By Darren Lum
Published Oct. 31 2017
There is a saying in life that it takes a village to raise a child.
When it comes to curling in Haliburton the same logic applies except it takes a family to raise a curler.
This past Tuesday the Haliburton Curling Club’s family of adult and youth volunteer coaches were engaged with 32 young budding curlers from Grade 4 to 8 passing on their passion and teaching the basics for a foundation for a lifelong love affair with Canada’s other unofficial national sport curling during the youth curling night.
Over 20 weeks this year the elementary school aged children will be taken by bus from their school a few kilometres away to the club where they not only receive a snack and curling instruction on basics such as throwing a rock and sweeping but also develop safe habits and skill for the sport and for life.
While standing on the pebbled ice surface under the fluorescent lights Haliburton Curling Club member and volunteer coach Hugh Nichol smiles remarking how little he was needed at this youth night because of the five capable high school aged coaches mature beyond their years and eight adult coaches including him.
After five years as a volunteer coach (and now the club’s youth convenor) Nichol said the youth club offering “is an opportunity for kids to learn a sport they can play the rest of their lives. I want them to have fun. I want them to enjoy and love the sport of curling and learn the importance of teamwork because curling is all about teamwork” he said. “I always tell the kids that I coach that it takes four of you to make a shot.”
Nichol said this offering is owed to the volunteers who are the adult members the youth curlers (who receive volunteering hours for graduation from high school) and also the financial donations from the Rotary Club of Haliburton which just donated $1500 for assistance with transportation costs associated with the bus that brings the children.
For the first time the curling club is offering youth in high school an opportunity to receive instruction on a weekly basis which is every Friday from 4 p.m. to 5:30.
When asked where the idea for a Friday night for teens came from Nichol said it’s part of the process.
“It’s just a natural progression” he said. “When you build the base and get young kids involved – not all will continue to play in high school but quite a few are.”
A Grade 9 student and five-year member with the youth club is Micah Aldom who is passing on everything he knows about the sport. Teaching is rewarding and has given Aldom a greater appreciation for the guidance he received all the years at the club.
“It’s a lot harder than the coaches make it look” he said laughing. “You learn with them a lot.”
Even in competitive play there is a strong sense of community shared with players.
“You can play competitively but in the end you’re always [very respectful and friendly with the opposition] you still have fun” he said.
There is a greater emphasis on basic fundamentals he said since he started with curling at the club.
Aldom was part of a team that placed sixth in Ontario at the New Holland Provincial Elementary School Championship
He played with Jacob Dobson vice Logan Malette second and Jonah Aldom lead.
Included among the youth helpers are the four high school girls: Jessica Byers Mackenzie Tidey Destiny Wilson-Wells and Lena Haase who were coached by Nichol since Grade 6. They went on to be finalists at the GORE School Curling Provincial Championship last year Nichol said.
Nichol really loves how this youth offering generates interest.
“I see kids coming back after being through the elementary program and then when they’re in high school coming out to [get their volunteer hours] to spend time with kids and to [give] something back”he said.
The first few years the club’s youth night drew an average of 25 curlers. This year and last the club has drawn more than 30 which is a testament to the program’s effectiveness.
“I think it says a lot about the program that has been going on for a few years. Obviously the kids are having fun and that’s the key. If the kids don’t have fun and enjoy the sport they’re not going to come out. It tells us – we can always improve – we must be doing a lot of things right” he said.