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Pebbles to Boulders: Attention Please! Attention! Part 2

Tuesday, 14 December 2010 - Posted by Mort Cooper

With all this talk about relaxing and having fun, does not mean you rule out skill development. Skill development takes a different form from the traditional curling instruction model for adults.

For example, with adults or teenagers who are learning to curl, you have them repeat the different elements of the delivery numerous times, and as they progress, you would move on to the next step. If you try to do the same thing with a seven year old they would become bored and dis-interested very quickly. Youngsters have very low attention spans. As such, their attentiveness has to be challenged constantly.

So why not prepare a series of short lessons and have the kids move from one station to another around the ice rink.

Little Rocks

The time spent at a drill station should not be more than 10 minutes. Each station has a specific task or subject. Some stations might have a treat, such as slide toward the candy bucket. Each station has one or two instructors to care for the teaching and supervision.

Each group ideally should have no greater than 6 kids, so that the number of attempts at each station by each kid can be maximized with little standing idle. The idea of the stations is to keep everyone active and attentive. This way they will not become bored with lessons that drag on. By moving from station to station, the kids are given a new challenge and the learning process is ignited.

Voila, there you have it, skill development. Sure this method might take longer, but who cares, the kids are having fun. For safety, rotate the groups of kids from one station to another station in an orderly fashion, say in a clock-wise rotation. This rotation will help to keep the kids organized on the ice as they know where to go for the next station.

For a couple of years when our program was starting out, we were so focused on teaching the Little Rockers the proper technique for curling, that we over emphasized skill development. That’s all we did for the first half of the season. Teach this and teach that, drill this and drill that.

Why did we do this?

Because we wanted to have little curlers with perfect deliveries. We thought the kids could not play the sport without proper technique. When I think back, duh, how narrow minded we were. It was soon pointed out, that other sports let the kids play the game and work in skill development.

Hockey, the kids practice some at first then play; soccer, the kids play (chase the ball, but they play) and practice on other days; t-ball, the kids play, with adult assistance and then practice on other days. Point taken!! We were boring the kids to death for half the season and frustrating the parents who were watching.

After we realized the errors of our ways (and I did mention that there was lots of trial and error along the way), we developed weekly agendas that combined skill development and games. More on agendas a little later.

So after a tough lesson learned by us adult know-it-alls, we found the best method for Little Rock programming (for us anyways) was to in fact get into game action. Let’s face it, games are where the action is.

After the first couple of weeks of basic instruction to introduce the newbies to curling and with on ice help, the young curlers are shown how to play the game. An adult helper is at the throwing end to assist with deliveries and proper turns; an adult helper is at the house end to assist with broom placement and shot calling (can’t really call it strategy yet, but soon); and another adult helper to support and organize sweeping action.

So now you’re thinking the youngest curlers cannot throw the rock the length of the ice, but do not forget, we prepared two full length ice sheets with two half sheets on both. By doing so, we now have four sheets of ice to care for the smallest of curler and they can easily throw the little rock the full length of the half sheet. And you would be surprised with the accuracy and the excitement on the little faces when their rock stops in the house.

Bingo, with game play, we had instant fun for everyone as shot after shot reached the house or take-outs began to zing down the ice. Maybe these shots were without proper technique, but some were, so along the way the kids learned from playing games.

There is another way to challenge the interest of the Little Rockers during regular curling weeks. That is, change what you do from week to week. Who says you have to play games each week. So we would change the weekly routine to switch from games, to drill stations another week to themed events like a Halloween party, Christmas party or a Winter Olympic costume event or an Easter event, if the calendar and season matched up.

We’ll talk about parties and themed events at a later date. Or why not even play the short game with little guys, so they can really see what happens to a rock when it makes contact with other rocks in the house. Generally speaking, keep the curious little curlers on their toes and they’ll never want to miss a day of curling.

Next time, we’ll talk about specific agendas and organizing a day of Little Rock curling.



About Mort Cooper
Mort Cooper has been a curling administrator for over 25 years, beginning with 10 years as the Executive / Technical Director for the Ontario Curling Federation. He spent 3 years as the Curling Professional at Brantford Golf and Country followed by 10 years as Club Manager / Ice maker at the Brant Curling Club and one year as the General Manager of Guelph Curling Club. Presently, he is working on a semi-retirement career with a few outdoor pursuits, one of which is a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol System with Snow Valley Ski Resort in Barrie. In a volunteer curling capacity, Mort's career is highlighted with 10 years service as the Technical Advisor with the Uniroyal Goodrich World Junior Curling Championships, and along with his wife Donna, are major contributors to the Tim Hortons Little Rock Resource Guide. Mort acts as a resource on Little Rocks and is a Business of Curling Facilitator with the Canadian Curling Association.

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