Not so many years ago when my boys were in Little Rocks, the kids teamed up with some buddies to play in a Little Rock spiel at the K-W Granite in Kitchener. As Little Rock spiels do, behind the glass are attracted tons of parents watching the little ones. Of course as curlers, we are a very social bunch; conversations are struck with folks around. Amongst the laughs and cheers being enjoyed as we watch the kids, information is shared.I began to strike up a conversation with the Dad beside me as he watched his boys on the neighbouring sheet. We exchanged names and towns we were from. He was curious to know if Donna Cooper was my wife, which I immediately and happily replied (I had better be happy to have Donna as my wife, or I’m in big trouble), yes. Donna, a provincial learning facilitator, had taught him his Level 1. Glenn Paulley from Elmira and I struck up quite a conversation about curling and of course Little Rocks. I recently reached out to Glenn to share information about the Elmira Curling Club’s Little Rock activity.
Elmira purchased their first set of Lite Rocks in November 2004. From these humble beginnings, the club has developed a healthy youth program of 32 Little Rockers (ages 7-12) and 18 bantam/juniors (ages 12-17). This is an all-time record, Glenn advises with pride, for Elmira is a small agricultural community.
“Our junior curling is about fun, respect, teamwork, sportsmanship, strategy, fitness, balance, technique, enjoyment, friendship, skill development and a lot of other things. Winning is so far down the list it isn’t worth mentioning,” Glenn points out.
Elmira has had plenty of success in promoting their program with help through the schools. As a club, tremendous success has been achieved with flyers in the mail system. With so many new curlers and parents this season, Glenn has created his own web site to post tech tips, spiel info, practice schedule and Q&A. They have recently gone on FaceBook. The web site is called, Throwing Stones – Coaching Juniors at the Elmira and District Curling Club located at http://glennpaulley.ca/curling.The club believes in servicing curlers of all ages, therefore they use the half-way hack system with circles painted in the middle of the sheets for the youngsters. Glenn explains, “The experience mirrors precisely the full, grown-up game. We are even installing a new, smaller scoreboard on the side wall so that the 7 year olds can keep score without an adult to help.” They have developed a hack system that works for the middle of the ice that suits their rink configuration.
Support is not lacking for the Little Rock program. “I am blessed to have a set of volunteers on the ice to coach, and more volunteers in the lounge to manage the registration, make hot chocolate, handle phone calls and questions, you name it. I couldn’t ask for better support from the club’s Board or from our icemaker. If I need something we find a way to get it.”
Service clubs such as the Legion, Kiwanis and Kinsmen clubs are generous with financial support for event hosting and new equipment. The Adventure Guide store and McDonald’s restaurants are major supporters as well.
Making up a large portion of the skill development for the Little Rockers is the Ontario Curling Association Skill Challenge program. This achievement based multi-level program provides focus for practice sessions in February and March. Kids obtain crests and certificates; the program is supported from their fees.What kid does not want to have their picture taken! A professional photographer comes in one day to take individual pics of all the curlers and a group shot. During the club-hosted spiel, a photographer takes photos of the teams, plus action shots that the parents can purchase. What a great idea!
A visit from a profile curling team pays dividends to grab the kid’s attention. Nearby Wilfred Laurier women’s curling team has paid a visit the last two years. The student athletes, according to Glenn, jump in with both feet to coach the kids on strategy, technique, anything and everything. Smiles are all around with a great day.The Elmira program encourages the attending of spiels and the setting up of exhibition games. It is important to catch the kid’s attention to understand there are other places to curl and many more people like them that enjoy curling.
One of Glenn’s funny stories is from a spiel at North Halton involving of his own twin boys. Over lunch the club served the usual kid-friendly meal along with (unknown to Glenn) a bottomless pitcher of soft drinks for each table. Exhibiting the self-control of 10 year olds, both had far too much cola for their own good. Not surprisingly, over the course of the second game in the afternoon, there were frequent ‘time-outs’ while they ran to the men’s room, even during the middle of an end. This certainly did not go un-noticed by many parents in the lounge turning into howls of laughter and one coach suggesting the Glenn was not much of a curling coach if he couldn’t get his own kids to ‘drink responsibly’. Ah the memories!
Certainly looks like Elmira has something really good going on. As I speak with Glenn, it is more than the kid’s having the fun. Everyone involved are enjoying the time spent at the curling club.