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Pebbles to Boulders: Beyond Little Rocks

I do not know about you, but when I started to work with Little Rockers, I had given no thought as to what level of excellence the kids I was involved would attain. At the time, it was not important to think beyond the here and now. The focus was to provide a quality curling experience for the little kids. But you know, Little Rockers grow up and become young curlers… some become curlers of excellence.

Recently I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to Thunder Bay with my two boys and their high school curling team from Saint Joan of Arc High School in Barrie. They were competing at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) provincial curling championships 2011. What a thrill for any parent to have their children play in a provincial championship and the icing on the cake, to be able to attend and watch. While the JOA team is not the most talented, we are thrilled that they qualified for the provincials against stiff competition from our area.

While in Thunder Bay, I began to wonder as to how many of the curlers from the 40 teams (20 boys and 20 girls) had started curling as Little Rockers. As the event was being hosted between two clubs, Fort William Curling Club and the Port Arthur Curling Club, with alternating draw schedules, I could not meet with all the teams to ask how many Little Rock grads there were in attendance. The best I could do was to briefly ask a cross section of the teams about their backgrounds. I was pleasantly surprised with the findings. I must also add, all with whom I spoke were fine young ladies and gentlemen, examples of the quality of persons participating in curling.

My non-scientific research concluded that 75% of the curlers at OFSAA, were Little Rock graduates. While that in itself I think is amazing, I found just as amazing that most of the remaining 25% of the curlers were turned-on to curling as they joined their high school team. Not all curlers are developed within the curling club system, a testament to the importance of high school sports as a feeder to athletics of all sorts. Now think of it for a moment, what a thrill for those new curlers having qualified for OFSAA and they had not curled before high school….Amazing! Going one step further, the lead for the boys provincial champions from Saint James Catholic High School in Guelph, is in his second year of curling….now that is Amazing!

So I asked some of the curlers what they remembered about Little Rocks.

Cassandra Rees, Sudbury

Cassandra Rees from Saint Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Sudbury, started curling at age 7, she is now age 17. The program at her club was conducted on Sunday mornings. There was a league of sorts that visited different clubs each week, which Cassandra thought was very cool. She remembers using regular rocks and it took Cassandra all year to be able to get the rock over the second hog line. What determination on Cassandra’s part that she stuck with curling, even though her rocks for most of the year did not make it in play.

Emerson Hill from London Central Secondary School, began curling at age 8, he is 15 now. He remembers the fun in learning how to curl with the other kids. Emerson is on one of the top rated teams in Ontario.

Matt Edwards from Uxbridge Secondary School, started curling at age 7, he is now 15. The Uxbridge Curling Club had a small program of 10 to 15 Little Rockers. They curled with the small granites when he started. Now the club has converted to the Lite Rock.

Heather Cridland & Shannon Tessier, Burlington

Heather Cridland and Shannon Tessier from M.M. Robinson High School in Burlington both began curling at age 7 and both are 17 now. Already, these young ladies are great examples of volunteers giving back to the sport. They assist with the Little Rock program at the Burlington Curling Club. The club has between 32 to 40 Little Rockers on 4 sheets of ice. The girls get a big chuckle out of watching and helping the kids. They say their strategy is weird. It is also fun watching the kids try to throw a high hard one and to act like the curlers on television.

To conduct this bite of research was certainly fun in speaking with the teenage curlers. It was evident that the Little Rockers of yesterday are turning out to be the fine young curlers of today. Evidence that not only are Little Rock programs assisting with participation numbers and growth in curling, but also elevating the level of skill at young ages.

By the way, the Thunder Bay committee in charge of organizing the high school provincial championships did an outstanding job. Several parents and coaches all commented that we could not find anything to fault them on. The committee’s efforts made pleasant memories for all the curlers. Congratulations Thunder Bay.

Check in next week for a few more stories from OFSAA.