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Pebbles to Boulders: Health and Safety Management

Recently I was contacted by my friends at the Canadian Curling Association to assist a curling club, which had questions about ‘risk management’ of their Little Rock and youth program and the need for police checks of volunteers. I would like to share the information, which was passed on, plus more.

Before I get into the details, the term risk management has such an official and legal sound to it, leaving us ordinary folks hearing these words thinking we have some long, drawn-out process to go through. When it comes right down to it, risk management of a Little Rock curling program is the common sense steps that we take to care for the health and safety of our kids while they are at the curling club.

First of all, we need to prepare our children with the proper equipment. For the first-timers and real little people, most of what they need may already be in their clothes closet, so additional purchases are not necessary. Warm clothing is a given; stretchy pant wear, sweater or jacket, gloves or mitts. Actual curling shoes are not necessary, if you can even find the sizes small enough. Who wants to spend the money on sport specific equipment anyway, until the interest and commitment to the sport as be determined.

The curling club will be supplying ‘step on sliders’ or sliding tape for the kids. Clean rubber soled running shoes will act as double grippers for the kids to move upon the ice surface. Be sure that the shoes do in fact have rubber soles, for some runners have plastic elements in the mixture of the sole. When these soles become cold, they become very slippery…. so be aware! A simple test is to press your finger nail into the sole; if your nail does not easily flex the sole, then it is not rubber…. polymers will make the sole stiff and not as pliable as rubber.

Cycling helmets are very good idea. It seems odd that curling played on slippery ice does not have the case history of injures as other sports. However, until such time as the kids become more aware of time and place on the ice and are more confident moving up and down the ice surface, the use of helmets are strongly suggested. While not traditional curling attire, cycling helmets are worn these days by our children from the earliest of ages for cycling, roller blades and skate boarding. So they are use the headgear already and when they see others wearing helmets, acceptance will not be a problem. (Even some of our veteran curlers playing seniors and masters are taking notice and appointing their curling equipment with helmets as a safety precaution.) So at what age are the helmets removed? That really comes to a personal or in this case, parental preference. Parents know their kids best and can tell when they think their children are displaying the skills and confidence not to fall or get it the way of rocks moving up and down the ice sheet.

Adequate volunteer support goes along way to ensure safety both on and off the ice. Suitable training, if not for all volunteers, for at least key volunteers, allows the volunteers to have the know-how and confidence to care for the kids on ice for skill development. Those volunteers with curling instructor training can show those without training the skills to be practiced that day by the curlers. Parents watching the activities from behind the glass gain reassurance seeing the volunteers working well with the kids. Nothing promotes a youth curling program better than happy parents. There are two training programs offered across Canada by provincial associations that teach volunteers skills to lead curling programs. One is the Club Coach Youth, which is a one day event illustrating how to coordinate a youth program. The other, Club Coach, is two days of training, teaching you how to teach curling at a basic level. Again, if not every volunteer can obtain this type of training, to have some key leaders attend, they can then pass on information to others who are assisting.

At these courses, one of the points covered is the Emergency Action Plan. This is safety action / checklist that helps you organize and prepare for emergencies. Some examples of topics covered are proper ice preparation (every basic), building evacuation procedures, medical forms, telephone access and emergency phone numbers. Here is a simple little test to ask yourself to see if you are ready for an emergency….what is to be done if the lights go out in the curling club!!! Good one eh!!

With curling registration, every young curler must have a personal medical form completed. These are standard in all sport and school activities these days. The form will contain personal information, doctors and dentists contact information, parents and second contact to call in case of emergency, list of any medical needs of the child and a consent and release statement authorizing medical assistance be undertaken if necessary.

In these times of uncertainty and with some very scary situations having taken place in our communities, a criminal check by police of volunteers is commonplace and in a lot of cases, required, if someone is to be involved with youth. Again, it may not be necessary for all volunteers to have a criminal check done, however, it is just as important for the child and volunteer protection, not to leave them in a situation where trust could be compromised. It is very wise to have a criminal check for your volunteers.

Traditionally, curling is a two-hour on ice activity. With Little Rock programming, two hours can be a very longtime. To have a child’s attention focused for that length of time is asking too much. I have found that hour one of organized, quality time is plenty to offer a rewarding experience for Little Rocks. Hence, if the activity is short in duration, that means non-curling parents will likely stay and watch, than go and return in a few a minutes later. When the parents stay, this offers more parental supervision and over-all inaction of the family with the program. Non-curling parents are then more willing to assist with the operation of the program. Give them small duties to perform such as weekly check in desk, clothing and footwear checks, announcements and social events. More over-all adult supervision provides for more over-all care.

This information may seem like a lot. When in position, this information becomes a succession of events that take place on a regular basis. Without knowing it, your Little Rock program will then be caring for the health and safety of the participants, thus providing you with the risk management plan.