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RODE: Red Deer’s junior curling program is bouncing back


Junior curling, much like every other sport, felt the effects of the Covid pandemic.

The numbers naturally dropped during that time, but thanks to the hard work of Lynne Entz, Brent Young and a group of dedicated volunteers, the number of kids involved in the sport has grown significantly.

“During the Covid period, we were hard-pressed to have 30 kids,” explained Young, who, along with Entz, co-coordinates the Junior Curling program, which is part of the Red Deer Curling Club and plays out of the Pidherney Centre.

“We still ran a program, although the one year it was drastically shortened when things were shut down,” said Young, who has been involved with the program for close to 10 years.

The numbers grew slowly, but last year Entz, who joined the RDCC board two years ago, came on board with the juniors and spent time going around to 11 schools in the area to promote the sport.

“A group of us took rocks on wheels, called Curling Rocks!, around to the schools and spent 30 minutes with each class, which made for long days, but we showed the sport to over 4,000 kids,” she explained. “We took 10 brooms and two sets of rocks and the outline of a house which we could tape to the floor. The little kids would get a chance to throw the rocks, and at the same time, we’d roll dodge balls, and the bigger kids would sweep it. Then we’d switch.”

Lynne and the group would also show a video of Jennifer Jones and Red Deer’s own Olympian, Jocelyn Peterman.

The time proved to be well spent.

“We had registration this year and expected around 40 kids, but the lineup never ended,” said Entz.

By the time registration day was over they had over 60 kids involved in the two programs — Lite Rocks for kids 8-11 years of age and Big Rocks for 11 and up to include Grade 12s.

“A few others trickled in and by January we had 72 kids involved,” added Entz. “We don’t turn away anyone, the main thing was to have enough brooms and shoes and coaches.”

All the kids receive a broom and shoes when they join the program and each team has at least one coach.

“The coaches and volunteers are the backbone of the program, without them we wouldn’t have a program,” said Young.

Fees are reasonable with costs around $238 for the Big Rocks and $200 for the Lite Rocks.

“Our season lasts from just after the long weekend in October to the middle of March, so that’s good,” said Young.

When Young first came on board there were over 100 kids involved.

“They would get together two days a week, but by the time I took over the numbers went down and we switched to one day a week on Mondays and it’s stayed the same,” he explained.

He added that most kids involved, which includes 15 girls among the 10 teams in the Big Rocks and 10 among the seven in the Lite Rocks, also play other sports.

“For most it’s a secondary sport, but it gives them a chance to come out, have some fun and give something new a try.”

Young looks after the Big Rocks and Entz the Lite Rocks.

“It’s great to have two people involved,” said Young. “There’s a lot of work and by splitting the two up is a big help.”

Young explained that the first four to six Mondays each season is used to teach the skills and etiquette of the game, followed by competition.

The younger group plays a slightly different game than the older one.

“Because the kids are young and smaller, they have difficulty throwing the rocks the full length, so a parent of one of the kids built an aluminum bar that we can anchor halfway down the sheet to use as a hack for the kids,” explained Entz. ” It makes it a lot easier for them. Now we’ve moved it back to three-quarters as they continue to improve.”

In fact several of the younger group have reached the point where they’ve moved into the Big Rocks.

“Their skill level improved where they can throw the full length,” said Young.

The Red Deer program may have a slightly different look next season because of a new Curling Canada Program, which is divided into skill levels instead of the Big and Lite Rocks.

“When you reach a certain level, you receive a sticker and move up,” Entz explained. “It keeps lessons consistent for the kids and the coaches. Makes everything consistent.

“There are a lot of clubs across Canada becoming involved with it and it’s something we’ll look at and look at how to make our program even better.”

Even with 72 kids involved this year, they still have room to grow.

“We could use all 12 sheets … have them all full,” said Young.

Young indicated that the program urges the kids to be involved in bonspiels when they can and to continue with the sport after graduating.

“We want the kids to go on and continue to play whether it’s in leagues or competitively.”

Red Deer Polytechnic is one area both men and women can go on and play provincially and nationally.

“They practice here after us and it would be great to have them come out and help when they can,’ said Young.

The Junior Club will host a “fun” bonspiel Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It gives the kids a chance to see what a bonspiel is all about,” said Entz. “We’ve invited teams from surrounding communities and hope to have about 20 teams.

“We’ve divided it into three skill levels … beginner, where we’ll have some fun games, intermediate and advanced. We also hope to make it an annual event.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at