Working hard, not necessarily hurrying, to kickstart curling at SAIT

First published in The Weal, March 26, 2018.

This semester, some SAIT students have attempted to grow the game of curling, participating in a post-secondary intramural league at the Garrison Curling Club.

The sport is known for its loud yells (“hurry hard” being a well-known one) by curlers directing shots, as well as surprisingly complex strategy. However, this league was largely for fun and growing the game at the post-secondary level in Calgary.

Jamie Caine, a Business Administration student, has been curling for eight years, and met most of his teammates while in other leagues at the Garrison. He curled on a team with Riley Helston, Joshua Kiist and Jack Mackinnon, who are also in Business Administration.

However, Caine said he was the “least competitive” member of his team, saying he preferred curling for fun.

On Sunday, March 18, he was the only one of his team to attend the final game of the season, because his teammates were busy at more competitive events.

The casual nature of the event was reflected by how the teams were mixed up that night. Beer and pizza was provided in the upstairs bar afterward, reflecting the deeply social nature curling is known for.

Caine said that he liked the league because there are not a lot of leagues for students in his age group.

“Once you get above 18, all of the youth programs stop, and you’re pretty much on your own to curl.”

He said he had sometimes had to curl in leagues with retirees.

Caine said that he also liked the opportunity to spread the game.

“The more people want to curl, the better.”

Amanda Ducheminsky, program coordinator at the Garrison, said the SAIT team had been “good sports” with new curlers.

“I think that’s what makes curling great, that there’s a good understanding that they’re there to have fun,” she said.

Ducheminsky set up the program in the summer due to the practical non-existence of post-secondary curling programs in Calgary.

She said that for weeks there were “barely any” teams, but eventually found six teams by January.

Simon Barrick, a kinesiology Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary who also does work for Curling Canada, said that the Garrison was offering important access to potential students.

Barrick is writing a report for Curling Canada on the state of university curling programs. He said that while some post-secondary schools have competitive teams, there is “very little” in the sense of organized teams.

“There’s no support from schools at all,” said Ducheminsky.

Curling is an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) sport, but SAIT has not had an official team for many years.

The onus has generally been on students already involved with curling to start their own clubs, but Ducheminsky and Barrick hoped this would change.

“Curling is honestly so much fun,” said Ducheminsky.

“It’s one of the sports that once you try once, you will almost 99% want to play again.”

Although the main season for the post-secondary league is now over, the Garrison is planning a bragging rights bonspiel on April 8. Only two out of four players on each team have to be students, and no experience or equipment is required, apart from a $45 per individual fee.