The Williams Lake Curling Club is looking to ensure the long-term health of the sport locally as it has focused its attention on the future generation of curlers.
Rick Miller, a curler for roughly 15 years, took over running the WLCC’s junior and teen curling program this year and has been busy fostering what he hopes will be a lifelong love of the sport for participants.
The WLCC has struggled in recent years, as have many communities throughout Canada, promoting and garnering interest in the sport among youth.
“When I started one of the first things I did was get the phone numbers of kids who used to curl, phoned them up and asked if they’d like to curl again with the junior and teen program,” Miller said.
The club’s junior curlers, aged eight to 11, practice Mondays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., while the teen curlers, aged 12 and up, go Tuesdays from 3:45 to 5:15 p.m.
Currently, there are eight players on the teen team (six on a regular basis and two who compete at competitions) and six on the junior team.
Miller added the WLCC is playing host a record number of school visits this year, with 21 school time slots slated throughout the winter months.
“We’re hoping next to have a travelling team and a high school team so we can get to some competitions next year,” Miller said.
Miller said his focus has been on teaching the fundamentals of the game to players, such as ensuring they learn how to properly deliver a rock from the hack.
“Things like placing the proper handle so it curls the way you want and from there learning weight control,” he said.
“Everything we do is about learning something whether it’s the vocabulary, the etiquette, the rules or strategy. It really is chess on ice so there’s so much to learn, but it’s been a lot of fun teaching these kids.”
Helping Miller on the ice are coaches Brad Brown-John, who practices with the team when he is available, and teen curler Sydney Folz, who volunteers on Mondays with the junior group.
“Sydney’s great with the younger kids, has a lot of skills herself and, like having Brad, I really count on her for everything she brings to the program.”
Miller took over the program from Brian Lahue, who had coached the group previously for a number of years.
Folz, and fellow teen curling team member Thomas Kaiser, said the program is a great way to learn, and to enjoy the sport.
“I just started about three or four months ago,” Kaiser said. “But I’m loving it. I really like the strategy, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Folz said she’s currently in her third year of playing with the junior program.
“I love the strategy, without a doubt,” she said. “I wish more people my age would try out the sport. It would give me people my age to play against, which would be really nice, and I want to encourage more young people to get into the sport.”
Talana Brown-John, 10, is in her first year of curling, and said she’s having a lot of fun.
“It’s fun because I get to be on the ice, and it’s slippery and fun to slide on,” she said.
Addison Fairburn, 9, added she likes it because she gets to hang out with her friends, learn a new sport and have fun.
Tiera French, 9, said she’s really enjoying the program after just starting a month ago.
“I like it because I can spend time with friends and I’m getting to learn a whole new sport,” French said.
Caitlyn Noskey, 9, agreed with her fellow players, and added curling is now her favourite sport.
Miller, meanwhile, noted he’s extremely impressed with how quickly the players are picking up the game, and said he’s enjoying working with the group.
“It’s just a great group,” he said.
“They’re doing really, really well.”