Start A Program

*** We are working on site enhancements and welcome your feedback and requests. ***

*** GREAT NEWS for rural Alberta clubs. Family Curling has received sponsorship from FortisAlberta to help groups launch family curling programs at a number of locations within FortisAlberta’s service territory. Contact us if you would like to start a program! ***

Family curling is designed to provide families with both an introductory experience to curling and an ongoing opportunity to curl together. Most families will start with the short sheet stick delivery format. Once players are excited about the sport, they can enhance their experience by learning the slide delivery as a family, in a youth curling program or an adult learn to curl program also offered at the club. Throughout this, families may continue to curl in either the half or full sheet format to gain more experience and enjoy curling with each other.

Who Can Start A Program?

ANYBODY can start a family curling program. Even someone who has never curled before. Starting a program is half administrative and half on ice assistance. If you have never curled before, you can do the administrative part and find a few experienced curlers to help on ice.

The key to starting a program is bringing together a few passionate people who want to give families and youth an opportunity to curl.

To anyone considering volunteering for a family curling program, we can’t express enough how rewarding it is. It’s free fun, it really is.

We Are Here To Help

We have put a lot of work into trying to figure out how family curling should look, how to run programs, how to promote them, and how to set up a society for administration of programs (the Calgary Family Curling Association). There was enough work involved that we felt it could be a barrier for others to start up their own program, so we decided to share everything we have to make it as easy as possible for others to launch programs. (Basically, there is no point in all of us starting from scratch and duplicating effort)

How we are offering to help

1) On this page we share our experience and lessons so that you can learn from it and hopefully improve upon it.

2) We invite you to call Derek at 403-862-2550 to ask or discuss anything.

3) We will help you promote your program:

  • You can use our advertisement and signage art to send people to familycurling.com
  • People can learn about family curling and the details of your program on this site.
  • We will post information about your program on familycurling.com so they can talk to you and register.
  • If your program is within the FortisAlberta service territory, then we may be able to give you signs and delivery sticks as part of FortisAlberta’s sponsorship program.

4) If our artwork or this site can be improved to better serve your needs, we will try to fulfill any request you have. We can modify the art for you and we can change or make additions to the site for you. Please – just ask.

* There is no cost to you and no revenue to us.

Why do we want to help?

Short answer: It feels good.

Long answer: I was at a function where Bill Clinton spoke and one of his statements remains with me today. Mr. Clinton said, “I would argue that anyone who has the ability to do good and help others, has an obligation to do so.” (quoted as closely as I can remember). Familycurling.com is simply the implementation of this philosophy. The site and initiative have no revenue sources. There are no fees to you, there are no commissions from mentioning vendors who we have used. We just love the sport and believe it can enhance the lives of youth and families. That’s why this initiative exists.

Heartfelt answer: It’s an incredible feeling to see youth come to life on the ice and have fun with their families.

House vs Rental League

The first decision a passionate group of volunteers needs to make is ‘who should own the program?’. Curling clubs view leagues as either in-house leagues or rental leagues, where in-house leagues are owned and run by the club and rental leagues are just ice rental agreements from the club’s perspective.

Here are some pro’s and con’s for each:

House League
* The club is fully vested in and responsible for the success of the program
* The club may help find volunteers
* The club may help integrate family curling into a progression of programs players may enroll in
* The program falls under the club’s legal entity and insurance, which simplifies the business aspect of the program

Rental League
* A Society, bank account, insurance, and tax schedule will likely need to be setup. – which may be easier than you might expect.
* Enrollment fees will be higher with a rental league due to the cost of operating the league. (Liability and directors insurance for a league is $1000)
* Works well if one society is running programs at multiple curling clubs under one promotional effort.

Since family curling programs are an introduction to curling and a gateway into other curling programs, enrollment may fluctuate from year to year. If a curling club sees family curling as an important part of the long term sustainability of its club, then the club may not mind a few sheets going unrented in some years. They will also understand that the first year’s enrolment is hard to predict. However, if the club does not incorporate family curling into their sustainability strategy or see a moral obligation to enhance the lives of youth and families, then the non-guaranteed ice rental aspect of family curling may cause problems.

