Pebbles to Boulders: Making History

The community of Brantford ,Ontario, is located where plenty of this nation’s history was made.
Brantford is named after Joseph Brant, leader of the Mohawks, who supported the British during the American Revolution. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Brantford. The inventor of the electron micro-scope is from Brantford: his name, James Hillier. One of Canada’s famous hockey players of the modern era was born and played his minor hockey in Brantford: Wayne Gretzky.
In the Brantford area, there are three curling clubs, 15 sheets of ice. Brantford Golf and Country Club, Paris Curling Club and Brant Curling Club are all within a few minutes of one another. Years ago, youth curling thrived in all clubs, but for some reason, junior curling disappeared at the Brant. Then in the early 1990’s, a group of keenly interested parents introduced the first Little Rock program at the Brant CC and brought youth curling back to the area. This was the start of a marvellous transformation that would create history and leave a legacy for the Brant Curling Club.

Little Rockers at the Brant Curling Club (Photo Mort Cooper)

With support from the Board of Directors, a couple of sheets of Cross Link Technology Little Rocks were purchased. A small group of very young curlers started practicing on Sunday afternoons. As the years went by, that small number of curlers grew and grew, and more Little Rocks were purchased. After only a few years, all five sheets of ice had a set of Little Rocks in order to support the over 40 young curlers showing up to curl. As the Little Rockers grew older, those keenly interested parents revived the junior curling program at the Brant Curling Club. After much success, the junior section was split in two, making a bantam age group and junior age group. Back to those Little Rockers – their numbers continued to grow to over 60, forcing that group to split up so fair ice time could be enjoyed by all. In about ten years, the Brant went from having no youth curling, to accommodating about 120 young curlers over four different draw times and filling the club on Sunday afternoons with kids and parents. “It is funny how things work out. How a small group of dedicated parents back in the 1990’s came up with an idea,” notes Sean Bryant, President of the Brant Curling Club, “and then a whole new generation of curlers was created.” This development and progress was not without its frustrations for those volunteers trying to operate the Little Rock program. Since Little Rockers and its programming across Canada was still relatively new, there was no guide or direction to follow. Junior curling programming has been around for decades, but dealing with Little Rockers was very different from dealing with juniors. So the Brant Curling Club Little Rock volunteers started to become more organized and placed ideas on paper. These ideas ranged from what to do on the ice with the kids from week to week to how to greet the young curlers each week and record attendance; how to run social activities; looking after fees and early season communications; finding sponsors and fundraising; even ice set up and half-way hacks for the really young curlers. This detailed information caught the attention of Curl Ontario and the Canadian Curling Association. Soon afterwards, the Brant Curling Club program information was combined with the fine work created at the Oshawa Curling Club to make the Tim Hortons Little Rock Resource Guide. Ever since, this guide has been a valuable resource for clubs needing direction on how to prepare a Little Rock program. “Our program continues to evolve as the needs of the kids change,” says Mr. Bryant, “but the basic foundation of program organization remains the same from when the Little Rock Resource Guide was developed.” The club utilizes the outside ice sheets, 1 and 5, for the half length sheet and even a three-quarter length sheet, complete with extra painted houses on those ices. The extra painted houses and hack set-up gives the kids the feel of real curling over a shorter distance, without having to the drag the rocks back to one end and wasting valuable ice time. The Christmas Party and Closing Party are major events where goodies and awards are presentated. Food and treats are big highlights. The Family Fun Day allows the kids to play skip and third, with parents filling the front end positions. Without effective use of adult volunteers, the organization of over 70 Little Rockers would become chaos. Sean Bryant is quick to speak highly of key folks like Scott Hawthorne, Janice Baldwin and a group of high schoolers who care for the on-ice business, with Nancy Hunsley caring for the admin functions off-ice. The three curling clubs in the Brantford area are very active with youth curling programming, and that means another note of history is highlighted for Brantford: the Brant Curling Club contributed to the creation of the very first how-to guide for Little Rock curling. For more information or if you think your club needs a Little Rock Resource Guide, contact the Canadian Curling Association. If you know of a Little Rock curling program or a special Little Rocker that has a story to be told, I would be thrilled to hear from you. Contact me at email, [email protected].