Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle meeting in Kamloops during Scotties
By JOHN KOROBANIK
From young girls to adult women and seniors, the Women in Curling Leaders’ Circle is spending a busy weekend at the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, B.C., growing the sport at both ends of the spectrum.
Girls Rock, an initiative created by Curling Canada’s WICL, brought together about 40 girls for a morning of curling instruction at the McArthur Island Curling Club, followed by off-ice activities and then an evening at The Scotties.
The adults are spending two days of workshops, socializing and presentations focused on improving female mentorship and looking at how to evolve and continue to push female involvement in the sport.
“Every time we bring these people together, the intent is that it will be a great experience for them,” explained Elaine Dagg-Jackson, Curling Canada’s National Team Program Manager. “And when they leave they’ll take this inspiration or these new lessons or new leadership skills they have learned and go back into their own communities and have an impact there.”
The Circle was formed four years ago, she says, “when it was determined we wanted to make even more leadership access available for women. Even though Curling Canada has been a leader in women’s involvement, we wanted to see if we could do even better.
“So we formed this circle of leaders within Canada, leaders in different areas of curling who would come together and try to inspire and build momentum towards further opportunities for women in leadership in curling.”
The WICL has grown from a group of 30 women in the first year who met to discuss the challenges women face in leadership and professional development. Since then the group picks a topic to focus on each year.
“This weekend a small group is coming together in Kamloops to talk about mentorship programs that we can put together to help female coaches, female involvement in any type of curling,” says Dagg-Jackson. “Monday we had a webinar with female leaders across Canada, coaches, former athletes, female broadcasters, female icemakers, event managers…for a professional development opportunity.”
That webinar was led by three women CEOs: Katherine Henderson from Curling Canada, Anne Merklinger from Own the Podium and Lorraine Lafreniere from the Coaching Association of Canada.
“Because they are the pinnacle of leadership we brought them together for a discussion on things they have learned or conversations around what they would have told their younger self, or words of wisdom that they shared.”
This weekend’s program is focusing on three major projects. Dagg-Jackson says there are about 10 or 15 women meeting to talk about developing leaders in curling; the Girls Rock program; and a special recognition evening for British Columbia Scotties champions.
On Saturday Brenda Willis, Coaching Association of Canada high performance mentor, led a workshop on mentorship in curling. Karen Watson, health and wellness consultant for Curling Canada’s high performance team, and Maureen Miller, former Curling Canada Board Chair, led a discussion on mentorship training and securing and allocating funding.
Sunday’s session focuses on how the WICL can evolve and succeed, plus a look at what are the next steps the group should take.
“Girls Rock is a real great initiative where our leaders come out and teach the curlers,” Dagg-Jackson said. “Some of those are former Olympians … they bring their medals and the kids get to try the medals on. So they get to meet these rock stars and other coaches they don’t know and they have this really great morning of girls only.
“That’s one of the most impactful initiatives the circle has come up with.”
Dagg-Jackson says the recognition evening for B.C. Scotties champions is to “kind of shine a light on their accomplishments.
“From that, we hope there will be further inspiration of some of the women who participated in the Scotties years ago, maybe they’ll be more inspired to become re-engaged in curling.
“It’s quite unique what we do, we bring people together, we have a shared experience through out love of curling and because most of the people in the room are recognized as being somewhat of an expert in some area, all sorts of great ideas come up.”
The WICL was created because there was a Sport Canada initiative for gender equity and leadership in sports for women and it provided a “pretty large” budget for the first year.
“That money is no longer there so this is purely the passion and the dedication of senior management of Curling Canada, and Katherine Henderson has been a huge supporter of this initiative. So we have kept it going even though we had a very small amount of money now.
“I’m very happy with where we are right now. I think we could do a lot more if we had more money and more people who weren’t just volunteering, but actually had a role or a paid job.”