Curler’s off-season focus remains on the ice

REID_HOWARD1_EIt’s Friday night. Carly Howard’s pals are at a Wilfrid Laurier University pub. But tonight, Howard’s menu includes cue cards and geography textbooks.

“I missed out in first year,” she said. “I was always gone.”

This weekend, instead of pitchers of beer, Howard is preparing for final exams.

“I see players drop out all of the time because of school,” she said. “It’s a big part of their life and they just can’t do both.”

Carly Howard is an international curler. This year, she led her team to a bronze-place finish at the national curling championships. She has also received three “Athlete of the Week” awards in her third year as a skip on the Laurier Varsity Junior team. Now, Howard is seeking a new opportunity; she is moving from the junior league to join a ladies curling team.

As Howard makes the choice to pursue a career in curling, there’s a lot to consider, including how to balance a social life while curling competitively. Howard’s coach, Maurice Wilson, recognizes Howard’s commitment.

“She is going to sacrifice certainly a lot of her social life,” he said. “Most athletes that are dedicated to a sport know that this is going to be a part of their life process, because there are certain time commitments that are involved.”

As the weather heats up, Howard will spend the majority of her summer break from university training for the 2014-2015 curling season. Again, that means sacrifices. Her workouts focus on cardio as well as strengthening her arms and legs. Most off-season mornings, Howard wakes up to strap on her rollerblades or takes her bike for a spin.

On top of her training, Howard works a total of 40 hours a week, bouncing back and forth between a campground maintenance job and waiting tables. Her summer earnings will help finance tuition and her curling expenses.

Her father’s been there. Glenn Howard is one of Canada’s most successful curling competitors. He used to take his daughter Carly to the rink every Sunday beginning when she was seven. And now curling appears to be the most important thing in her life.

“You can tell she loves it,” Glenn Howard said. “She wants to practise. She wants to work at it, and her first goal right after the university championships was over was to find a ladies team.”

And it appears that the daughter is following in the example set by her father.

“My dad…went to school. He did curling, and he’s working a full-time job,” she said. “I really think that I can do the same. With the right mentality, I can go just as far as he did.”

Determined to move up in the world of curling, she is not discouraged by a demanding schedule. Coach Wilson confirmed her sense of commitment.

“She is a strong leader,” Wilson said. “She has a very clear idea of what she needs to do to be successful. She kind of has it in her DNA to know how to come up big.”