Curling is the sort of sport that can be casual or competitive, and helping youth learn the skills while young gives them the best shot at both worlds.
Jacquie Dennis, Christine Erichsen and Barry Jones coach the Stettler Curling Club’s youth programs, which includes Learn to Curl and the youth group, made up of kids in Grade 3 and up. The youth clubs meet on Monday nights at 7 p.m. at the Stettler Curling Club.
Erichsen has been coaching for the past two years after getting involved when her son did.
“I’m passionate about curling,” she said. “I took my son out (curling) and it was just him and I. Then they asked me to help coach. I stuck with it.”
Erichsen grew up in the Stettler area, but moved away to go to school and curl competitively.
“I love the sport,” she said. “It’s one of those things that gets a lot of attention in the cities. There’s a lot of coaching and a lot of opportunities that you just don’t get here.”
That’s one of the reasons why Erichsen said she loves coaching the youngsters.
“I don’t want them to be disadvantaged because they live here,” she said. “Its definitely not as easy as it looks. The technical skills are really underestimated. If people don’t learn the fundamentals, they won’t ever be good at it.”
For Erichsen, the team camaraderie, the exercise and the cool air was part of the attraction to the sport. The rest was the broad skillset necessary to be a contender in the sport.
“You need to have strength,” she said. “The sweeping is a real workout. The physical skills and technical skills are quite intricate. The other end of it that I love is the strategy.”
Sometimes teaching the youth that strategy is a challenge, because “all they want to do is throw rocks,” but Erichsen perseveres.
“You never stop learning new things when it comes to strategy,” she said.
The next Learn to Curl youth program starts in January and runs until the end of the curling season. Right now, there’s 14 kids in the program.
The youth program has about 30 kids, but more are joining every day, Dennis said.
“We just had a few sign up,” she said.
Jen Williams’ son Lane was on the sheet curling as his mother watched from the gallery. It’s his third year curling, after his grandfather got him interested in the sport – remembering his world curling championship days.
“(Lane) is really good at it so he likes it,” Williams said with a laugh. “It’s a really good sport. It’s not super competitive, and they get lots of chances for bonspiels and teamwork.”
Williams had nothing but praise for the youth league organizers, who keep things moving at a brisk pace.
“It’s a really good group,” Williams said. “They’re really well organized. Jacquie (Dennis) does a great job organizing it all.”