Curling is growing in popularity for an Ottawa-based organization that provides a variety of recreational programs for adults.
Curling has become one of the top five most popular leagues offered by the Ottawa Sport & Social Club (OSSC) and it’s the social aspect of the sport that provides such a big appeal, says Jill Magnussen, marketing and promotions manager for OSSC.
The OSSC “encourages the social aspects” of the game, including the winning team buying the losing team post-game beverages, an age-old curling tradition according to Magnussen. Additionally, the OSSC provides individuals with an easy, low-commitment entry point to try a new sport by offering 8-to-12-week programs (one in the fall and one in the winter).
The OSSC curling leagues consist of about 800 members playing once a week in one of five Ottawa-area curling clubs: Carleton Heights, Rideau, Huntley, Nepean Sportsplex and the Ottawa Hunt Club. The leagues began in 2008 at Carleton Heights and Rideau with the three other locations being gradually added to meet the growing demand.
Most participants are working professionals between 25 and 50, with about half having less than two years’ curling experience.
“The OSSC at large and the curling league programs are for adults and geared towards those who are 19-plus,” says Lael Morgan, OSSC executive director. “Our vision involves creating healthy communities. When you have healthy, happy, and engaged adults, that’s one step closer in the right direction.”
The result is recess for adults, plain and simple.
Magnussen adds that the OSSC offers a “one-stop shop” where curlers receive a great social experience and all the necessary logistics through an online database which tracks league standings in real time and informs participants of their next opponent as well as what sheet of ice they will be playing on.
On a typical night, players arrive five to 10 minutes before their game, socialize and perhaps squeeze in a bit of stretching. Next, teams play “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who has hammer, and the games begin. An interesting feature of these leagues involves “the sharing of tips between teams,” says Morgan. In many cases, stronger teams will spend time during the game passing on some wisdom to developing teams.
“Everyone says hi to one another as they walk along the backboards behind their sheets,” says Magnussen.
The social atmosphere continues on the warm side of the glass as all curlers stay afterwards and share some stories and good times over beverages.
Beyond the social, the OSSC provides participants with some friendly competition. Morgan explains that teams play each other once in a round-robin format, followed by playoffs and finals involving all teams. The playoffs remain social in nature, even though the first-place team receives an OSSC trophy and T-shirts at an end-of-season party.
Before most sessions begin, the OSSC hosts free skills clinics to give new curlers some confidence or help those with experience brush up on their abilities. Skilled coaches such as high-performance women’s competitor Lee Merklinger (second on Team Sherry Middaugh), attend the leagues to share some of their skills and experiences. While free, the OSSC asks that participants bring canned food for the Food Bank, thereby contributing to the greater Ottawa community.
Bonspiels are also a fixture, with previous themes including “Where’s Waldo” and a Halloween Trick-or-Treat night. These bonspiels run from 6 p.m. to midnight, making them a fun night out. Teams are guaranteed at least three, one-hour games followed by social time. OSSC league membership is not a requirement though Morgan says the bonspiels and leagues sell out quickly due to their popularity. Early registration is recommended.
Magnussen says the OSSC curling league is a “great way to make new friends, network and enjoy the sport. We’ve even witnessed a wedding proposal on the ice a few years ago.”
Morgan believes curling offers a unique alternative to OSSC players.
“(Curling) is a game of finesse and strategy, which can be quite different from our other typical sport leagues,” he says.
If you, or someone you know, are interested in trying the OSSC curling leagues, you can check out http://ossc.ca/sport-listing/leagues for more information. Equivalent leagues also exist in many other Canadian cities so be sure to do your homework!