Most fathers introduce sports to their sons with a baseball, basketball or football. But for the Stopera family, it was a rock.
A curling rock, that is.
Briarcliff resident Andrew Stopera, 16, was introduced to the sport of curling at 8 years old by his father, Bill, who was also introduced to the sport by his father at a young age.
“My dad is a curler, and his dad was a curler too,” Stopera said. “It’s a family kind of thing.”
That lineage helps explain why Stopera and his curling squad, “Team Dunnam,” are headed back to the Junior Men’s Curling Nationals after placing second in the 2014 Grand National Curling Club Junior Men’s Championship. Out of the nine teams that competed in the Dec. 26 to Dec. 30 round robin in Brookline, Massachusetts, the top two moved on to Nationals, which will be held in Seattle from Jan. 25. to Feb. 2.
After placing third in the nation last year, Team Dunnam has its eye on winning it all this time around.
“Our goal is definitely to win a national championship,” Stopera said.
The four-member Team Dunnam includes brothers Scott and Andy Dunnam, and Steven Szemple. The quartet is scattered throughout the Northeast, from the University of Virginia to Westchester County, and rarely practices together in between competitions. The majority of their training is done in solitude.
Stopera, for instance, does most of his training with his father at the Ardsley Curling Club.
“Curling is a tight knit community since there’s only so many of us,” Stopera said. “That’s probably one of my favorite things about the sport. It’s a very friendly game. Win or lose, you usually hang out with the opposing team after the game and get to know each other. And that typically happens at all levels.”
Along with the junior nationals, curling figures to get some extra attention this winter with the 2014 Winter Olympics. Stopera admitted that he can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever reach that level of play.
“It’s kind of hard to think about right now, since I have a while left in the junior circuit – but yeah – that’s the ultimate goal for any curler,” he said.
You can’t blame Stopera for not spending too much time about worrying about being one of the world’s best curlers just yet. After all, he’s still not the best curler in his own family. His dad was one of two Westchester men on the winning 2012 USA Curling National Championship team.
“I’m not better than him yet,” Stopera said. “Hopefully, one day, I will be.”