You are (almost) never too young to start curling.
Once a week during the curling season, Lacombe Curling Club runs a junior curling program. It is well attended every week with some of the curlers as young as five years old.
Mandy Peakman, manager of the Lacombe Curling Club, said that getting and keeping young curlers involved in the sport is beneficial both for the individuals and the sport itself.
“It’s a lifelong sport,” said Peakman. “You see five-year-olds out here and then you see someone who is 85-yearsold out here. It’s investment in a physical activity for life, really.”
Peakman added that there is a social camaraderie that comes with curling, teamwork and belonging to a club. She also said it’s a good way for newcomers of any age to get involved with the community.
Lacombe’s junior curling program meets every Friday during the curling season. Most of the equipment is loaned or donated by other curlers and the juniors need to provide little equipment of their own outside a pair of runners.
Gwen Farnsworth, who has been in charge of the program for the last few years, said the children take well to the program and many keep coming back year after year.
“Curling has always tried to keep the young people involved.”
Farnsworth started helping out with the junior curling program in Lacombe since she moved here in 1998 and has been running it herself for the past four or five years.
But the program was running even before then and has been going strong for over 20 years.
Coaching the junior program seemed like a natural fit for Farnsworth, she said. She had previously worked for the Alberta Curling Federation and helped out with curling summer camps and Learn to Curl clinics for several years.
As with many coaches and instructors, Farnsworth said her favourite part of coaching is watching the progression of the players’ skills. She added that she really enjoys seeing how young curlers develop a mind for the strategy of the game.
Lacombe’s junior curling program teaches more or less the same skills that adult curlers use and practice, said Farnsworth.
The difference is the techniques and how they are taught and adapted to fit the abilities of the younger players.
For example, many young curlers have trouble throwing a rock hard enough to get it down the full sheet of ice. To remedy this problem , the junior curling program has smaller rocks for the younger curlers so they can still practice that aspect of the game.
“We modify most of it to accommodate the age group,” said Farnsworth.
During practices, the junior curlers are divided by their age groups on different sheets of the curling ice. Farnsworth said there are two main age groups, 5-11 and 12 and up.
There is more of a focus on learning than competing in the junior program, but there is some competition, said Farnsworth. At the end of the season, the younger curlers, those aged between five and 11, have a bonspiel and get a chance to test what they have learned.
As the older curlers, those aged 12 and over, don’t have the numbers for a league, they are welcome to compete in other bonspiels throughout the year, though this is independent of the program, said Farnsworth.
Farnsworth added that curling is a sport pretty much anyone can play at any age. She said that many modifications have been made to the sport to accommodate those who have mobility problems that come with age or other physical challenges.
In February of next year, Lacombe will host the Boston Pizza Cup, the Alberta Men’s Curling Championship.
Through this event, Lacombe’s young curlers and the community as a whole will get to see some of the best curlers in the world compete.
Peakman said that this is a great way to show young curlers where their skills can take them and give them exposure to the broader world of curling.