Curling Canada scholarship recipients made best of their opportunities
By JOHN KOROBANIK
Getting to the elite level of any sport requires tremendous dedication by athletes who devote incredible amounts of time, energy and money for a chance at achieving their goals.
That time, money and energy isn’t just funnelled to their sport, as increasing numbers of individuals are combining education with athletics, making the climb to the top even more difficult.
With an eye to the future, in 2014 Curling Canada established the For the Love of Curling Scholarship program with the goal of supporting and encouraging young curlers across the country.
At this week’s Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, the success of that program is evident, with 11 of the competitors graduates of the program. That includes four skips: Matthew Manuel of Nova Scotia, Nathan Young of Newfoundland and Labrador, Karsten Sturmay of Team Wild Card #3 and Thomas Scoffin of Team Yukon.
Others in the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier field are Sterling Middleton (B.C., 2016), Tyler Tardi (Alberta, 2016), Rob Gordon (Team Wild Card #2, 2017), Tanner Horgan (Northern Ontario, 2018), Kyle Doering (Team Wild Card #3 2018), Glenn Venance (Team Wild Card #3, 2018), and Émile Asselin (Quebec, 2019).
“When you’re a student athlete you obviously get stretched in a lot of different directions,” says Sturmay, skipping a team out of St. Albert, Alta., “You have to focus on your studies, you have to focus on your curling. All of that takes a considerable amount of time, but also money, too.
“So to not only get recognized and have that financial support, to know our national sporting organization is actively investing in our next generation of curlers, is something we can celebrate.”
The program originally offered 10 scholarships annually until 2021 when it increased to 11, although 13 scholarships were handed out in 2017. Each is now worth $2,500. To be eligible, applicants must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents, be actively involved in curling and be enrolled in a post-secondary institution.
Since its inception 95 young curlers have received scholarships, totaling $173,300, including Tardi, third for Team Kevin Koe, who says the scholarship came at a time he was struggling to figure out what he wanted to do academically. and allowed him the time to find his career choice — and continue curling.
“The financial aspect is huge,” he says. “It’s hard to say I’d be standing here with Kevin and the boys without it.”
Manuel, a project co-ordinator for Southwest Construction Management, also found the scholarship a big benefit to both his athletic and academic goals.
“Being a student athlete is very expensive,” he said between draws this week. “Getting that support from the curling association to help pursue my academics and competitive sports was a huge help. It meant a lot at the time and it means a lot now.”
Scoffin says any financial help for student-athletes is “massive.”
“Obviously a lot of curlers have benefited from it. I think it’s shown its success by how many players are at the Brier this year. It’s a great way to alleviate a bit of stress. Curling is a game of self-funding. You’re on the road, you’re going to school, driving or flying to events on the weekend. It allows you to focus on what you have to do, whether that’s curling or school. It’s fantastic.”
Recipients are selected by a committee that looks at competitive curling achievements, as well as individuals who have maintained a good level of academic standing while showing a solid commitment to their community through involvement in leadership volunteer activities.
Brodie Bazinet, Foundation and Philanthropic Program Manager for Curling Canada, said the organization solicits “philanthropic contributions from the Canada-wide curling community, specific to the scholarship program, under the premise that these donations will support the future champions of our sport. It’s inspiring to see this sentiment come to fruition in such a visible and tangible manner with 11 former scholars competing at the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier.”
A seven-person selection panel, composed of Curling Canada’s CEO, Curling Canada’s Board of Governors representative, a Women in Curling Leadership Circle representative, Governor General’s Curling Club representative, and former scholarship recipients (Sturmay and Young have been selection panel members), collectively make the final decisions.
“Having former scholars on the panel is a very important aspect of the program,” said Bazinet. “First, as a personal growth opportunity for these young adults, who will not only benefit from the experience of working alongside some high-level Curling Canada representatives, but will also be challenged to better understand the reflection and process of making hard decisions that will have impacts on someone’s curling journey.
“And second, their voices at the selection panel table are critical to the program staying in tune with the needs and perspectives of the demographic that we are aiming to support through the scholarship program.
“It is a curling scholarship first, curling accomplishments is a heavily weighted aspect, but the program also strongly takes into account the volunteer leadership of our recipients and their value-based approach to being a contributing member of their sporting community.”
Applicants have to write an essay on how being a curler has influenced their life and how their experiences and connections inspire their continuing journey in the sport and in their community.
“Every year, I have the privilege of reading essays from countless young curlers across the country who are proud to give back to their sport and community,” said Bazinet. “who are grateful to their curling idols, coaches and local curling center members for their support and inspiration; and, who aspire to one day be in a position to play a positive role model to the next generation of young curlers.”