Aspiring to be a curler like those going for gold at the Winter Olympics? The Elmira Curling Club is calling youth to give the sport a whirl at a free open house event February 25.
On Sunday, youth 7 to 12 years of age are welcome to come from 1:30 to 3 p.m., followed by youth 13 to 18 years of age attending from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. to try their hand at the sport.
“We are inviting kids to come out and give curling a try, and they can learn a bit about our winter sport that’s different from hockey,” said Melody Bridgen, open house organizer. “We just want to offer something for kids that might be watching the Olympics or seeing curling on TV and might want to learn a little bit more about it.”
Youth are asked to dress warmly, wear loose comfortable clothes and bring a clean pair of running shoes. The session will be followed, appropriately enough, by hot chocolate.
“On the 25th what we will do for all of the new kids that want to give it a try is we will have a little bit of an inception chat upstairs in our lobby – just go over proper footwear and how we approach the ice, because it can be slippery,” she said. “We will give them some instruction on how to slide up there and then we will take them out on the ice so they can give it a try, with instructors there teaching them how to slide and begin to slide a rock.”
A national pastime, the sport of curling has played a special role in Bridgen’s life – she’s been involved for more than 20 years now. She encourages everyone to try it out.
“For me it’s the social aspect. It’s friendly – it doesn’t matter how well you play. Everyone can do it, whether you’re 7 years old or 90 years old,” she said. “We have many members over the years that have hit their 90s and they are still curling; they might have to do it in an alternate fashion, but its something that is available for everyone.”
“It’s just fun. We go out and we have fun and then we sit around and socialize afterwards.”
While it’s a sport for all ages, youth especially can take a liking to it. Bridgen’s own daughter has been curling in the program in Elmira for five years now.
In addition to the social aspect of the culture around curling, it compares well to the rising costs of other winter activities. The length of the season – mid-October through to April – and cost – about $100 – also stack up well, she notes.
“The fees have not changed since we started our junior program 20-plus years ago, so it’s definitely one of the low cost sports out there,” she said.
The low costs applies to the equipment, too.
“All we ask the kids to bring is a clean pair of running shoes with a good sole on them and we will supply the rest; we just ask them to dress warm because it can get cold out on the ice. Then, as they grow to like the game, they can certainly buy their own equipment, but again its one of the more inexpensive sports to play, equipment-wise.”
Split up into two youth age categories respectively, the junior curling program encompasses those 13 to 18 years of age, while the little rockers are 7 to 12 years old. A standard season will see each group active Sunday afternoons for about an hour and a half.
“We have quite a few juniors who are in competitions so they play in like the OCA events, which is the Ontario Curling Association, and we have had several who have done very well over the years,” she said.
Although there are many opportunities to be competitive, Bridgen stresses that there is no pressure to do so. If you want to just come out and have fun that is great too.
“We have many opportunities to compete, but you don’t have to compete. If you don’t like the competition aspects, there is certainly just tons of fun bonspiels to go into or just coming out Sunday and playing against friends or with friends and having fun that way. There is something for everybody.”
The Elmira Curling Club open house will run 1:30 to 3 p.m. for 7-12 year olds and 3 to 4:30 p.m. for 13 to 18 year olds on Sunday. There is no cost to take part.