Carrying on from the last week, you’ll remember I spoke with several young curlers who were competing the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations provincial curling championships in Thunder Bay. Many of the curlers had started curling in Little Rocks, with fond memories of those years.
Cassi Bolt from Central Elgin Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas was age 5 when she started Little Rocks, now she is 17 years old. She remembers curling with her present day teammates Riley and Abigail Weagant. I think that is the coolest, after all those years, still curling with the same friends and now competing at the provincials together. Cassi helps with the Little Rock program at St. Thomas on Sundays. She says, “It’s fun, entertaining and hilarious watching the silly things the Little Rockers do. One day a Little Rocker took instruction literally, who was asked to put the rock on the paint. With a penguin like slide, the Little Rocker took a rock down the ice and placed it on the house at the far end.” St. Thomas has about 32 Little Rockers today, utilize the halfway hack system for the smaller kids, have about 8 instructors on the ice at one-time and curl for a hour to 1 ½ hours. Cassis and her team lost the girl’s final to Grimsby, in a very tight game.
Chelsea Brandwood from Grimsby District Secondary School began curling at age 7 and is now 15. She remembers using the halfway hack in her younger days. Playing against her sister Jordan brought back memories. Now, she’ll even have more memories of the curling with her sister, for Chelsea’s team won OFSAA, with her sister skipping the team. To top that off, the Grimsby team were the defending champs…. back to back championships in high school curling, 2010 and 2011… back to back champions has not be done before in Ontario high school curling. Congratulations ladies, and to think it all started with Little Rocks. I can just imagine how excited and proud Chelsea and Jordan’s parents are of the girls and the team.
Tyler Lyon-Hatcher from All Saints High School in Kanata was age 7 starting his curling career and is now 15. Tyler is proud of the times during Little Rocks when his grandfather would come out to curl with him. He also remembered going to spiels with his brother Jordie. Tyler and his teammates were one of the top ranked boys teams. All the guys on Tyler’s team had started curling with Little Rocks. During OFSAA, they played with great skill and their strategy was flawless.
Jonah Mondloch from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in St. Catharines was 8 when he started Little Rocks and now is 16. Jonah really liked playing in spiels. In the Golden Horseshoe area, there are plenty of spiels from which to choose. So excited Jonah would be about playing in a spiel the next day, he could not go sleep the night before.
While speaking with the younger curlers I had the pleasure to discuss high school curling with Emily Jane Scott, a teacher from M. M. Robinson in Burlington. She took the time to explain for me a system of high school curling which I hope more areas would incorporate. Within the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference the curling teams compete twice a week at the Oakville Curling Club. There are two divisions, competitive and developmental. The competitive division has fewer teams, play a double or triple round of games to determine the reps to OFSAA. The amazing part is the developmental league has over 26 teams, with some schools having more than one team. Made up of mostly novice curlers with some intermediate curlers in the group, the league is utilized as a feeder system to the competitive league. Within the development league, the teams are made of any combination of boys and girls, or call it an open league. The interesting aspect the coaches see, is that the older kids in the developmental league work their up to the skip position and begin to mentor the newer curlers. Not only are curling skills being developed, but these mentors are learning leadership qualities as part of their curling experience. Now why do we not see more of this dedication to curling development in other areas? I know, I know, that is a story for another day.
By the way, I should mention that both my boy’s, Brian and Scott, playing at OFSAA from the Saint Joan of Arc Secondary School in Barrie, started their curling as Little Rockers. Four of the five boys on their team are Little Rock grads. For me, Dad, I have proud memories of the boys learning to slide; being with others and making new friends; and when they were very small, trying to reach high enough to place the end marker on the scoreboard.
I salute all those Little Rockers who have played up through the ranks and those curlers who began their careers with new groups of friends in other curling development systems.