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Business of Curling: School programs

Identifying a problem is the easy part when it comes to developing the sport of curling. But how do you, as manager of a curling facility, execute a solution?

(Photo courtesy S. Yachiw)

(Photo courtesy S. Yachiw)

A common discussion at curling club board tables is how to get more students interested in the sport. One problem that arises at the board level is the lack of good ideas to accomplish the goal. Simply renting the sheet of ice to an elementary school and leaving it up to a teacher, who may or may not even know how to play the sport, is not fair to the kids or the teachers.

In 2012 Curl Saskatoon identified this issue and came up with a very successful solution. Their main goal was to increase the number of kids exposed to the sport, targeting Grades 6, 7, and 8. Curl Saskatoon and Youth Coordinator Samantha Yachiw began to explore why local schools were not participating in curling during their gym classes.

They discovered that incorporating curling into the gym requirement – like Curl Regina’s Grade 6 program – requires major curriculum changes, a difficult process with many hoops to jump through. The other significant deterrent for schools is the high cost of busing. With these issues in mind, Yachiw proposed a plan to fund a “Ride to Curl” program. In the 2012-2013 season, the Curl Saskatoon program became a reality with the help of First Student Canada.

In the first year, the program was a great success. Of 77 Saskatoon schools, 35 participated in the program, which was a significant increase from 15 schools the previous year. Curl Saskatoon received more than double the bookings they had expected: 142 funded bus trips, and 1782 participating students.

“Many teachers e-mailed me letting her know that their students could not stop talking about their (curling) experience,” says Yachiw. “These are kids that normally would not get an opportunity and (the program) may spark interest in them to continue on with the sport.”

(Photo courtesy S. Yachiw)

(Photo courtesy S. Yachiw)

Offering a free ride and cheap ice isn’t enough, however. Without ensuring quality programming, many school programs die out over time. The numbers can define immediate success, but the longevity of the program, and the likelihood of those participants becoming curlers, is the key to the program and often overlooked. Curl Saskatoon took steps to ensure the quality of the students’ experience was top notch in hopes of turning those short-term numbers into lifelong curlers.

Ten qualified instructors were provided for the teachers to ensure even students of non-curling teachers were given proper instruction. Teachers who were curlers were also given the support to ensure high quality instruction.

Curl Saskatoon also wanted to ensure the students had safe, top-quality equipment. Forget scrounging from the lost-and-found bin. Thanks to support from Folk’s Curling Corner in Saskatoon and Goldline Curling Supplies, the kids were given a sense of pride using new sliders and brooms that look like something the pros might use.

Yachiw reports that teachers have been “lining up” for the 2013-2014 season. Curl Saskatoon has also included a 25 per cent discount to the “Learn-to-Curl” program for any “Ride to Curl” participants in order to encourage more students to take the next step.

(Photo courtesy S. Yachiw)

(Photo courtesy S. Yachiw)

Potential programming ideas come up around the board table, or are spawned during the broom-stacking sessions (in the lounge). The key to success is finding a motivated and organized group or person – like Curl Saskatoon and Samantha Yachiw – to carry out the plan. (For more information about the Ride to Curl program, contact Samatha Yachiw via email at saskatoonjrdevelopment@gmail.com)

Many of the most successful programs and ideas curling club managers use have been adopted from other clubs, sports or businesses. It is important to the development of the sport that we share our success stories, instead of racking our brains trying to re-invent the wheel. If you have a curling development program or success story to share, or an issue you would like to find an answer to, feel free to contact Scott Comfort via email at scott@scottcomfort.com.