Pebbles to Boulders: Nurturing Curlers in Sudbury

The Idylwylde Golf and Country Club in Sudbury, Ontario has long been a fixture on the curling scene of Northern Ontario. The strength of their reputation comes in part from the efforts of their youth programs, beginning with Little Rocks.

A Little Rocker practices her two-rock slide (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

Just like a lot of curling clubs, Idylwylde introduced Little Rocks over twenty years ago. Canadian Curling Hall of Fame members, Bill Groom and Frank Bell, took notice of Little Rock development which had just begun in other parts of Ontario and started a program at the Idylwylde that continues to thrive today. Funds were secured for the purchase of two sheets of 16-pound plastic rocks. The developed a curling program based on the designs of junior curling operations at the time. About 14 youngsters showed interest back then, including Tracy Horgan and Mike Jakubo Jr., each of whom have made national curling appearances. Presently the Idylwylde operates a program for 40 Little Rockers, ages 5 to 12 years. For 18 Sunday afternoons during the curling season from October to April, the young curlers spend an hour and a half learning curling, with time spent on short lessons to go over the basics, then moving into games play. “The atmosphere is relaxed,” notes Allan Arkilander, volunteer coordinator of the Idylwylde, who has been involved for with Little Rocks for nearly 20 years. “Our goal is to prepare the kids to move up to juniors, maybe then a little more competition and then to enjoy the sport for the rest of their life.”

One of Idylwylde's Timbit curlers in action (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

Tim Hortons is a major contributor to the program. The Timbits Challenge is a two-day bonspiel, allowing the youngsters to be introduced to the enjoyment of participating in bonspiels. The event has two divisions; one with younger curlers throwing junior rocks and the other division with curlers throwing regular rocks. Three six-end games are guaranteed. Maximum age is 13 years old, with teams allowed to register more than four curlers. All games are played the full length of the ice sheet. “For the junior rock division, we allow parents on the ice to assist the kids and keep play moving,” chuckles Arkilander. “Regular rock division, coaches are allowed one 90 second time out to support and direct the curlers. The spiel is filled each year with teams from clubs across the region, plus last year, we had 4 elementary school teams.” For the Challenge, the $25 per person entry fee covers brunch and some expenses, with Tim Hortons supporting drinks, snacks and prizes. In the weekly Idylwylde program, experienced curling volunteers and parents are strongly encouraged to come out on ice to support instruction based activities. Sliders and brushes are provided for the Little Rockers, along with the junior rocks of course. Idylwylde curling jackets are available on a seasonal basis, making the group looking like a team – and looking sharp – every year. The Idylwylde junior curling section mission statement is very clear: “To provide a suitable environment for each child/participant to develop their fullest potential in curling.” The club also has a motto, “Home of Champions”. The Idylwylde certainly has a tradition of developing champions, which has its roots with the fine nurturing within the Little Rock program. 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].

Litte Rockers looking sharp in their Idylwylde team jackets (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)