How to up zone entries?

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 6:59 AM ET

At least three junior women's teams actually qualified for the 2005 provincials without playing a single game in their respective rural zones.

And only two foursomes were entered in a number of zones, including one junior men's city zone and one junior women's. That was the result of only 15 teams entering on the junior men's side and just 11 in junior women's.

And those numbers fly in the face of a number of successful junior programs, particularly in the city.

"I'm just amazed that our junior programs don't enter more teams in the zones because that's the measure of their development," Lorne Hamblin, Manitoba Curling Association president and long-time junior coach, said yesterday. "Even if they come out and get whupped in two straight, at least they can see what's needed to improve and you never know what's going to happen."

Even in his Morris hometown, Hamblin has seen the junior zone entry numbers drop from 15-20 when his son, David, was 12 to just two or three in recent seasons.

"I don't know what happened there," Hamblin said. "I'm just shocked that more of them don't play. Somewhere, we've got to get them going again."

This, of course, has been an ongoing problem for years. But it has only been recently that there has become a more distinct schism between the top junior squads and those at the next level, particularly among the junior men. And that seems to have scared some of the younger squads off. Why pay $120 just to get your butt beat? A junior men's coach once suggested offering free entry into both the zones and the Christmas bonspiel with the MCA eating those costs to invest in the future of the local game. And that is something that the MCA will consider, Hamblin said.

"I really question as to whether it's the dollar amount that's keeping them out," he said. "There's no question that some don't want to pay to get whupped twice but you have to look at it as an investment, too.

"But that's something we'll have to take a look at."

The MCA has already addressed part of the problem by establishing a high school curling program. The MCA had also introduced a successful Youth Jamboree for curlers age 16 and under but that seems to have eroded the numbers of those entering zone play even further.


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