Time to put fun back in junior curling

JOE PAVIA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

OTTAWA - The roaring game just might have become a bit too serious for its own good in the junior ranks.

Very few teams in the region have entered the junior zone playdowns this weekend. The same holds true across Ontario.

Maybe we have to rethink how we promote youth curling.

Any adult who just wants to have a fun night out throwing a few rocks once or twice a week can easily find a place to play.

Teens don't have the same options. Young curlers are almost forced to take the competitive route, making a game that is supposed to be fun a pressure-packed experience instead.

Rather than just getting together and playing, young competitive curlers have to worry about finding a team, finding a coach, finding a place to practise, finding sponsors. As a result, clubs are now finding the participation numbers dropping.

Not every young person wants to be an elite curler. When curling becomes like a job, it turns many potential players off.

There are no youth leagues available to play in just for fun. If there were such league, they should have no coaches, no strategy boards, no fourth-end break huddles, no plastic containers allowed. There should be a more relaxed attitude so players don't feel like they're being punished for making mistakes (even if they don't learn from them).

In short, it's time to give young players the opportunity to enjoy curling for curling's sake -- not for elite glory.

A wise idea might be to have an east and west league with a city-wide playoff. To encourage single players to join, no fixed teams should be allowed. Each person would play with different people every week, allowing players of all backgrounds to get to know one another and encourage a more sociable atmosphere.

One more thing: There should be a bouncer at the doors to the ice so parents can't interfere. Blast some music. Give fun every opportunity to erupt. Don't even think of zones. The participation numbers just might climb.

CITY BONSPIEL CHANGES

The OVCA has announced some changes to the City of Ottawa Men's Bonspiel. The title sponsor is now Alexander Keith's. The grand aggregate winner will win up to $8,000 in cash, and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes is available based on full entry. The Friday night dinner has been replaced by a more informal reception closer to downtown and a Thursday night social. The bonspiel runs March 14-18.

END NOTES

The Ottawa Tankard Tune-up cashspiel takes place this weekend at the Ottawa Curling Club ... Norway won gold at last weekend's Cathy Kerr Memorial bonspiel, defeating the defending champions from Quebec ... The 2012 Women of Curling calendar is shipping out this week. Ottawa's Emma Miskew is one of the models ... Miskew's teammates, Rachel Homan and Alison Kreviazuk, are back from a fourth-place finish (8-5 record) at the Canadian Mixed, where they curled with Homan's brother Mark and Brian Fleischhaker. Saskatchewan beat Alberta in the final.


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