By Sean Rooney on October 6, 2016.
Growing up in Grande Prairie, Cheryl Bernard remembers her first time trying to curl.
“I was still pretty young and small but they said ‘if you can get the rock down to the other end of the sheet, you can play,'” said the 2010 Olympic silver medalist. “So I put both feet in the hack and shoved as hard as I could, and that was it.
“I never looked back.”
Now retired, Bernard wants to provide first experiences for a new generation of curlers. On Saturday, Nov. 19, she will be front and centre at The School of Rocks youth camp at the Medicine Hat Curling Club.
“This is the first year, it was kind of New Holland that came to me,” said the 50-year-old, whose last competitive game came in 2014. “They said they’d like to offer something to the rural communities. I’m excited about it because a lot of time the smaller towns don’t get many opportunities like this.”
Granted, Medicine Hat does have its annual Jampail Bonspiel each spring and there are indeed learn to curl programs at the local club. But having an Olympian and a big event early in the season will hopefully spur a lot of conversations between campers and their parents.
“The whole intent of it is if we could get 20 per cent of those kids that sign up to go to their mom after and say ‘you know what, I love this and I want to sign up,’ then we’ve done our job,” said Bernard.
Kids aged six to 15 years old can sign up at newhollandcurling.com. The camp costs $25, includes a shirt and gift bag and lasts two hours, with three age group sessions planned.
Bernard ran a similar camp in Calgary a couple weeks ago and had 150 participants. She had parents coming up to her by the end asking if they could have a camp too.
She knows times have changed a bit, recalling that her early days in Grande Prairie were sport by osmosis, not destination.
“My generation, a lot of us curled because my parents played,” she said. “I grew up, the curling club was my babysitter. They’d take us in there on Saturday morning and play and we’d run around the club all day. I remember begging when I was six to play, and they’re like ‘no, you don’t start that young.'”
She started at eight. With so many opportunities in sport for kids, curling in Canada has worked hard to be top of mind for those looking for something to do in the winter.
“Curling is one of the cheapest sports, it’s life-long, you can play forever,” noted Bernard. “You’re trying to get your kids in something that they obtain social skills and learn teamwork and they can do it the rest of their life.
Registration deadline is Nov. 10.