We recommend the house league model be pursued first, even if it means one or two of the family curling volunteers become board members of the club. Failing this, we would proceed with the rental league model if all levels of management and the board understand and support the program. In this case, a rental league can be a very successful model as well.

Written Proposal To A Curling Club

There are a few different types of curling clubs and facilities including:
1) A member run curling club that owns its facility
2) A multi-sport facility that rents the ice to leagues and cares about the future of curling
3) A multi-sport facility that rents the ice to leagues but primarily cares about immediate rental income and has options to repurpose the curling facility for another use if curling enrolment drops in future years.

Regardless of the type of club or facility you are approaching, it is important to meet with them in person early on. This allows them to see your passion for the program and to understand if they can count on you to fulfill your part (whatever that is determined to be). Clubs and facilities are taking a chance when a new program reserves ice, so building a relationship early is important.

Also, experience has taught us that very clear and detailed communication is important with all types of clubs and facilities and that it is essential with the third type. For this reason we have created a document template that can be provided to the curling facility to ensure there is no miss communication and that everyone within the club or facility completely understands the purpose and risks involved with the program:

Family Curling Club Proposal Sample v01.docx

Starting a family curling program is an extremely rewarding endeavor and the vast majority of curling clubs will be incredible partners to work with.

If at any time you or the club would like to talk to myself about family curling, please contact Derek Kunz at 403-862-2550.

Considerations About Program Types and Structures

When designing your program, you will want to consider the following aspects:

Format

a) Short sheet stick delivery games – This format enables players age 6 to grandparent to play fun games together on day one. The stick delivery removes the slide delivery learning curve and the 2/3rd sheet length increases the shot percentages and enable players to experience the excitement of the game.

b) family learn to slide* – A program that teaches youth age 9(?) and up, along with adults the slide delivery. This is primarily skills development with some game play.

c) full sheet slide or stick delivery games – This is a full sheet curling game format where players have the option to use either the slide or stick delivery.

* This coming season will be our first year offering a family learn to slide program. Our experience has shown us that when players have had fun playing short sheet stick delivery games, many of them want to progress into learning the slide delivery. We were originally very youth focused and believed the logical next step was for youth to join youth programs and if adults were interested, they could join an adult learn to curl program. What we now fully realize is that families joined this program as an opportunity to spend time together, which is not inline with a plan to separate youth and adults when they want to learn the slide. We now understand there is a need for a family learn to slide program and our belief is that youth will in parallel join youth programs as well.

Time

a) Day of the week – On what day and at what time will the program run?

b) Hours per ice time – Will the program be 1hr, 1.25hrs, 1.5hrs or 2hrs? Our experience has shown that 1 hour goes by very quickly, especially for older youth and that 1.5 hours can be the limit of some younger youth’s attention span. If you run one ice time, 1.5 hours seems to be the sweet spot. If you can run two ice times and have enough players, you could offer a slightly shorter time for families with younger youth and an even longer ice time for families with older youth.

c) Weeks per session – How many weeks will the program run for? E.g. 6, 7, or 8 weeks?

The answers to the questions will be influenced by the availability of ice at the club and by your target registration fee. Some clubs schedule 15 minutes between games to clean the ice. A 1.5hr ice time can fit nicely within a 2hour block schedule if 15 minutes before and after the family ice time are used for cleaning the ice.

Number Of Players Per Registration

You may use the traditional curling registration model where players register as teams of 4. However, we have seen sessions where over half of the families who register do not register 4 people. To eliminate a barrier to register, programs can accept family registrations of any number of players, with a minimum requirement of one adult and one youth.

If you accept registrations of varying size, then on a weekly basis you will arrange families to make two teams per game. E.g. A family of 4 will play a family of 3, or two families of 2 will play a family of 4, or a family of 5 will loan a player to a family of 3.

When accepting families with varying numbers of players, there will be sheets with fewer than 8 players per sheet. Some will have 8 players, while others will have 7 or 6 players.

Cost

The registration fees, especially with a house league, will primarily be influenced by the amount of ice time players receive. This is where the length of each game and the number of weeks in the session are decisions to make with care.

