Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Visiting curlers share secrets

It’s not often that two of the top curlers in all of Canada make an appearance at a small three-sheet curling club, let alone the one in Stratton.
But last Thursday, two of the country’s finest players in Reid Carruthers and Kaitlyn Lawes visited the district facility, where they had the chance to teach curlers of all ages, including students from Sturgeon Creek School in nearby Barwick.

“To have these professionals come in from Manitoba, and to teach the kids these type of skills, is a huge asset for them as it’s something that is new and different from the regular sporting scene in the schools,” said Grade 5/6 teacher Robert Kinsman.
“There are some students who are already curling here with their families on Friday night,” he noted.
“But this exposes other students to a sport that they have never seen before, and it also gives them the confidence to come out and try new things.”
The visit to Stratton by Carruthers and Lawes was the third and final stop in Northern Ontario as part of the Curl Manitoba Road Show, which also sees them visit small rural clubs in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“It was something that I thought about doing before, but Curl Manitoba came and presented this initiative to me last year and I thought it was a perfect fit,” said Carruthers, who plays second on Jeff Stoughton’s rink.
“The goal was to boost rural curling and to get a little bit of excitement and buzz in the communities, and this year the NOCA and SCA caught wind of it and we expanded into those two regions,” he added.
After teaming up with 2009 Olympic trial participant Jason Gunnlaugson for last year’s tour, Carruthers now has been paired with two-time Canadian junior curling champ Kaitlyn Lawes, who plays third for Jennifer Jones’ rink and currently skipping the team after Jones gave birth to her first child two weeks ago.
“Well, I haven’t got sick of Reid yet and he hasn’t got sick of me,” Lawes joked.
“So far, things have been going really well and we’ve been getting a lot of amazing feedbacks from the all of the clubs that we’ve been to.
“And we’ve had people of all ages getting excited about the sport again,” she enthused.
That excitement level was easy to see on the faces of the Sturgeon Creek students following the completion of their hour-long session last Thursday, especially for those who have played the game before.
“I just played when I was in junior and senior kindergarten, but now I think I’ll be playing on Friday nights here as my mom is interested in signing me up for it,” Tanner Neilson explained.
“It was a pretty fun day and I got to learn things that I didn’t really know about before, such as how to turn the rock properly,” he added.
During each of their stops on the tour, which also included visits to Keewatin and Sioux Lookout last week, Carruthers and Lawes host a number of sessions during the day, with those taking part ranging from public school students to adults who have never played before.
“One of things that we have noticed from the host communities is that they have had more interest in programs after our visits than what they had before,” Carruthers noted.
“I know last year that 100 curlers signed up as a result of our road show. And if we do this every few years, you are going to have way more curlers than we did before,” he reasoned.
“I think that’s the measure of success, and it’ll be a big positive for everyone.”
With many small clubs around the country, such as the one here in Fort Frances, often having a tough time bringing in new players to join the already established veterans of the regular weeknight leagues, both Carruthers and Lawes feel getting people hooked on the game is key to its future.
“That’s the next step into getting people in the door and have them playing for a lifetime,” Carruthers stressed.
“If we can get a few of the kids that came out here today hooked on the game and get excited about the game, I think that will be a big thing for the future,” echoed Lawes.

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