Curling Rink Positions
A Curling Rink (Team) consists of four players, and each player has a different role to fill.
The four players are Lead, Second, Vice (also called "Mate" or "Third") and Skip, and it's a common belief that the best player is always at Skip, and the Lead is always the least experienced. That isn't entirely accurate because the skills are different.
The Lead throws the first two stones in every end, and those stones set the strategy for the rest of the end. Frequently, the goal is to set guards, with the rest of the rink throwing around them. You can't throw a heavy takeout (which goes pretty straight) if a guard is in the way. If the lead isn't throwing guards, they're aiming for the front of the house.
A great Lead has touch -- and perfect weight.
Second throws the next two, and may be setting guards, tapping-up other stones, drawing toward the button, or throwing take-outs.
While the Lead is a specialist, a good Second can do a variety of things well.
The Front End (the Second and Lead) are in a great position to watch the ice, especially as the ice changes speed. The Front End, working together, also sweep the last four rocks.
The Vice throws next. A good Vice a master of the Draw, and compared to the Second, tends to throw lighter shots -- more tap-ups. Often the Vice prepares the house for the last two rocks, thrown by the Skip.
The Vice has two other important jobs. They work with the Skip on strategy, and the vices are responsible for counting (and agreeing on) the score at the end of an End. While the two vices confer, the rest of the players should stay clear of the house.
The Skip is the primary strategist. For most of the game, she is studying the ice, calling out when to sweep, and telling the rest of the team where to aim and what to throw.
Reading the ice is a subject I've written about before, and I'll write about again, but as interesting as it is for someone in the Front End, it's critical for the Skip.
The Skip also delivers the last rock, and a great Skip can consistently turn a potential loss into a win -- as I got to see a couple of times at "The Crush."
Skips don't sweep much, but they can sweep their opponents rocks once they pass the Tee line -- preferably sweeping them clear out of the house.
So, what does it all mean?
I've been playing Lead, and for the last two weeks, I had a great time playing Second. Second is fun because there are more opportunities to throw takeouts, and the sound of a solid takeout, watching your opponent's rock exit the house (with authority) is very satisfying.
... and this coming Saturday, I go back to Lead.
Bob Weeks wrote that the most important rocks in an end are the last rock, thrown by the Skip, and the first, thrown by the Lead, and points out that the first rock is often still in play when the End is over.
It's also a really good place to play when you need to work on that perfect touch, because the shots are consistent and you can see if you're playing consistently -- and that's what I need to do right now.