The cost of ice per player per session = ((number of games) x (number of hours per game) x (cost of a sheet of ice per hour)) / (average number of players per sheet)
For example: ( 7 games ) x ( 1.5 hours per game ) x ( $40 per sheet per hour ) / ( 7 players per sheet) = $60 per player

A ‘teaser’ program’s ice could cost less. For example: ( 5 games ) x ( 1 hour per game ) x ( $35 per sheet per hour ) / ( 7 players per sheet) = $25 per player

These prices are very affordable. Remember though that families have to multiply the cost by the number of family members. The first example would cost $240 for a family of 4.

Setting up a society organization to manage the league adds to the registration fees. For example, the Calgary Family Curling Association pays $1040 for an insurance policy. It raises public awareness by paying $1300 for magazine ads and nearly $2000 for street signs and banners. These expenses, combined with online registrations costs of ~$5 per player, increases the registration costs by ~$25 a player. As enrolment increases, this will hopefully drop to $15 a player. The CFCA’s registration fee for a 7 week session, with 1.5 hour games, is currently $87 per player.

Promoting Your Program

Promotion is a critical part of launching a new curling program. We are not experts, but we can share our experience and the successful versions of our artwork to help you get started.

Please feel free to use anything we are sharing, especially this site in your promotions. (There is no cost to you and no revenue for us.)

One of the most effective promotional tools we have is street signs. We studied city bylaws about sign size and location restrictions. Through the Canada post website we were able to determine which communities have the most young families. We then studied satellite views of the city trying to identify all the routes people would drive home on in hopes that most families in these communities would see our sign five minutes before they got home.

The design of the sign was a critical piece. In Calgary you need a permit for any sign over 0.6 square meters. So the sign had to be bellow this area. The dimensions of the sign had to fit evenly onto the 4×8 chloroplast panels the signs were printed on. People are driving by the signs so the font and size had to make the signs very easy to read with only a glance. The maximum size of the sign and the large font required meant we could not fill the sign with details. Instead the purpose of the sign was to raise curiosity and bring people to a website, which would provide much more information.

The first batch of signs we had printed included three different sizes, but we soon learned from deploying the signs that the largest sign was by far the easiest to read and the most effective. With this knowledge we redesigned the sign. It is legible from a significant distance.

FamilyCurling-lawn-sign-24x48-Batch-2-v01-300x600-bottom

This year we modified the signs again. As much as we really like the simplicity of the above sign, we started to feel that not all families realized a 6 year old could play and that grandparents could bring their grandchildren. As a result we added the following line at the bottom. This new design also worked well for the FortisAlberta sponsorship package.

FortisAlberta-FamilyCurling-lawn-sign-32x48-v03-front-600x238px

Printing and design is one aspect of the signs. Another important aspect is the stand. We started off with metal H stands that political signs use. Thankfully the first day we set up signs in our yard it was very windy. We quickly learned that the signs would either bend a single H stand or bend the sign itself. To compensate, we used two H stands per sign, which held the signs well. After deploying the signs for the second time we learned that, when the city bylaw referred to metal stakes being prohibited, they were referring to these H stakes we were using. So for the third deployment we built some wooden bases for half of an H stake to fit into. These work well for deployment in winter when the ground is frozen and add to the visibility of the sign.

20141024-DSC_0050_600x400px

All of the above image files, plus others, will soon be available to download here.

*** Place artwork files here ***

6.25w x 6.27h ad at 600 dpi

The downside of road signs – theft. The city tells us there are people who hate signs and make it there mission to remove them. These people often believe they know the bylaws and feel their are in the right for doing it, but in the end only caused our families to have to pay more for registration. This is the sad side of promotion. We hope that people will come to understand that we reliably deploy and retrieve all signs within two weeks and that we are not a nuisance. If it was practical, I would secure our signs with cinderblocks.

By the way, the reason metal stakes are prohibited is that these stakes, if left behind, can get caught in a city lawn mower and require the mower to go back to the shop for repairs.

Based on what we learned in our first season, our plan for next season will probably involve the following: Untapped free publicity, street signs, a larger ad in the child’s magazine, and banners on overpasses (there are some areas we can’t put street signs). We are also contemplating a ‘try curling today’ radio campaign, where people can come out to the club to give it a try.

