Curling: My Experience with the Japanese National Team

This year, my mom’s work retreat took us to Karuizawa, Japan, a beautiful place only 1 hour away from the bustling city of Tokyo. This event had gathered 102 of my mom’s colleagues and their families, for a fun-filled weekend. We got to the Karuizawa station at around 11am on Saturday morning,  and spent the first two and a half hours shopping and getting a quick bite to eat for lunch. The Karuizawa Premium Outlet had rows and rows of stores, ranging from Old Navy, to Nike, to Gucci, and had crazy good deals. For lunch, we found a small Chinese-Japanese restaurant, Yuejihua, with the best Dan Dan Noodles I’ve ever had. After we all wolfed down our bowl of noodles, we were off to Karuizawa Ice Park to learn how to Curl with the Japanese National Team. All 102 of us (ranging from 4 to 65 years old) filed into the 8-laned ice rink with our curling shoes, long pants, sweatshirts, gloves and hats on. 4 of the Japanese National Curlers were introduced, as well as a number of other instructors. We were divided up into groups of 6, and began our ‘lessons’. The first step was learning how to fall, both forwards and backwards. The ice wasn’t as slippery as it had seemed, and the grips on the bottom of our shoes made it easy to walk. After learning how to fall, we took off the grip from one of our shoes, and learned how to push off from the side in a bent-down position. This would be the technique used to glide off the beginning of the lane and slide the stone down the ice. Once we learned how to push-off, we were introduced to the very exciting curling stone. Weighing 20kg, these stones have handles that allow you to grip on well, but also release. We got used to the feeling of the stone against the ice, and were soon pushing off and pushing the stone. Once we were all settled on the ice and ready to go, it was game on! We played 3 full rounds (a normal game is played with 10 rounds) against 3 different teams within the large group. Although my team of 6 people lost 3/3 games, it was one of the most interesting and fun games I’ve ever played. Meeting the Japanese national team was incredibly fun, but overall, curling is a 10/10 would recommend activity!

Outside the Karuizawa Ice Park

Outside the Karuizawa Ice Park

Me with four of the Japanese National Curlers!

Me with four of the Japanese National Curlers!

My sister and i with the 20kg curling stones

My sister and i with the 20kg curling stones

A Game of Balance

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Being a 15 year old student athlete, there are 4 things that are on my priority list; school, sports, recovery (sleep and food), and my social life.

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If you put everything in a chart based on how much time you should be spending on each aspect, you would end up with a 30+ hour day, which is simply impossible. For most people, school and sports are the 2 things that cannot be changed. Now we’re left with recovery and our social lives. Because we are teenagers, we will simply do whatever we can to not lose or give up hanging out with friends. Because of this, our sleeping and recovery time becomes severely shortened. This, especially after a long period of time, can begin to effect us in negative ways. As growing teenage athletes, we should be getting a minimum of 8 1/2 hours of sleep every night. In reality, most of us are lucky to get a mere 7 hours. For athletes, sleep is not just a time for us to rest, but it is a time for our bodies to fix any tears or breaks in our muscles from that days workout. If you have a super hard dry-land session followed by a 2 hour killer sprint workout, chance is you have done some damage to your body. If you don’t allow your body plenty of time to repair the damages, then they will stay with your body until your next workout, and this is when injuries occur. Sleep cannot be sacrificed for anything. It is a vital part of your health.

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If you look at what else can be sacrificed for sleep, it’s your social life. When this happens, you begin to sleep in later on weekends and get to sleep earlier at the expense of going to a movie or breakfast with your friends. This exact thing happened to me during my freshman year of high school. I had morning practice and afternoon practice almost everyday, and Saturday morning practice. On school nights, I would go to practice, eat, work, and then go to sleep. This seems normal, until you see what my weekends were like. After friday evening practice, instead of going out to dinner with my friends, I would go home, eat dinner, maybe watch a little TV, then go to bed early, and I would wake up early on Saturday morning for practice. Afterwards, instead of going to breakfast with my friends, I would go home, eat breakfast, and then sit in my room doing nothing because I was exhausted. Eventually, I would get around to doing some work. At night, I would be way to tired to do anything, so I would stay home, eat and watch TV. Sundays were my only practice-free day, meaning that it was my designated work day. It was the only day that I wasn’t too deadly exhausted to work, and because of this, my Sundays weren’t exactly the best days to hang out with my friends. So there was my 7-day week, filled with school (work), sports, and recovery.

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You could look at that and say that all my needs were covered, however things began to go downhill. My grades began to spiral, I was constantly tired no matter how much rest I got, and I was always in a bad mood.

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It wasn’t until Sophomore year until I realized that my social life wasn’t something I wanted back, but it was something I needed back. I decided to drop one morning practice every week to get more sleep and work done, and I learned how to manage my time better so that my work was getting done much more efficiently. Even though I lost a morning practice and those eventful Saturday mornings of sitting alone in my room doing nothing, I was able go to that movie, or go to dinner or breakfast with my friends. After a couple weeks of getting back into a healthier routine, I started to feel much better. My grades improved, I was always full of energy, and I woke up every morning, excited about what the day was going to be like.

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From that experience, I’ve learned the importance of leading a balanced life. It’s okay to have those weeks here and there where you just can’t get enough sleep, or you have no time to hang out with your friends, but make sure that on a regular basis, you are finding time to do things that make you happy. Finding a healthy balance can improve your mind, health, and happiness. Figure out what works for YOU, to live a life where you wake up every morning with a smile on your face.

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