rest of the team. Being at the other end of the sheet, this is often a combination of verbal instructions and hand-signals. Curling is noisy…with all of those stones colliding and players shouting in games on other sheets, it can be hard for the skip to be heard. Therefore, it is important that a team have a complete understanding of the hand-signals that may be used by the skip to call the shot. There is nothing worse than a miscommunication where the skip wants one type of shot and their teammate throws something completely different!
After their teammates have thrown their stones, it is down to the skip to throw the last two for their team. Clearly, these are the pressure shots that will decide which team scores the points in each end. If the skip makes their shots, their team might have a chance of scoring (especially if they have the hammer). However, the pressure really is on the skip because if they miss their shots then their team are very unlikely to score anything at all.
Something that is fairly unique to curling is that the team is usually known collectively by the skip’s last name. For example, Swedish 2018 Winter Olympic Champions Anna Hasselborg, Sara McManus, Agnes Knochenhauer, and Sofia Mabergs were known as “Team Hasselborg“. Someone saying “Hasselborg is playing Muirhead in the final” is not out of disrespect to the other players in each team, but a curling tradition that makes it simple to discuss teams quickly.
While some players love the responsibility of leading their team on strategy and throwing those final pressure shots, others fear it. However, some of the most famous names in curling are the skips. Jennifer Jones, Kevin Martin, Eve Muirhead, and Niklas Edin are all names known by any curling fan, as they have cemented their legacy as skips. If you are interested in becoming a skip, it wouldn’t hurt to watch some of their games (many available on the WorldCurlingTV Youtube channel) to learn from the best.
For more on curling terminology, visit our glossary page!
Hopefully you might like to come and give curling a try.
For a one-off session, visit our Try Curling page to book a two hour session for yourself, or bring friends and family.
Alternatively, you could book a place on one of our Learn To Curl courses which run over a series of 4 weekly two hour sessions.