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Winter Sports: Tips to Get Kids Started in Ice Skating, Curling

These sports are featured in the 2014 Winter Olympics and can be fun for all ages! Here's what to watch for during games and how to get children involved.

The Olympics is a huge event not only for athletes, but also for their countries watching them compete for the gold. During this year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, running Feb. 7-23, 2014, families can tune in to watch "cool" sports, including many played on ice rinks – like figure skating and curling.

Want to know a bit more about these two events? We got the scoop from insiders at two southeast Michigan spots: the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills and the Detroit Curling Club in Ferndale. They gave us advice on what families can watch for on TV during the games – and how your kids can get involved if they want to be future curlers or skaters. Read on for the full guide.

Figure skating

The twirls, jumps and those beautiful costumes make figure skating a fan favorite – and this popular sport is fun to watch during the Winter Olympics.

Did you know that 13 of the contending 2014 figure skaters have been training locally at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills? Skaters from the United States, Canada, Italy, Australia and Japan have been hard at work for about eight hours a day all year, says Rachel Bauld-Lee, director of skating and the ice show as well as national resident coach at DSC.

Detroit Skating Club

While watching these skaters, if your child gets the urge to strap on skates and learn how to mimic the pros, he can start classes at the DSC as young as 2, Bauld-Lee says. Although most kids start at 5 or 6, there are benefits to starting early. "We would love to get them in while they're in preschool because they have less fear," she says – especially of falling – and they'll progress faster.

Parents and kids should know that "falling is how you learn" in figure skating, Bauld-Lee adds, and that even the experienced skaters fall.

To start, "There's not much they need to buy except skates, and they can rent skates if they wish. But everything else they probably have at home," she says, like gloves, coat and a bike helmet.

The beginner level at DSC is $60/month plus a $31 membership fee. But if your child has never skated before and just wants to get a feel for it, open can skate runs 12:45-2:15 p.m. Saturdays for $5 – plus $5/skate rental if needed. If your child is bringing his own skates for open skate or for classes, Bauld-Lee recommends buying single-blade skates – never double, as they make it more difficult to skate.

Also, check out the Metro Parent roundup of indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks in southeast Michigan to discover additional open skate times and other learning opportunities near you.

Keep in mind, ice skating isn't just a winter sport. In fact, for competitive skaters, the "in-season" is May-October, Bauld-Lee says. In order to allow kids to progress in their skill level, DSC offers skating all summer and hosts a summer skating camp, too.

During this year's figure skating portion of the Olympics, try counting how many times a skater spins around. For the long program, which runs four minutes and 10 seconds for the women and four minutes and 40 seconds for the men, skaters are required to complete three spins, Bauld-Lee says. Women have to jump seven times and men have to jump eight, she adds. Also, watch for the skaters who trained at DSC! They are:

Men

  • Jeremy Abbott, USA
  • Patrick Chan, Canada

Women

  • Valentina Marchei, Italy

Dance

  • Meryl Davis and Charlie White, USA
  • Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Canada
  • Alexandra Paul and Mitch Islam, Canada
  • Danielle O'Brien and Greg Merriman, Australia

Pairs

  • Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara, Japan

Learn more about the terms used in figure skating, as well as the history and equipment used, on the Olympics website.

Curling

Maybe you've watched curling – that sport where participants throw granite rocks down sheets of ice, gliding toward a target, while somebody uses a broom to sweep the ice in front of the rock – but didn't know much about it. It's perhaps lesser known than figure skating, but it has deep roots.

"While the sport may be new to people who are watching the Olympics, it's actually a sport with a long tradition – especially in Detroit," says Natalie Wilson of Huntington Woods, who curls at the Detroit Curling Club in Ferndale with her 12-year-old son, Adam. In fact, the very first curling club in the United States was started in 1831 at Orchard Lake, DCC's site notes. The Detroit Curling Club itself has roots dating back to 1840.

Detroit Curling Club

Often called "chess on ice," this strategic game requires a lot of thinking, Wilson says. Every team is composed of four players, and each has a different role. The goal is to send granite rocks to the target or "house." Teams alternate throwing a total of 16 rocks a game, and the team gets one point for each rock that lands closest to the center of the house, The Curling School site notes.

The game is divided into "ends," similar to innings, and only one team can score in an end. Sometimes, teams don't want to score, Wilson notes. "So it's not just a race to how many people can hit this target; there's a bunch of strategy."

So where do those brooms come in? The sweeping with what looks like a push broom – but are actually high-tech, specially made brooms – makes the rock go faster and straighter, Wilson says. "It's difficult to get all the factors together," she says.

Check out The Curling School and visit the Olympics website for some history and a glossary to learn more about the game and lingo.

If watching this sport on TV during the Olympics with your family, Wilson suggests keeping in mind that even to get into the Olympics, teams had to prequalify. So players worked really hard to make it. Look to see how each of the team's four players plays differently. "Just remember they're not all trying to do the same thing," she says.

After watching the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, Wilson says her son was interested in trying curling – and, at 12 years old, was finally able to start in November 2013.

If your child is 12-plus and has a similar experience after watching the 2014 games, Wilson notes the sport is accessible. All you need to start are athletic shoes and a sweatshirt, gloves and a hat. The Detroit Curling Club has equipment to rent, including grippers made of Teflon for shoes so the slippery ice won't be a problem.

Beginners will want to sign up for "Learn to Curl" classes with the DCC for $65, which runs 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-noon March 1 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 15, 2014 (all three dates are Saturdays). For more information and to register, visit the DCC's website.

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