USNA Curling Team
POSTED ON: Friday, February 17, 2023 2:08 PM by MC1 Jordyn Diomede
Although the U.S. Naval Academy has a demanding academic schedule, midshipmen are still given the time and opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities (ECAs). As of the fall 2022 semester, one of the newest of those ECAs is curling.
Once every four years, the winter Olympics showcases the sport of curling on the world stage, and it was in 2010 during those Olympics that Lt. Cmdr. Jim Fallon fell in love with the sport.
Fallon, a Navy reservist on active-duty orders as a physics instructor at the Naval Academy, started the ECA as the coach and officer representative with Midshipman 3rd Class (sophomore) Quinn Gonzalez after learning he too had a love for the sport.
“The academy has introduced me to some of the best people I know, and I thought it would be the perfect place with the perfect group of people to develop the teamwork, athleticism, and leadership that goes into this sport. This group has the potential to excel at the national level,” said Gonzalez. “That combined with my desire to simply continue curling made creating this club a no-brainer.”
Only three of the 18 midshipmen currently enrolled in the program had prior experience with the sport, but all are quickly improving through regular practices at the Potomac Curling Club in Laurel, Maryland.
“Most of the members are youngsters [sophomores], so they have a couple more years at the academy,” said Fallon. “This gives them the opportunity to become great curlers, to grow into the group’s leadership roles, and to learn how to operate this group efficiently. They’ll grow not just in terms of their own leadership and management, but they’ll also see how they fit into the larger college curling community. They will continue to be ambassadors, showing others how awesome the Naval Academy is and how awesome they are as individuals. I think that’s pretty cool.”
The team’s first competition, the Grand National Curling Club Collegiate Championship, took place in Utica, New York, Feb. 10-12. Three teams from the Naval Academy competed against students from various universities including Harvard, Syracuse, and Penn State.
Overall, the three teams finished with eight wins and six losses. Gonzalez and his team ended the weekend with four wins and one loss, leading his team to a first-place win in the 2nd Division. That wasn’t the only victory his team celebrated. They were also the winners of the “Spirit of Curling Award,” which is given to the team who demonstrates the best sportsmanship on and off the ice while embodying the spirit of curling.
“The team was ecstatic with how the weekend went and thrilled to be a part of it,” said Gonzalez. “We grew a lot closer as a team and found a way to mentally commit even more to our development, setting college nationals as a primary goal. Watching this group of people buy-in to the sport and get better at an exponential rate, to the point that we win both an event at a collegiate championship and the ‘Spirit of Curling Award’ for sportsmanship, has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.”
As a youngster at the academy, Gonzalez has two goals as the ECA progresses.
“The end goal in my time at the academy is twofold: first, we want to reach club status; second, we want to qualify for and place at college nationals,” said Gonzalez. “We consider both of these objectives to be very achievable goals.”
Throughout his two tours and six years at the Naval Academy, Fallon has most enjoyed seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the midshipmen.
“I think it reminds us all how we were at that age – the world ahead of you, so much yet to be shaped in terms of who you’re going to be and what you’re going to do and where you’re going to go,” he said. “It’s an invigorating environment to be around that kind of energy, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
This summer, Fallon’s time at the Naval Academy will come to an end, but he believes the ECA will be in good hands upon his departure.
“Navy Curling is a committed group of midshipmen, dedicated to improving their athletic ability and their leadership skills,” he said. “I look forward to following their progress and am confident that they will seize this opportunity to build a lasting organization, one that introduces midshipmen to this terrific sport and also demonstrates to others the pursuit of excellence that midshipmen regularly bring to all they do.”