League lets university students sweep away stress

By Eric MacKenzie

The Ottawa Curling Club has created a new league that allows post-secondary students to put the stress of their school work on ice.

The non-competitive league is open to all university and college students, no matter what their skill or experience level.

“We ended up getting lots of rentals from students who had never curled before,” says Joe Pavia, the club’s director of business development. More students took an interest in curling during this year’s Winter Olympics, he says.

“We figured if we had a more structured environment where they could learn the fundamentals of the game they would enjoy it more.”

The league meets on Sunday nights and different teams are drawn up every week. This format works for busy students because they don’t have to put in a commitment to a set team, says Pavia.

The league also gives students a chance to unwind before heading back to another week of class.

“It’s a nice break from studying and a good way to meet other curlers who are the same age,” says University of Ottawa student Cassandra de Groot.

Carleton University student Kellen Bondy agrees.

“To get away from school and not have to worry about it for a couple of hours has been great,” she says.

League convener Earl Washburn says he is pleased with the response to the league since it started up last month.

“We’ve had a good turnout so far and everyone is enjoying it,” he says.

Some of the participants have curled for more than 10 years, while others, such as Mike Wilson, are picking up the game for the first time.

“I knew nothing when I started playing here,” says the Algonquin College student. “But now I’ve learned how to sweep, the different weights, things like that.”

Learning the basics is a challenge for Bondy as well.

“The hardest part at first is not falling over,” she says.

More experienced players skip the teams to help teach novices. De Groot has been curling for eight years, and says helping out the newer players has been refreshing for her own game.

“It really brings me back to basics and makes me think about what I’m doing,” she says.

Pavia says he is glad to see more young people taking a shine to the game.

“The stereotype that curling is only for middle-aged fat guys isn’t true,” he says. “I’m kicking myself for not picking it up when I was younger because it’s a game you can play your whole life.”

Many get the wrong impression of the sport, says University of Ottawa student Kathleen Houlahan.

“People think it’s easy, but it has to do with skill,” she says. “It’s both an intellectual and a physical game.”

But no matter how curling is perceived, there is no denying its place as a national pastime.

“You definitely feel a lot more Canadian after playing,” says Bondy.