Youth enjoy a rockin’ good time

Influx of young curlers helping to rejuvenate the Ponoka Curling Club

By Dale Cory

Judging from the smiling faces, it’s obvious the young curlers participating in the Kids Learn to Curl program are enjoying themselves.

“I’m out here because it’s fun, and it’s very interesting,” says new curler Cassidy Campbell. “I don’t usually go on the ice, so this is helping my balance.”

Even though they had just completed a full day of classes in elementary and middle school, the 48 kids signed up to take part in the Learn to Curl program were ‘back in class’ Nov. 24, eager to learn more about a sport which produced gold and silver medals — both by Albertans — at the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver.

“The main positive thing about curling in Ponoka is that the kids want to curl,” says organizer Barry Neath. “All of our sheets are full. We’re at about 16 second- and third-year kids, and all the rest are brand new curlers just learning the game. They are all doing well. We’re extremely happy.”

The new curlers, ranging in age from seven to 14-years, attend curling classes every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex, learning the finer points about the game from some of the veteran curlers in the club.

“We try to get them comfortable with walking up and down the ice, sliding out with the rock, and controlling the rock,” says Neath. “We teach them the in-turn and the out-turn and how to aim at the broom.

“They get to the point where they can throw the rocks all the way down the ice, then they start playing games after Christmas.”

Campbell, 10, is one of those first-year curlers. Campbell fell off her horse three months ago, breaking her wrist. She fell again while skating recently, and re-injured the wrist. So, being out on the curling ice is giving Campbell some much-needed confidence.

“She couldn’t even walk out onto the ice the first time. Now, she’s out there going like crazy,” says Neath, who has taken a particular interest is seeing young Cassidy learn more about a game that is part athletics, and part chess on ice. “It’s an excellent program and good for the young kids. It’s great to see them out there.”

Campbell was attending her fourth curling session Nov. 24, and is confident she can talk curling strategy with the likes of Olympians Kevin Martin and Cheryl Bernard.

“I know how to do the out-turn and in-turn from watching the Olympics on TV. My dad is a good curler, and so is my whole family,” says Cassidy. “Sliding with the rock is getting easier. The toughest part is the sliding.”

So, has the Ponoka Curling Club gained a lifelong member in Cassidy Campbell?

“Yes. I think I’m going to keep going with it. It’s really fun.”

For more information on the Ponoka Curling Club’s Learn to Curl program, call Neath at 403-783-7410.