Junior curlers are slowly taking over the Vankleek Hill Curling Club and club members couldn’t be happier.
Coaches say parental involvement and a rising interest in the sport are behind a wave of new registrations, which have kept the ice sheets at capacity for the past few seasons.
Kelley Allen is one of eight coaches for the junior curling program and he says that the success of the program lies in the support of parents who come to the club every week to help out and cheer on the kids. For children and parents alike, he said the program has become a social experience, with a positive and festive atmosphere.
Just a few years ago, the situation was very different. Enrollment was limited to a handful of children and was steadily declining in 2009, when Joan Pearson restarted the junior curling program. She was assisted by Jamie Cunning, Annie Dion and Lyndon MacNaughton.
The program quickly swelled in popularity and for the second year in a row, the club has had to cap program enrollment to 65 children, so that it could guarantee every ice time for every child.
The kids say that they are drawn to the sport because it is fun and it gives them something to do during the cold, dark winter months.
The “Team Allen” junior girls curling team is comprised of 17-year-old Cassie Allen, her 15-year-old sister, Caitlin, 16-year-old Meghan Courtemanche and 14-year-old Natashsa Fortin. The three older members of the team have been curling together for the past eight years and they were recently joined by Fortin. For them, curling is a passion. It is also an intensive sport that demands weekly physical and mental conditioning.
In addition to curling almost every day during the season, the girls have weekly circuit training sessions and video conferences with a team psychologist to discuss strategy.
Their dedication is paying off. Last year the girls made it to the provincials with the Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute Girls Curling Team.
Thinking of taking up the sport? Meghan Courtemanche would tell you to grab a rock and go for it.
“It’s fun. Throughout the years, we have developed so many good characteristics. You will become a better person and meet so many great friends,” said Courtemanche.