Key things that make Optimist Junior Interclub Curling League so successful
1. Each kid gets to be on a team, this is extremely important to kids this age.
2. Going on a road trip, those seem to be our best memories of junior curling even when a road trip is just 30 minutes to the next town.
3. Wearing a uniform like matching sweatshirts or something they are each likely to have in their closets.
4. You don’t have to be bigger, stronger or faster to go from playground to podium in curling. Imagine, the Olympics!
5. Every player contributes 25% of the team effort on every play for 100% of the game. No kid waits during a play while his or her teammates participate.
6. At the league, one of the coordinators takes the trouble to go around during each game to interview every curler and record their name, confirm the correct spelling and pronunciation. I don’t know of any other sport that does this for each and every game. It makes each kid important and I’m certain it is one of the main reasons for our growth to as many as 56 teams with 250 kids over our 19+ years.
7. We have maintained a photo album of action shots and team photos since day one and the photo albums are on display for every league game.
8. At windup, every team plays in the semi-finals and in the finals, no one sits out, they play off for 3rd and 4th or 1st and 2nd in each block.
9. At the windup banquet, every kid gets a “Winners” pennant with his or her final standing sticker on it. Every kid gets a team photo. Every team gets a small plaque to put on display at their home club. Every 4th team gets their names on a perpetual wall plaque. Every 12th team gets a large banner to proudly display permanently at their home club.
10. We have a 5 to 10 minute coaches meeting within 30 minutes of the start of every game to discuss current issues and scheduling.
11. Teams are seeded before their first game of the season, based on skill level from “just learned to curl 10 minutes ago” to “experienced”.
12. Teams are placed in blocks of 4 for a 3-game round robin after which one team moves up and one team moves down (based on the 70% success formula). It would be good if you can start with 8 teams but even two blocks of 3 would work just fine.
13. We ask the kids a lot about what they like about Interclub, they give different answers than the parents and coaches.
14. The kids like to keep score and know their standings. Even if the numbers don’t look good, kids just love numbers.
15. Kids like competition so we try to get them in the league right at the beginning of their first year. After all, a curling game is a competition. This is good for building the league and seeding it with future curlers. Interclub leagues for just competitive juniors have not been able to keep their momentum going after a few seasons.
16. The main thing we want to get the kids thinking is “The curling rink is a fun place to be.”
17. We have learned that kids are really having fun when they are mastering a new skill like “sliding without falling” and “getting a rock over the 2nd hog line” and “brushing”. Listen to what the kids say to their parents after the game.
18. Kids that return to the program each year give reasons like well organized, being able to play on a set team and getting to play new kids from all over including U.S.A.
19. We’ve had a mandate since the beginning that only a local club Youth Curling Coordinator could enter a team in Optimist Junior Interclub. That way, kids and teams could not circumvent their local junior programs but would have to join one and help build their own program before they could play in Optimist Junior Interclub.
20. Now, the word seems to be out that Optimist Junior Interclub is a terrific concept and local clubs like yours are interested in the formula.
21. Optimist International’s motto is “Bringing Out The Best in Kids” and the Optimist Clubs make a perfect sponsor for our programs. Learn all about it at www.optimist.org and www.optimistjuniorcurling.ca.
22. May is a good time of the year to get junior coordinators to line up their kids for next year. This may seem surprising but it has turned out to be the best time of year for a couple of the most successful junior programs I know.
Perhaps we could arrange for me to meet with your junior program volunteers – maybe a Saturday for an hour or two might work? My phone number is 604-533-2839 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Kersey, OJI Board