Little Rockers do not stay Little Rockers forever. I know I know, they are so cute, but our kids grow up to become teenagers and bantam / junior curlers. So, hopefully we have been preparing the Little Rockers to move up the curling ladder to the next level.
Like with education, Sunday school classes, Scouts for example, there is a graduating of sorts where the youngster moves up from one level to the next. How do we prepare them for this transition in curling?
Throughout the curling season, the kids have been on the ice for at least 15 sessions, plus the number of years they have been in Little Rocks. Some clubs start their programs as early as age 5 or 6, others not until 8, 9 or even 10. The access to instruction over the time the curlers are in Little Rocks is obviously important to creating a sound technical foundation. This means establishing a balanced slide, or at least, leaving the kids with information as to the reasons for the balanced slide and what it looks like. It also means the utilization of effective leg drive to throw the rock, instead of pushing the rock to the other end of the ice. And a clean release would be very nice as well, but even the most experienced of curlers are continuing to refine this skill. The basic knowledge of rules, lines on the ice and etiquette, greatly aid in transitioning to higher leagues. Remember, that even if the Little Rocker does not have a perfect delivery, the idea here is to have fun, fun, fun… not everyone learns at the same rate, so it is not realistic to expect that all the young curlers well graduate with the same skill level.
Not all clubs have the luxury to supply different rocks for the Little Rock program. We did at our club. Years ago the club purchased the Crosslink Technologies little rock. Then most recently, the Lite Rock was acquired. This allowed the young curlers to graduate through the different rocks, eventually ending up with the full size granites, used by the kids in bantams. As the kids progressed with age, size and strength, they had the opportunity to experience change in rock size and weight. Again, a transitioning and anticipation of excitement to eventually throw and play with granite full size rocks.
If the club utilized the half way hack system, the Little Rocker then graduated to throw the full length of the sheet. It is quite a feeling for the kids to throw a little rock the full length of the ice and to make a shot on the big surface. Just watch them when they do it for the first time with granites.
Attending any of the Little Rock spiels in your area is a form of preparing the Little Rockers for the big leagues. The kids learn so much from attending their first spiel. They learn that curling is played in other communities near to them and that kids like them play curling too! They get the chance to see that other clubs may have curling, but some things might be done differently; like houses might be painted different colours or that there could be more than one level of viewing the ice surface. Meeting other Little Rockers from other clubs contributes to their learning social skills outside of their home club. Little Rockers begin to understand the importance of rules and etiquette for playing curling in different clubs, which is a form of communication and understanding with others they have not met before.
So with the introduction of granites and as they near the end of their Little Rocker career, the kids might be inclined to register for their first association play down. It might be the elementary school play downs or their first bantam competition. What a big step to becoming a boulder. Remember that not all curlers have the desire to compete. These curlers obtain satisfaction from being part of a great group of people who obtain enjoyment from exercise on ice during the wintertime.
Regardless if it is house league activity or play down competition that drives their interest in curling, our job to assisting the transition of Pebbles to Boulders can be measured by the smiles on the curlers faces and the FUN, FUN, FUN, they and you have had along the way.