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Getting Started in Curling – The Right Way

Paul Webster is the Curling Director at The Glencoe Club in Calgary. He does “a fair bit of coaching” in this sport, but he also has valuable insights from a club program perspective. Currently in his second year of working with the membership of The Glencoe Club, Webster shares his personal perspective on what is undoubtedly his club’s most successful program.

Paul Webster:

(Photo Steve Dutcheshen Photography Inc.)

I have always had concerns over how we introduce new people to the game of curling. If our goal is that we want them to be long-time curlers and join a league, I believe, historically, we have done a poor job. Traditionally we hold a novice clinic early in the season prior to leagues starting. We then tape up their shoes with duct tape or sliding tape, hand them a broom to balance with and put them in a large group with one of our longest-term, well-meaning, volunteers. Welcome to curling…please stay!? If they do join a league, they may not know anyone, and they do not have the comfort level and skill level to feel proficient. It is truly lucky if they stay longer than one year.

In my first year on the job last season, I wanted to ensure I focused on my previous frustrations – how we introduce the game to new people – and ensure I didn’t simply follow the same path. On that note, I went straight to Danny Lamoureux, of the CCA, to get more information on the Getting Started in Curling Program I had heard about – pioneered by Earle Morris at The Ottawa Curling Club.

The beauty of The Getting Started Program is it’s a program: not simply a 30-60 minute introduction, but a pathway to long-term success in the sport. It builds confidence and skill in a new curler. We have utilized a 6-7 week program at The Glencoe Club that has paid off in dividends. Last year we ran the program twice, once in the fall and once in the winter, and we had a collective 30 people take it. A number of them liked it so much we had to come up with a Getting Started in Curling 2.0 program, as they wanted to take it again! What was the end result? This year 16 of those people are in leagues within our club and loving it! They fit in, they know the rules, and they have the technical proficiency to make a lot of shots.

(Photo Steve Dutcheshen Photography Inc.)

The key, I believe, is how the program is structured. We follow the guidelines of the program set up by Earle. We use step-on sliders: real honest to goodness Teflon! We also utilize a stabilizer device to provide them with instant balance. And, above all, I hire young, talented instructors who get paid to run the program. The enthusiasm and skill level of these instructors, I believe, is essential to the program’s success.

We try to keep an 8-1 ratio of students to instructor to ensure there is a fair amount of one-on-one attention. Even adults like to be recognized and praised. We also encourage a social drink in the pub after the game to help build the connections that will keep these people interested in the game.

I encourage every single curling club across Canada to follow this program. Find an opening in your schedule to fit this program in. Advertise. Hire great instructors. I promise you it will pay off.

The Getting Started in CurlingProgram is the cornerstone of how we will be creating new members in our club.

Paul Webster is a Level IV certified coach and the National Development Coach for the Canadian Curling Association. He is also the 2014 Olympic Team Leader for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

(Photo Steve Dutcheshen Photography Inc.)