House Call: Rookies Rock at the Granite Club in Ottawa

The Granite Curling Club in West Ottawa is bursting with beginners! According to Club Manager, Denise Hoekstra, the evening Rookies Rock program is what started it all 10 years ago. Newbies flocked to the club to learn how to curl with great instruction in a welcoming atmosphere. Hoekstra feels strongly that, “you can’t just throw people out on the ice without teaching them something first.” The Rookies Rock program offers beginners a season of on-ice lessons in everything from how to move on a slider, to sweeping, to grip and turns, to game play. Hoekstra and her team of volunteers do such a great job of teaching their beginners that many of them are starting to curl in regular leagues after just half a season.

Action from the Rookies Rock program (Photo courtesy Ottawa Granite)

According to Hoekstra: “The other curlers have been absolutely amazed at how well these people curl.” She adds that in some cases the experienced curlers from the leagues end up asking the rookies for tips. “We’re turning out some really good curlers!” Hoekstra fondly recalls one beginner who couldn’t slide out of the hack more than a couple of feet to start with; she would then crawl across the ice to the sideboards and inch her way back to the hack to try again. After about a month in the program she was sliding all the way to the hogline. While the evening Rookies Rock program saw success, another demographic in need of beginner instruction became apparent to Hoekstra when she started working at the club five years ago. She noticed a large number of age 50-plus individuals entering retirement and looking for something to do. After the excitement the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, Hoekstra decided to offer a spring Rookies Rock program during the day time. Twenty people signed up and most of them returned in the fall to join the new Daytime Rookies Rock program that caters more to the over-50 crowd. Since starting to teach beginners in the over-50 demographic, Hoekstra has learned a lot about how to modify deliveries for a myriad of issues such as bad knees, backs, shoulders, and eye sight. “It’s been a challenge I’ve welcomed. I’ve learned a lot from the some of the problems I’ve dealt with,” said Hoekstra noting that there isn’t information out there about delivery modifications for injuries. Instructors are often left with trial and error or using past experience to guide them. Hoekstra has taken to keeping track of modifications that have worked for her in a notebook for future reference. She often makes use of delivery aides such as the Stabilizer with new curlers and also has two instructors who teach stick curling for those who can’t get down in the hack. Hoekstra attributes much of the Rookies Rock programs’ success to the welcoming atmosphere of the club and its volunteer-driven disposition. “It’s just the nature of our club… there’s a lot of member pride.” And that member pride is working well for them. Their leagues are full and so are their beginner programs without much more advertising than word of mouth. It’s programming like the Rookies Rock program that will keep curlers coming back. Kudos to Denise Hoekstra and the Granite Curling Club in West Ottawa for putting on such a great program!