As a kid, I loved the social dynamics of curling. While my peers were playing cops and robbers, my friends and I were setting up rocks around the house, pretending the next throw was to win the Brier.
Little did I know that I’d go on to win bronze at the very tournament I grew up dreaming about… or that I would get the chance to play on the same team as my idol, Wayne Middaugh. I think my younger self would be most proud of the connections I’ve made with those struggling in my community.
Family and community are two pillars in my life. They still drive my passion for the game today. The curling community is tight-knit, and I love playing and coaching at the club level. Curling clubs allow me to connect with new people and pass on some of my hard-earned skills.
I was lucky to be understood and accepted by my family and teammates when I came out to them as gay. I hope it’s that way for everyone, but I know for many, it’s not. That’s why I decided to be more open and honest when people or the media ask me about my sexuality.
As a skip, high-pressure situations are a part of every game. The last two rocks can often determine the outcome of the match, but the nervousness of missing an important shot pales in comparison to the uncertainty you feel when coming out for the first time.
If you’re dealing with your own issues, try to be honest and open with the people that are closest to you and that love you the most. The nerves never truly go away, but just like a game-winning angle runback, they get easier and easier over time.
Many days I just want to be John the curler. But I know if I can help just one person by speaking about my experiences as a gay athlete, it’s well worth it. Seeing someone like you on the national stage can mean everything to someone who doesn’t feel represented.
Some things can often feel insurmountable at the moment, but the thing about high-pressure moments is that the more you’re in them, the easier they get. Who knows, if you apply enough pressure, you might even make a few diamonds along the way.
“I think just the idea of being a gay individual makes you less masculine than straight males. I hope to wipe that persona away somewhat and help people realize that you don’t have to be this masculine jock to excel at a sport.” – John Epping
John Epping, Skip for Team Epping, 3x Tim Hortons Brier competitor