Junior curlers now have the opportunity to take their skills to the next level at a new junior curling academy run by the Red Deer Curling Centre.
The Junior Curling Academy, which kicked off for the first time in October, offers full instruction all season by level II curling instructors.
Level II Coach Kerry Drummond, who runs the academy, said the program provides young curlers, ages 12 to 18, with detailed technical instruction on all aspects of the game. This includes strategy and video analysis.
“We give them as much information as we can so they can get to the next level,” he said. “They are all keen and they are all competitive.”
Red Deer’s curling centre offers a top-notch facility, he said. The idea is to keep up with the junior clubs in Edmonton and Calgary.
“We are tweaking their slides. We’re incorporating speed traps, so there are speed timers out on the ice so that they have a rough idea of what kind of weight they are throwing, just so when they go to play a game all these drills that we are doing in practice relates to the game,” Drummond explained.
The instruction is tailored toward making the curlers more competitive when they play a game, he said.
“They all know what they are meant to be doing in practice. So they know exactly what they’ve got to be working on and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
The academy, which runs Mondays and Wednesdays after school, has specific goals on each day.
The junior curlers are instructed to carry out the session as though they are competing in a bonspiel. This will ensure they are prepared when they do compete, Drummond explained.
Sessions on Wednesday provide in-depth technical coaching.
“The kids love it because they are there to learn and want to be competing,” he said, adding many of the academy curlers compete in the Alberta Junior Curling Tour.
“We’re all qualified level two coaches, so it’s not as if we are just volunteers. We are giving our time to give them what they want to improve.”
A girls team, Team Claire Booth, competed in the Canada Games tryouts. Booth, who is now 15, said she began curling in junior rocks when she was seven. She sees the league as a way to progress her curling career.
“It’s going really well,” she said. “It’s really nice to have coaching on the ice and other teams to compete against.”
She added, “Before it was just kind of volunteer parents and this year it is really experienced coaches that can help us and give us advice to progress.”
Making it to the Canada Winter Games tryouts was a highlight, she said.
“We lost a really close game. But it was really exciting.”