When Jessica Humphries of the Bobcaygeon Curling Club received Curling Canada’s Grassroots Youth Funding grant to develop their junior curling program in the midst of a pandemic, she knew she might have to get creative with it. “I knew it was pretty likely we wouldn’t be able to start out in the traditional way with kids joining an after school program, so I knew we would have to do some critical thinking and search for resources to help us plant the seed until we could bring the kids onto the ice to try it out.”
Humphries decided to reach out to Helen Radford, Curling Canada’s Manager of Youth Curling, for her thoughts on a live virtual program. Through their discussions, she was introduced to the Program Coordinator at Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings presented by Curling Canada, Abbie Darnley.
“I knew it would be really important to get some kind of exposure with it being an Olympic year,” said Humphries. “When I spoke with Abbie, she said they had already developed a virtual version of the Rocks & Rings program since they have also been met with the same challenges of pandemic restrictions.” The two groups worked together to run a live virtual session of Rocks & Rings for the students of Bobcaygeon Public School, which includes interactive games all centered around the sport of curling and also incorporates some provincial school curriculum. This session also had a surprise visit from Paralympic Wheelchair Curler, Jon Thurston. Students enjoyed learning about curling and wheelchair curling and hearing about Jon’s path to becoming a Paralympian.
Feedback from the school and its teachers was extremely positive, stating that the kids enjoyed the interactive games and left very excited about curling. They appreciated the added bonus of becoming much more aware of the Paralympics and its exceptional athletes.
Humphries hopes to follow up with the students when on-ice activities are ready to start up again. “The timing of this was great with the Olympics happening, so we hope that amplifies their excitement to try curling and we can take the next step in getting them on the ice when the junior program resumes.”
She also sees a classroom-based session of this nature serving as a great supplement to future junior program introductions. “I think a focused ‘what is curling’ session is something the kids really need. Some of the kids in our programs are on the ice for six weeks, but still don’t know some curling terms because they’re more there for the fun and the hot chocolate and snack they get afterwards,” Humphries remarks. “But that’s okay too. As long as we get them out there and get them started, enjoying their time each week, their interest in the game can develop from there.”
The pilot of the live virtual Rocks & Rings program was met with such positive feedback that Darnley and the team at Rocks & Rings plan to run a second session later this month, with upwards of 100+ classes joining via Zoom. “We have been helping curling clubs attract new young curlers through the Curling 101 program for many years,” Darnley said. “Now, we want to really perfect this live virtual program so that we can offer it in addition to our in-school instructional and rentals programs, as another way we can help curling clubs to grow their youth programs.”
More information on the availability of the Rocks & Rings live virtual programs will be available later this year.
Click here to learn more about Egg Farmers Rocks & Rings presented by Curling Canada and how you can bring it to your school.
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