Growing the grassroots game!

Approximately 200 youth from London, Ont., experienced curling for the first time in the lead-up to the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier during a learn-to-curl session at the St. Thomas Curling Club. (Photo, Curling Canada/CVD Photography)

Curling Canada’s Rock-Solid partnership for youth impacts in curling

This has been an incredible season chockful of exciting youth engagement opportunities, in schools, on the ice, and in the arena. Through Curling Canada’s partnership with Rock Solid Productions Inc. and thanks to the philanthropic support of the Canada-wide curling community, we have been able to create thousands of meaningful (and memorable!) opportunities for youth from coast to coast.

Each year, the impacts achieved through this youth-focused partnership help create new grassroots participation momentum, offer sustainable programming opportunities and foster greater curling exposure to a more diverse representation of young Canadians.

The 2022-23 season was no exception. Here’s a look at some of the key initiatives that were jointly delivered through Curling Canada’s For the Love of Curling program and Rock Solid Productions:

FloorCurl Equipment for school in rural Labrador

Stephanie Nadeau, a Grade 1 teacher at Labrador Straits Academy located in L’Anse Au Loup in the Labrador Straits, has had a deep love of curling for years. For the past several years, she had to get creative to find ways to introduce curling to her students but was never able to fund the purchase of FloorCurl equipment. Once we learned about her passion to share her love of the game, plans were set in motion to ensure her students got some equipment of their own. Ms. Nadeau has since run the first-ever FloorCurl Tournament at Labrador Straits Academy, complete with her own homemade trophy for the champions.

Youth Engagement Initiatives in Kamloops Lead Up to the Scotties

Scotties athletes visited several schools during the lead-up to the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, B.C. (Photo, Curling Canada/Jamie Allen)

In February, athletes participating in the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts won the hearts of hundreds of school-aged kids by stepping up to help them learn about the sport after participating in Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings, presented by Curling Canada, through sessions at several Kamloops schools. Players from teams such as New Brunswick, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and Canada engaged with students at the schools by taking them through fun lessons and challenges to get them excited about curling.

The Scotties sessions were part of a more extensive program in Kamloops that lasted several weeks.

“We put a high priority focus on engaging families and making sure curling was front and centre with youth at our Season of Champions events,” said Brodie Bazinet, For the Love of Curling Foundation and Philanthropic Program Manager. “We gifted 554 complimentary Scotties opening weekend tickets to kids and their parents, in an effort to invite them into our sport and ensure they were able to experience a live Canadian curling championship taking place in their own community.”

“Reaching as many families as we could was the goal,” added Abbie Darnley, program director of the Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings program. “We started in schools the day after Christmas break and went right up to the start of the Scotties. We reached close to 3,000 students throughout Kamloops with over 7,500 curling experiences.”

Youth engagement initiatives leading up to the Tim Hortons Brier in London

Approximately 200 students learned to curl with Tim Hortons Brier athletes prior to the event in London, Ont. (Photo, Curling Canada/CVD Photography)

In continuing with the youth engagement initiatives at Canadian curling championships, youth in London, Ont., the site of the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, were presented with a number of incredible curling experiences. 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 students and their families interested in trying curling for the first time.

Tim Hortons Brier athletes participated in separate on-ice learn-to-curl session at St. Thomas Curling Club on March 2, where 200 students had their first curling experiences – an enormous success for both the athletes and youth trying out the sport. 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.

Indigenous-focused school experiences curling in school and on-ice

Students at Kapapamahchakwew – Wandering Spirit School in Toronto experienced a week of fun in December with an introduction to the sport of curling. (Photo, Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings)

Students at Kapapamahchakwew – Wandering Spirit School in Toronto experienced a week of fun in December with an introduction to the sport of curling. Students in Grades 5-8 first experienced curling off the ice through Rocks & Rings in their own school gym. They were then welcomed for a morning of on-ice instruction at the historic Royal Canadian Curling Club. Instructors included Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings staff as well as volunteers from the curling club who all donated their time to this initiative intended to introduce more Indigenous youth to the sport. Kapapamahchakwew – Wandering Spirit School provides an opportunity for Indigenous youth to learn about Anishinaabe cultural traditions.

Chief Jacob Bearspaw School Experiences Rocks & Rings

For the Love of Curling and Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings provided a program to students at Chief Jacob Bearspaw School in Eden Valley, Alta. (Photo, Chris Germiniano/Chief Bearspaw School)

Chief Jacob Bearspaw School in Eden Valley, Alta., an Indigenous-focused school that works hard to help preserve traditional practices while making the most of new educational practices and technologies, expressed interest in attending Banff’s Curling Day in Canada celebrations.

However, the logistics of the field trip were proving difficult. Through our For the Love of Curling program and led by Rock Solid Productions, a special Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings program was scheduled for the school to make sure the students’ interest in curling was nurtured.

Chris Geminiano, the school’s Physical Education Teacher and Athletic Coordinator, spoke to the students’ experience. “We want to thank Rocks & Rings for introducing curling to our community. The students really enjoyed it, and were engaged and picking up the concepts of the game, so that was really neat to see,” Geminiano said, before adding, “The Rocks & Rings program is a great way to bring grassroots curling to various schools and communities. It was a wonderful experience, and I know that some of our students are now keen to try curling on the ice.”

Rocks & Rings at Niagara Children’s Centre in St. Catharines, Ont.

Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings visited the Niagara Children’s Centre to curling with FloorCurl equipment complete with adaptive pusher sticks. (Photo, Carly Hildner-McGunnigle/Niagara Children’s Centre)

The Niagara Children’s Centre provides individualized education and therapeutic programming in small group settings to children and youth with multi-learning and physical exceptionalities. On March 30, an Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings instructor visited the school for the day to introduce students to curling with FloorCurl equipment. Complete with adaptive pusher sticks, the equipment allows anyone to deliver stones from a standing or seated position making it the perfect inclusive activity for groups with mixed abilities.

Carly Hildner-McGunnigle, a teacher at Niagara Children’s Centre, shared some glowing reviews from her students. “They absolutely loved the program,” she said, adding that the students’ enthusiasm was made clear when they began using their speech-generating devices to cheer their fellow students on, saying “That was great!” and using their own ramps to deliver stones towards the target mats.

We know now more than ever that participation in sport is integral to creating a better future for our youth—and, that by engaging youth from diverse backgrounds we are also building a more empowered and inclusive curling community of tomorrow.  

These examples are just a drop in the bucket of what’s been made possible thanks to the generousity of Canada’s curling community. Through our For the Love of Curling program and our partnership with Rock Solid Productions, we remain committed to growing the sport and creating meaningful opportunities for youth who may not otherwise experience curling.

We cannot wait to see what will be made possible next season.