As elementary school students threw their first stones on Wednesday and Thursday, Inuvik curlers are hoping it sparks a new passion for the sport.
Part of the Rocks and Rings in-school curling training session, gym teacher Nadine Wagner walked youth through the basics of the sport and helped them get their first taste of the sport. Further events held in town over the coming days will aim to spur further interest, but the school was session was a fun first toss.
“The kids really enjoyed, especially once they actually got to throw the rock,” Wagner said. “They had a great time.”
Wagner said students walked away with a basic knowledge of how to curl: the rules, the scoring and the techniques behind the sport. Though, they could always be restless.
“They like to move,” Wagner said about some jittery youth waiting their turn to throw. However, they did “really well,” she said as they waited roughly 30 minutes for their turn. Cheering while they wait helps matters, and give the students a chance to be involved as they watch their peers curl.
Facilitated through the Inuvik Curling Club, the attempt to increase interest in curling will continue with a free session on Saturday, running at the rink from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
“Any kid in this elementary school who liked curling enough can show up at the arena tomorrow,” Wagner said.
Nick Saturino, president of Inuvik Curling Club, said the group was aiming to get the program to Inuvik for years. After youth get a crash course in the support at school and at the Saturday session, they have the option to get involved with Junior Curling on Sunday.
“We’re trying to grow the sport,” he said. “Our goal is to get 200 kids in Junior Curling in the next five years.”
Exposing youth to curling will be key to the health of the sport in town moving forward, he said. It’s also something that can be played at all stages of life: Elementary school students getting started this week can play well into old age, building a lifelong pastime, he added.
Once started, there’s also a strong chance for youth curlers to head to the Canadian National Championship. The NWT can send one boys, and one girls team. A lack of players means a committed effort early could yield a good chance of being involved in the competition.
“We don’t have many kids participating unfortunately,” Saturino said. “Any four boys, or any four girls, that put a little bit of time into it, have a really shot at going to a national championship.”
That travel is a chance to see the country while curling competitively, he said. Overall, the NWT Curling Association has a five year strategic plan to get 1000 youth involved.
Meanwhile, at East Three Elementary, youth had the chance to a take a break from classes with a trip to the gym and first chance at curling, and the life skills that come with it.
“It teaches them sportsmanship, teamwork,” Nadine Wagner said.
“They actually have to work together — especially in curling you need a plan of what you’re going to do,” she said, explaining it’s never one person setting the terms of team’s strategy. “You have to have some manners in curling.”
“You never know: you might have the next (curling champ) Kevin Koe. You never know.”