Robert Moore students get a taste of the roaring game

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Students from grades four through six at Robert Moore School are trying their hand at curling over the next several weeks, thanks to a grant from Curling Canada.

The grants have been handed out by the organization to different groups to introduce people across the country to the winter sport.

Helen Radford, manager of Youth Curling and NextGen for Curling Canada, says after being in COVID-19 lockdown, they really want to get young people into the game of curling.

“We realized that youth sports had taken quite a hit in participation,” Radford said. “And we wanted to make sure that we’re giving young kids the opportunity to try curling. That’s the end result.”

Rebecca Tolen, youth outreach worker at Robert Moore School, applied for the grant earlier this fall.

She says it’s been a really good experience so far.

“It’s something different to get kids out,” Tolen said. “Something that we can do that’s COVID friendly, so we’re getting out of school and having some fun.”

Tolen has curled in her home community of Rainy River in the past, but not since the COVID-19 pandemic shut curling clubs down.

With the 2022 Winter Olympics on the horizon, the increased exposure to the game could make new curling fans, as well. The national curling trials just wrapped up in Saskatoon last week, and although teams from Northern Ontario were in the finals but failed to reach the ultimate goal. Team Tracy Fleury out of Sudbury and Team Brad Jacobs out of Sault Ste. Marie finished second in their respective competitions and Team Krista McCarville finished third on the women’s side.

For Radford, the important part is kids getting to have some fun with their friends.

“With kids it’s just providing them the opportunity for them to try different sports and activities,” Radford said. “And the key for us is to be able for them to do it with their friends, they can do it with their classmates, you know they’re all starting off at the same level, you know, none of them are going to be good at it. So they’re all kind of learning skills together.”

According to Tolen, some of the 80 students participating have some experience, while many others are new to the game, but almost all have been excited to play, despite how new the game is to them.

“They’re all at different levels; some have curled before, and for some this is their first opportunity to see this,” Tolen said. “We’re all over the board, but every morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays they’re coming into school [saying] ‘It’s a curling day, it’s a curling day!’ They’re really pumped to be here, so it’s awesome.”

Tolen also heaped praise on the volunteers from the Fort Frances Curling Club.

“They’re amazing,” Tolen said. “They have several volunteers that have been showing up every Tuesday and Thursday for two to three hours each time, and teaching these kids how to curl. They’ve been super patient and a lot of fun. The kids have responded really well to them.”

Tolen was also very thankful to the curling club for giving the school a good rate on ice time and help with equipment.

Some of the kids have even gotten deeper into curling as a result.

“We’ve had at least two kids sign up for youth curling,” Tolen said. “We may be getting a few more, since they seem to be really enjoying it.”

Tolen also said that transportation was one of the biggest factors in needing the grant. Buses are expensive, even as close as the school is to the curling club, so the grant from Curling Canada largely supports those costs.

Curling Canada has awarded over $200,000 in grants over the last two years, spread across Canada in almost all provinces and territories, according to Radford. She says the grants were designed to help get kids interested in curling, so they support the program over two years.

“We want to make sure that programs can get started and then continue in the following year,” she said. “After two years, they have a better chance of being sustainable.”