Brian Dudt can thank his wife for curling.
The sport was barely on the radar in the United States in 1990, the year Dudt and his then-future wife, Leslie, had their first curling date. Her father was a longtime curler and member of the Philadelphia Curling Club, one of several clubs that formed in the United States after Scottish immigrants imported the game.
It would be eight more years before it would become a medal sport in the Olympics. Back then, few in the United States were familiar with the quaint-seeming game played on a lane of ice that players furiously sweep to encourage the “rock” to reach its target.
At first, Dudt was not excited about curling, but that soon changed.
“When you actually start getting out there and doing it, you immediately get hooked,” said Dudt, who is CSL Behring’s Senior Director of Integrated Business Operations for R&D, based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
To the uninitiated, curling can seem like a charming pastime, but the sport requires strategy and teamwork. It’s sometimes called “chess on ice” and a recent attempt to teach a robot to play the game succeeded only to a point. On a curling team, the “skip” leads a team of four who throw and sweep, with lots of adjusting and communicating along the way.
Through the years, the sport – and its close-knit community – has been a constant for the Dudt family, whose story was recently featured in a local magazine. At the Philadelphia club, they have competed and racked up achievements. Brian Dudt coached a team that included his daughter, Susan, to a U18 National Championship. The next year, her team won the Junior National Championship. She’s currently at Bucknell with hopes of possibly competing in the 2026 Olympic games.
Sons Andrew and Daniel also learned to curl. Andrew – who now works for CSL’s Seqirus influenza vaccines business – won a silver medal in the Junior National Championship on a team coached by his dad. Daniel continues to play competitively and his adult men’s team is angling for an outside shot at the 2022 Olympics in China.
The U.S. won the 2018 gold medal for curling, but the sport also has traction around the world. In the Olympic games, Canada, Switzerland, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden have won multiple medals.
Like anything pursued at a high level, Dudt says he has taken some life – and work – lessons from the sport. Here are a few:
Keep communicating: Each person on the four-person team has a defined role, but once the rock is thrown, how the team communicates can win the day.
Adjust to the idea of adjusting: “The ice changes during the competition,” Dudt said. You start with a plan, but evolving conditions will require you to alter the decisions you make – how hard to throw, when to sweep. It’s not the same every time.
Respect the game, your teammates and your opponents: Dudt likes the game’s traditions of good sportsmanship and camaraderie. (He gives a shout out to fellow curler – and fellow CSL Behring employee – Ashlyn Bassiri, Director of Translational Safety.) Curling opponents greet each other with a wish of “good curling” before the match. As a coach and a dad, Dudt stressed the idea of “your opponent today, your teammate tomorrow.” Though it is competitive, those who love the sport love to see it played, even if the most impressive shot of the day wasn’t theirs, Dudt said. And once players are of legal age, it’s customary for the winner to buy the loser a nice beverage after the match.
Advice for first-time curlers: So you want to try curling? The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the sport, but once conditions improve, Dudt suggests newcomers visit the USA Curling website, find a local club and participate in a learn to curl session.