It started as a suggestion from a club curler in Ontario and now it’s spreading to Member Associations across the country. The Curling Canada Hit Draw Tap competition for kids is hitting the big time, including showcasing a couple of provincial finals in front of the crowd at both the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sydney, N.S., and Tim Hortons Brier in Brandon, Man.
“The idea was first suggested to Curl ON’s new (at the time, in 2014) Executive Director, Stephen Chenier, by a club curler,” says Jennifer Ferris, Manager, Programs and Operations at the Ontario Curling Council. “The suggestion was to create a curling version of NFL’s Punt, Kick Pass or the Master’s Chip, Drive, Putt, which are both youth skills competitions. Steve tasked me with creating the curling version and through a bit of trial and error, I created Hit Draw Tap.”
The first Hit Draw Tap event was held in 2015 at the Ontario Men’s Tankard in Brantford, Ont., and it has now joined Curling Canada’s stable of programs designed to develop youth curling across Canada.
Hit Draw Tap gives kids aged 6-13 an opportunity to apply their curling skills as individuals – not in a team setting – in a fun, competitive atmosphere that starts at their local curling centre. Participants are grouped into three different age categories (6-8, 9-10, 11-13) and curlers perform three different shots, with the difficulty of the skill modified based on the age of the curler. Participants have the chance to move on to regionals and provincials, and even beyond that to the national finals.
“The goal of the HDT program is to provide kids with a positive first experience to competition,” says Ferris. “It’s a fun way for clubs to build skill development into their programs and run a competition where kids can compete as individuals – that way, if a club doesn’t have four kids to compete on a team, the individual still gets a chance to be competitive. The skills are age and stage appropriate and aligned with our Long Term Curler Development Model.”
Helen Radford, Curling Canada’s Manager, Youth Curling and Next Gen, predicts that
Curling Canada’s Hit Draw program will soon become the number one youth program for participation, mostly because there’s so much opportunity for kids to build skills while moving up levels of competition, and to do it all in such a fun way.
“For the first time, in Nova Scotia and Manitoba, the Hit Draw Tap provincial finals will be held during the final day at the Scotties and Tim Hortons Brier, which will bring great excitement not only for the kids participating, but for the crowd watching our next generation of young curlers,” says Radford.
Ferris agrees that the success of the program has been “incredible.”
“Last year CurlON had 48 clubs and 750-plus kids participate in the competition,” she says. “Northern Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta all ran versions of the competition with the event in Manitoba attracting similar numbers of kids as Ontario.”
This season, CurlOn has given Curling Canada the operational control of the program and it has been re-branded as Curling Canada’s Hit Draw Tap, available in French and English. It also includes an online scoring application and leaderboard on the program website, hitdrawtap.ca, so participants can see where they rank within their age category.
“This has been the fastest growing program, and the easiest to implement at the club level,” says Ferris. “I run lots of events every year, but this is one of my favourites for sure. The kids and their parents absolutely love the program.”
Each province/territory runs their HDT competitions a little differently, so parents and participants should check with their Member Association’s website for event details.
Ferris believes the positive long-term benefits of Hit Draw Tap are already being seen.
“We’re starting to see some kids show up year after year at the provincial level, and we think it’s only a matter of time before one of our Hit Draw Tap winners win a provincial title (U15 or U18),” she says. “Give it another year or two, I think we’ll be talking about Curling Canada’s Hit Draw Tap as a program that’s implemented nation-wide.”
Skills development, youth participation, competition and fun – Hit Draw Tap offers all that, and the best part is that it’s still building.
“All across Canada we are seeing huge momentum in youth programming,” says Radford. “Curling Canada’s Hit Draw Tap program is definitely a program on the rise.”