For the Kids!
Tons of new activities to engage students at 2023 Tim Hortons Brier
It wasn’t that long ago, 20-year-old Newfoundland & Labrador skip Nathan Young was a youth curler with eyes wide open watching his curling idols compete at national championships.
Despite his age – the skip will be competing at the New Holland Canadian Juniors later this season – he’s on his way to becoming a veteran at the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, making his second appearance at the national men’s curling championship at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont., and competing against the teams from whom he once drew inspiration.
Young and his teammates from St. John’s, N.L., remember how valuable those experiences were and jumped at the opportunity to meet with local Grade 5-8 students from the London area for an on-ice Learn to Curl session at the St. Thomas Curling Club. Team Newfoundland and Labrador were one of many teams to meet with the students and introduce them to the game.
“The energy there was great. Most of them hadn’t curled before and you could tell they were taking so well to the sport,” Young said. “Everyone seemed to learn a lot. Then we were asked did we learn anything from the students? And we said that the fun and enjoyment they were having on the ice is something we want to take onto the ice with us at the Brier.”
About 200 students had their first curling experiences, which was an enormous success for both the athletes and youth trying out the sport. The program’s goal is to offer students who have never tried the sport before, new opportunities to get involved in the game over the long term.
“I hope they do [keep curling]. The enjoyment and the fun that was going on there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. The more people we can get to try curling, the better it will be,” said Young, a For the Love of Curling scholarship recipient and gold-medal winner in mixed doubles at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Young is onto something, which is why the on-ice sessions are part of a new larger youth initiative developed by Curling Canada in association with its partner, Rock Solid Productions and their Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings program. The joint initiative is finding students and families new to curling and teaching them about the sport through gymnasium sessions in schools, on the ice in curling clubs and inside Budweiser Gardens, where 18 men’s curling teams are vying for a national men’s championship. The goal is to use this significant curling event as a jumpstart to make new connections with non-curlers in the city.
“The excitement of a major curling event coming to a community gives us the chance to build on the momentum and engage a much broader demographic, especially with youth who may not yet have been presented with the opportunity to try our great sport,” said Brodie Bazinet, manager of Curling Canada’s philanthropic For the Love of Curling program, which seeks to create meaningful opportunities through sport for youth of all backgrounds and supports young curlers throughout their curling journey. “Curling is a fun, challenging, and excellent choice of sport for all ages and abilities. By introducing youth to the sport through gym sessions, in the classrooms and on the ice, we’re bolstering community awareness and participation in curling.”
Peel back the layers from the event – beyond the on-ice action, the Original 16 Patch and the excitement of meeting some of the most notable curlers in Canada – are new programs that will leave a lasting impact on youth in the city well beyond when the Tim Hortons Brier wraps up next Sunday, March 12.
More youth involved in curling now leads to a more robust sport in the future. Using Curling Canada’s largest national championship as a platform, Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings delivered an astounding 15,159 curling experiences to London youth over 88 days leading up to the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier. Thirty-two London-area schools participated in the program, which involved students trying their hands at floor curling in school gymnasiums and experiencing the fun of the sport in an iceless environment.
“We are thrilled with the reach and experiences we could provide for London area students”, said Abbie Darnley, Program Director of Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings presented by Curling Canada. “We continually strive to find new and innovative ways to teach students about the sport of curling in the school setting every year. We’re proud to partner with Curling Canada on their major events to increase their exposure through local schools.”
Four curling facilities in the area – Ilderton Curling Club, Highland Community Curling Club, London Curling Club and St. Thomas Curling Club – hosted jam-packed on-ice Try Curling sessions for families and students interested in trying curling for the first time. Through these new initiatives leading up to the event, hundreds of families are now connected to local curling facilities, opening up the doors for opportunities to continue their experiences on the curling ice.
Curling Canada gave 1,500 free tickets to families who participated in any programming leading up to the Tim Hortons Brier, allowing them the chance to get into the venue for plenty of ongoing activities for youth, including the For the Love of Curling challenge. The challenge engages kids through a fun in-seat game as well as several exciting opportunities to test their curling knowledge and try fun activities such as curling yoga and floor curling right in the Budweiser Gardens concourse.
Another 5,000 students brought Budweiser Gardens to life during the weekday morning draws with daily school visits to see the Tim Hortons Brier athletes in action. Students have in-venue activities and games to complete while watching the curling and Curling Canada mascot, Slider, making it one of the year’s most fun and entertaining school field trips.
Curling Canada also opened its doors to new and experienced youth curlers to try out the championship ice. Member Association CurlON brought youth curlers from around the province to the opening weekend for its provincial Hit, Draw, Tap competition. The skills competition challenges young curlers to earn points by making the three namesake shots for a chance to win a provincial title while also developing the skills of youth curlers who aspire to one day represent their province – and even country – at curling events. All competitors and their families enjoyed free tickets to a draw on the same day.
It’s the second youth outreach program Curling Canada ran during the 2022-23 season. At the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, athletes met with students at schools in the community for Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings sessions. The students also received free tickets to see a draw and take part in the same fun in-venue activities.