Olympics Parent Profile: Curling Champ Seeking a Clean Sweep in Vancouver

Filed under: Sports

Allison Pottinger says curling takes stamina. Credit: USA Curling


One in a series of interviews with U.S. Olympic team athletes who are also parents as they prepare for the Winter Games in Vancouver. The conversations will focus on how these elite athletes juggle training and their duties as moms and dads.

When other girls were learning to shoot baskets or return tennis balls, Allison Pottinger learned to curl. Her father, mother, brother and sister all competed in the sport. Allison got her start in the sixth grade. Now 36 and the mother of two little girls, she's one of the best in the world and, with her teammates on the U.S. Curling team, a contender for a medal. She lives with her family in Eden Prairie, Minn., and recently spoke with ParentDish. An edited version of the conversation follows:

ParentDish: Your position is "Vice Skip." Not that we'll understand, but ... what's that?
Allison Pottinger: I throw the fifth and sixth stones. Also, I have the responsibility of being in the "house" and holding the broom while the skip goes down to shoot

PD: Thanks for trying. How can a child get started in curling?
AP: To any kid interested, my advice is get yourself to a curling club. You don't have to buy anything. Just bring sneakers. Everyone will welcome you with open arms.

PD: Sounds like fun. What about curling hooked you?
AP: Tons. I love the feeling when we're competing; I'm engaged physically and mentally. I love working with four other people who I enjoy spending time with. It's a combination of all sorts of things.

PD: We've all heard about overly enthusiastic football, basketball, lacrosse and golf parents. Are there curling parents like that?
AP: You get some who are gung ho. But curling is so not mainstream. Even if parents want their kids to be the best, their kids might be drawn to other sports. There are outside forces to contend with.

PD: Tell us about your children.
AP: Lauren is a little over 3. Kelsey is just shy of 18 months.They're awesome. Lauren is our people person. She's chatty and likes people right away. She's also the ultimate big sister, always with one arm around Kelsey saying, 'This is my little sister.' Kelsey is always on the go. She's been walking since she was nine months. If you turn around she's standing on top of the kitchen table.

PD: Kelsey's too young to understand that mom is an Olympian. What about Lauren?
AP: She's aware that I curl. But to her, my regular Tuesday night games are the same as any of the games we'll play in Vancouver. The most exciting thing for her at the Olympics will be that Tracy's daughter [teammate Tracy Sachtjen] is coming; she's 16 and is going to hang out with her.

PD: You run. You work out at a gym. Is fitness important in curling?
AP: Definitely helpful. Our competitions are long. To play three-hour-long games over an 11-day event takes stamina. It's also about living a balanced life. My husband says I get grumpy if I don't run.

PD: What's the team goal in Vancouver?
AP: A gold medal. I think we'll be disappointed if we're not on the medal stand.

ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids" (Beacon Press).
Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at pdyouthsports@aol.com

Related: Fun Family Fitness Idea: Curling

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.