Banner designs with sponsorship include:

2’x16′

FortisAlberta-FamilyCurling-2x16-ft-banner-v07

2’x12′

FortisAlberta-FamilyCurling-2x12-ft-banner-v07

3’x8′

FortisAlberta-FamilyCurling-3x8-ft-banner-v08

3’x6′

FortisAlberta-FamilyCurling-3x6-ft-banner-v08

… more to come

Registration Process Options

If your goal is to fill three or four sheets of ice, then over the phone registrations and manual collection of money and waivers is fine.

If you wish to run a larger program where manual registration, collection of funds, and collection of waivers is time consuming, then electronic registrations systems such as the one the Calgary Family Curling Association (CFCA) uses, will save you a tremendous amount of work. The CFCA chose to implement an electronic registration system since it was launching programs at 3+ clubs at the same time.

For the sustainability of the family curling program you wish to start, it may be a good idea to make the league as easy to run as possible. An electronic registration system will do this. However, you won’t save any time the first year since you will spend time setting up the website to look like you want it to. The second registration is when you will save the most time. An electronic registration system also gives your program a professional first impression.

Choosing a registration vendor: We are not financed in any way to make a recommendation. We did a lot of research into various systems and found that the SportsSignup product was best for the Calgary Family Curling Association. It offered both an easy to setup website and a built in registration system. It is relatively easy to use, though it takes a little while to figure out how to customize it. We will continue to use this vendor next year. However, we recognize other vendors may have improved their offerings and that we did not find all of the vendors out there, so please look around at the various options. The main point is that an electronic registration system can be an incredible asset if you are willing to put the time into setting it up.

Sports registration systems generally charge a fee per registered player and a credit card transaction fee. As a result, you will have to increase your registration price by a few dollars per player.

Tips For Running The Program

* Inevitably, there will be weeks where some family members or some families will not be able to make it. To prevent last minute disorganization and starting late, we like to send an email out to the families either the night before or that morning asking if anyone will be missing. We also ask families to arrive at least 10 minutes early, so that we have a few minutes to rearrange the team lineups. We also give them a cell number they can text if they will be there, but after the 10 minute early arrival time. This has helped us a lot.

* Although we have not figured this out ourselves, we encourage you to find a way for families to socialize off the ice. On one occasion we curled for an hour, then visited while having popcorn and hot chocolate for 45 min, and then curled for another hour. This was enjoyed by most everyone. The youth sat at one row of tables while parents sat at another, and some real socializing occurred. (Note, popcorn wasn’t good since some ended up on the floor, which ended up on the ice). During regular sessions, we have heard from some families that they are too busy to stay after and from other families that they wish families would stay and socialize. It would be great to find a compelling reason to extend the experience off ice. Be it milkshakes or a group activity of some sort.

* There are two reasons to give families off ice experience:
1) It can add to the fun of the experience and help them feel that they are a part of the curing community.
2) For financial reasons, many clubs will give popular ice times to adult leagues before they will give ice to youth programs. Simply put, adults buy alcohol afterwards, which provides much needed revenue for the club. Youth programs in turn need to find a formula where youth and families want to stay and spend more money, and feel they are getting good value for the extra cost. I.e. in a quality bowl of French fries the kids like and fun socialization.

Success Factors

If you will measure success on whether or not players had fun, then encourage on ice volunteers to celebrate shots with youth. Youth won’t really understand what a good shot is during their first few games. They won’t realize that their draw that came up short and guarded their rock is a great shot. Tell them!! high five them! Clap and draw attention to great shots! Make them feel special and successful! – this will greatly increase how much fun they have and increase their interest in the sport.

With 2/3rd stick delivery games, it is my personal belief that given the choice between a volunteer who is a high level certified coach and someone with curling experience who loves to have fun with the youth, chose the fun volunteer every time. I recognize that highly trained coaches are great for competitive youth curling and for learning to slide. However, family curling uses very little of what a coach is trained to do, since slide delivery skills are not used and strategy is very basic in these games. In fact, volunteers need to be careful not to over teach since the families are primarily there to have fun rather than to build extensive curling skills. – at least to start. (This is only my opinion and everyone is welcome to form their own)

… more to come

~50% of youth don’t play winter team sports. Our goal is to share curling with all of these youth.