Juniors developing passion for curling through program

Curlers are being developed at the grassroots level thanks to the Penticton Junior Curling program.

Under the watchful eye of coaches, newcomers and experienced kids learned about the sport and improved their skills every Thursday afternoon.

The weekly sessions averaged 35 kids, half of them being new to curling, such as Maia Doherty.

“It was a good experience for me,” said Doherty, a rookie who praised the coaches for helping her with technique.

Doherty enjoyed learning the sport and discovered her favorite part is delivering the rock for a head shot in the house. While it was a bit hard to learn, Doherty said she improved and wants to keep learning. She also enjoyed sweeping.

Sherrie Burechailo, organizer of the junior curling sessions, said the year was fun and she had a great time with the kids. With the help of seven coaches, Burechailo talked to the kids about the game and taught them everything they needed to know starting with the basics.

Bailey Ouellette, 15, was among the group of coaches. He said coaching the kids reminded him of when he first started five years ago.

“It was fun educating the little ones. It was fun watching them starting. At first they couldn’t even slide,” said Ouellette, who was introduced to the sport by his grandfather.

Ouellette became a better player from coaching as it helped him better understand the rules.

“I think that it’s a really fun thing to do,” he said of curling. “It gets kids into a sport that you can play pretty much forever. As you get better, it gets even better.”

Zack Kuechle, a fourth-year curler, just enjoyed being out there playing and improved his game as a skip.

“I like having last rock,” said Kuechle, who also became a better player thanks to the coaching. “They have new techniques I haven’t tried yet.”

Nate Collins, 10, enjoyed the season playing with friends. What he liked most is that it wasn’t a big competition.

“I like how it’s just for fun,” said Collins, who improved at sweeping and rock delivery. “My first year was pretty hard when I didn’t know how to do it that well. This year was easier.”

Caz Markus-Pawliuk said the season was exciting, especially since he played in bonspiels and faced strong teams.

Roan Bachmann, a second-year curler, enjoyed the bonspiel experience, too.

“I’ve got a lot better at putting weight on the rock, improved at curling the rock and sweeping,” said Bachmann.

Burechailo said some players entered adult bonspiels and played well while having fun. When asked about the improvement of the experienced players, she said, “their skills have changed, their skills have enhanced.”

“I definitely see an opportunity for us to begin to become more of a competitive club and start to take kids to more bonspiels,” she said. “If that’s the direction the kids want to go, then I’d certainly like to be able to help support that.”

Burechailo is also the local Rocks and Rinks provider visiting schools to recruit new players to the Junior Curling program.

“That’s really fun for me,” said Burechailo. “We work on enhancing their skills through the years. We start with beginner level stuff with the new ones, teach about equipment to game etiquette … rules and how to play.”

Burechailo said the newcomers began to understand the game and their skills improved.

“They are better at takeouts, they are making some really nice draws,” said Burechailo.


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