What is sweeping in curling?
How To Sweep
When sweeping a curling stone, each sweeper will be walking forward so that they are facing the end of the ice that the stone is being thrown towards. Not only does this reduce the risk of injury, but also dictates the way the broom should be held. To hold the broom, the sweeper will place their hand that is closer to the stone approximately one-third of the way up the broom handle. The sweeper will place their hand that is farther from the stone approximately one-third of the way down from the top of the broom handle.
To sweep the stone, the sweepers will place most of their body weight on top of the broom, brushing back and forth vigorously. The sweepers are also listening for instructions from the skip about when to start and stop sweeping. The image below illustrates an excellent sweeping technique. The sweeper's head is above the stone, hands are positioned properly, and most of the sweeper's weight is being put on the broom.
Throughout the course of a shot, the sweepers may need to sweep the stone for line only, weight only, or both. Traditionally, it is expected that the sweepers communicate the weight of the stone to the skip. In return, the skip will communicate the line of the stone to the sweepers. By working together, your team should be able to judge the weight and line of every stone thrown.
Sometimes, you or your skip may say some of the following phrases:
- "Line is good." This means that the stone is on the correct path and the sweepers will most likely need to sweep for weight.
- "Line is tight." This means that the stone is curling a little more than expected and the sweepers will need to sweep.
- "Line only." This means that the weight of the stone is nearly perfect and that the sweepers will only need to sweep for the line, if necessary.
- "Weight only." This means that the line of the stone is nearly perfect and that the sweepers will only need to sweep for the weight, if necessary.
- "Looks light." This means that the stone doesn't have enough weight to reach its desired location and the sweepers will need to sweep for weight.
- Looks heavy." This means that the stone has too much weight and needs to slow down. The sweepers would most likely sweep for line only.
By communicating as a team, you will be able to gauge where the stone will end up. In addition to these phrases, there is another system used to determine where the stone will end up.
The sweepers can usually tell the weight of the stone within the first few seconds. Since the skip is at the other end of the ice, they may not be able to determine the weight of the stone right away. One system that some curling teams use is a number system to convey where the stone will end up based on its current weight. The image below illustrates the number system.
A guard is assigned a number 1, 2, or 3. If the guard is close to the hog line, it will be a 1. If the guard is closer to the house, it will be a 3. Stones that will end up in the front of the house are assigned a number 4 (Top 12 Foot), 5 (Top 8 Foot), 6 (Top 4 Foot), or 7 (Button). Stones that will end up in the back of the house are assigned a number 8 (Back 4 Foot), 9 (Back 8 Foot), or 10 (Back 12 Foot). Any stone that will go through the house and pass the backline is assigned a 11.
- Yes: sweep the stone.
- Yep: sweep the stone.
- No: do not sweep the stone.
- Whoa: do not sweep the stone.
- Never: the stone likely won't need to be swept.
- Clean: sweep very gently in front of the stone, as if you are cleaning its path.
- Hurry: sweep the stone faster.
- Hard: sweep the stone with extra force.
- Hurry Hard: sweep the stone as hard and fast as you can.
- Up: stop sweeping.
- Off: stop sweeping.
- Right Off: stop sweeping immediately.
Your skip may have other terms they use, but these cover most of the terms you will hear when you are sweeping a stone. Sometimes, your skip may repeat a term multiple times, or have a sense of urgency in their voice. After you sweep for a few games, you will pick up on your skip's vocal tendencies, which can also serve as a way to know when you should sweep or not.