Off the Clock: Dominique Banville says curling is more than straight-up fun


Life is much more than time spent on the clock. In this series, we highlight the unique hobbies and volunteer activities of Mason's talented faculty and staff.

A woman kneels on the ice with a curling stone and broom
Dominique Banville refers to curling as "chess on ice." Photo provided.

The thing about curling, Dominique Banville said, is it’s a precision sport.

“And a precision sport demands so much of you as an individual,” the academic program coordinator for George Mason University’s health and physical education licensure program said. “It’s you and this piece of granite that you want to put in a perfect spot. When the stone is not going where you want it to, what is Plan B? What is Plan C? So it’s highly cerebral. It is absolutely chess on ice.”

Banville, from the small town of La Malbaie, Quebec, didn’t get serious about curling until she moved to the United States. That was 1999, when she started at Mason and joined the Potomac Curling Club.

An avid golfer, who also loves to ski, read mystery novels, and listen to music, Banville said she wishes she had more time to hone her curling.

“Right now, I curl once a week, and it’s not enough,” she said. “I’ll just go back to golf. You just got to hit balls. And in curling, you have to throw so many stones to be precise.”

What finally got you serious about curling?

I had curled two or three times in Canada. My dad was a curler, and we would watch it on TV. But I’m a skier, so in Canada I was skiing every weekend. When I moved here in 1999, I went to the Scottish Fair in Alexandria, and there was a booth for the Potomac Curling Club. I said, ‘You curl down here?’ They looked at me and said, ‘You know curling? You must be Canadian.’ So I started curling with them and eventually we signed a lease to build our own facility in Laurel, Maryland. The members literally built it. One member was an architect, another was an engineer. I was on my hands and knees to level the sand for the ice.

A curling stone weighs about 42 pounds. How do you throw it?

When we teach it, we say imagine you have a clock in front of you. Twelve is right in front of you, two o’clock is on the right, 10 o’clock is on the left. When you want a turn, you’ll go from two o’clock to noon. It’s 10 to 12 on the other side, so not even a quarter turn and you’ll see it curl. But it depends on the ice as well. You need to read the ice to figure out how much it moves. Sometimes you have negative ice when the stone will actually go in the opposite direction.

Do you prefer throwing the stone or sweeping?

I do love to sweep. That’s when it becomes more of a team sport because you can really impact the trajectory of the stone with a good sweeper. If you messed up with your shot, you can make it up by sweeping even harder.

What is the most memorable experience you had on the ice?

The region we belong to is called the Grand National Curling Club. It basically covers the entire East Coast of the U.S. They have an event for women and men with less than five years of curling experience. I remember at the event making the most incredible shot I ever made. There was a stone on the left and I had to hit it and roll to the right to be on the button and score. It was a very difficult shot, and I made it. I was, like, my curling career could end right now, and I would be happy.

What else do you enjoy in your spare time?

I play a lot of golf, so there is not a lot of spare time. I play pickleball as well. I love watching sports on TV; junior hockey, Canada just won the gold medal. I love to read murder mystery novels. And I absolutely love music, so I have music on all the time.

What is your Mason job like?

I’m also the faculty-athletic representative for Mason. Every NCAA institution must have a faculty-athletic rep. I’m appointed by the president to ensure student well-being, academic integrity, and institutional control. I’m in constant contact with the Athletics Department in terms of students’ academic successes, and I also have to sign off on waivers. I’m basically the eyes and ears of the president to the Athletics Department. I mean, it’s not like I’m a spy, but it's more like let’s work together to make the academic experience the best it can be for these student-athletes.