Scotties in the schools!
New youth initiative brings Scotties competitors to Kamloops schools for Rocks & Rings
Winning is the name of the game at the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, but even before the first rocks were thrown, many of the curlers involved this year were already big winners.
In short, they won the hearts of hundreds of school-aged kids in Kamloops by stepping up to help them learn about the sport after participating in Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings, presented by Curling Canada, sessions at several Kamloops schools.
The Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings program is designed to provide an iceless curling experience for students using target mats and stones on bearings. School gymnasiums are a perfect setting for the program, providing a smooth, flat surface and room to throw.
Schools are also excellent places to introduce young people to curling and encourage them to get on the ice to get the whole experience.
Teams participating in the Scotties sent players to the schools and participated in the student engagement sessions before the event. There were morning and afternoon sessions where players interacted with the kids in various ways, including question-and-answer sessions, explanations of why the curlers got into the sport and the benefits of playing. The athletes showcased curling warm-ups, draw-to-the-button contests, and some trivia about the Scotties for about 45 minutes.
“It was awesome, something I have never done before,” said Lindsay Dubue, second for Team British Columbia, one of the many Scotties curlers who took part in the event. “It was cool to be there with the kids. A neat experience.”
Dubue said it was a way for Scotties curlers to give back to the sport.
“It’s important to show the kids there’s another sports opportunity for them,” she said. “I think a lot of the kids at that school had tried curling because the Scotties was in Kamloops. Growing the sport is really neat to see.”
The schools lucky enough to have their Scotties “ambassadors” on-site were the Kamloops School of the Arts, Dallas Elementary School, Beattie Elementary School and Westmount Elementary School.
The students were just as enthused as Dubue about the entire experience.
“I think curling is an important sport in Canadian history, and I am glad I got to learn about it,” said student Avery Benoit-Macmillan of Beattie Elementary School. “It was fun playing Rocks & Rings in the gym. I think many young people should give curling a try. I really enjoyed the assembly and meeting the curling athletes.”
Student Shaneya Madampage also had fun.
“I really enjoyed the draw-to-the-button competition between the athletes and the teachers,” she said. “I loved that the athletes came to our school and taught us about curling.”
That enthusiasm was also shared with the teachers, who were proud to provide the students with such a memorable curling experience. It’s not every day some of the best women’s curlers in Canada enter your school gymnasium. Beattie teacher Louise Dunstan was also a big fan of the event.
“I am thankful that Curling Canada and the Rocks & Rings program gave our students the opportunity to try indoor curling and has inspired them to try curling,” she said. “It was an amazing experience.”
It was the first time Scotties participants engaged directly in the Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings program before the event, and it likely won’t be the last.
Abbie Darnley, who has been director of operations of the program for nearly 12 years, said the two days of Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings program with the Scotties athletes was a huge success and got the kids “pumped and excited about curling,” with nearly 300 students reached in school through the initiative.
The Scotties sessions were part of a more extensive program in Kamloops that lasted several weeks.
“We started in the schools in January, once they got back from Christmas break,” said Darnley. “The Rocks & Rings program in Kamloops reached almost 3,000 students leading up to the Scotties, with close to 7,500 curling experiences over 55 days of activity.”
Darnley says it’s all part of a joint initiative between Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings and Curling Canada’s For the Love of Curling programming aiming to introduce kids to curling who may not have other avenues to discover the sport.
“We have a full school program with Curling Canada focused on engaging families and making sure curling is front and centre with youth,” she said.
The interaction between the skips and students didn’t end at the schools. Students have been invited to the event at the Sandman Centre to attend games and watch the athletes they met in their schools perform on the ice.
Creating meaningful opportunities for youth through curling, in the school, on the ice and in the arena is a Curling Canada priority and privilege, made possible thanks to the philanthropic support of the Canada-wide curling community.