Lessons from USA Curling for Business

Team sports can teach valuable life lessons to its participants and its spectators. Teamwork. Leadership. Learning. Respect. Toughness. Persistence. Business leaders can apply valuable lessons from Team USA Men’s Curling and their first ever gold medal victory.

What do curling and business have in common?

Curling practically defines the word niche in the world of sports. Not many people know about it. It’s like slow-motion shuffleboard played with round gravestones with handles on ice in cold places. To the uninformed outsider, it sounds unexciting. But, the tactical execution skills are calculated and precise. So, even the untrained eye can appreciate the planning, practice and deep knowledge base of each player.

This team won the first gold for the USA in this sport. Fabulous! But the compelling part of the story is the team’s journey.

These underdogs, led by skip John Shuster, struggled against long odds to even make it to the Olympics. After a disappointing ninth-place finish, 3-time Olympian Shuster was essentially written off by the curling powers that be.

Rather than hanging up the broom and slide-y shoes, he assembled his own team and went to work. They started to do well at national and world championships. When Team Shuster won the U.S. Olympic trials, it seemed like the rejects had completed their redemption arc. But their underdog story only got more incredible in South Korea. They believed in each other. They executed. THEY WON!

 Prepare. Believe. Execute. Win. This works for teams in business, too!


Common Traits and Skills


"The most important role of a skip is diving into the strategy of the sport and really trying to understand what makes their team and teammates great."

John Shuster, USA Curling, Position: Skip

As a business leader:

  • Master YOUR game. Thoroughly understand your market and the competition. What’s YOUR differentiation?
  • Analyze each teammate to understand the individual’s abilities and the group dynamics.
  • Organize and manage to maximize synergies to make the team great.


"We’ve got an understanding with each other… what the other guys need to hear and not hear to play their best going forward."

Matt Hamilton, USA Curling, Position: Second

As a business leader:

  • Listen and watch. Understand joy. Enable satisfaction and fulfillment.
  • Know how to coach, praise or criticize to get the best out of each teammate.
  • Take time to celebrate successes of an individual and of the team.


"This is a team that never gives up."

Tyler George, USA Curling, Position: Vice Skip

As a business leader:

  • Learn from mistakes. It’s OK to fail. Try not to repeat the same mistakes. It’s de-motivating to bang your head against the same wall.
  • Tweak the plan. Communicate the new direction. Pick yourselves up. Try again.


Shuster delivered the biggest shot in the history of American curling in the 8th end (round). He scored 5 points when he cleared two Swedish stones with his final rock. He executed a blend of physical finesse and cool-headed strategy. In other words, he delivered a perfect shot after years of preparation. Team USA had an insurmountable lead. The gold is all but theirs. The crowd goes wild!

What’s the analog for your business?


About the Author

Carrie Mulherin is CEO of Focus Marketing, offering consulting services in planning, market research, commercial execution and training to growing companies. Carrie@FocusMktg.us • www.FocusMktg.us


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