Curling among youth is gaining traction in the province, in no small part to the host of coaches, volunteers, clubs, and parents working to develop the sport from the ground up. It’s also received a big boost with new initiatives from CurlSask, whose efforts to bolster the sport are reaping rewards.
In those efforts, Humboldt, Muenster and the surrounding area is becoming one of the province's hotbeds for youth curling development. The introduction of a brand new event in Humboldt, the CurlSask U12 Triples Cup on March 11-12 at the Humboldt Curling Club, is just one of those initiatives. The spiel will take place in tandem with the already established U15 Triples Cup.
Local youth curlers have stepped up to the challenge in a big way. Payton Muggli of Muenster curls on a squad of three in the new triples format. Already she has been to competitions across the province, including last month's provincials held at the prestigious Caledonian Curling Club in Regina. Along with teammates Kaylee Bernhard, McKenna Hogemann, and coach Amy Hogemann, Muggli has captured an A-side win at a Triples spiel in Prince Albert, and they launched themselves into the playoff round at provincials.
“When I was about four or five, my dad took me to the rink because Gord (Kiefer) and he were working on it,” Muggli recalls as she recounts her start in the sport. “They got me to throw a few rocks because I’d never done it before, but I just fell in love with it.”
That’s the way it is with a lot of kids whose parents and club supporters usher them into their first time on the pebbled ice. While there are plenty of after school leagues and CurlSask sponsored clinics, along with youth opportunities like Corr Grains Community Rocks with Kirk Muyres and Laura Walker, interest at the U15 and U18 competitive levels was waning. That’s why the Triples format and the new U12 category has been established, explains CurlSask’s Community Development Manager Dustin Mikush.
“The Triples format is super-developmental, especially at the young age and stage of U12 and U15,” outlines Mikush. “Essentially, the three players rotate their positions every two ends, so they are able to learn all aspects of the game. It can also be played at the adult level as well; it’s a great way to learn all the positions. We do have some clubs starting to incorporate the Triples format into their leagues.”
The other attractive feature is the scoring. Much like a match or skins game, points are awarded for winning a pair of ends. Set scoring for ends one and two gets you two points, and it’s the same for ends three and four. The final set of two ends in the six-end matches is with four points, so there is less chance of a run-away score.
After playing in school leagues, Muggli, Hogemann and Bernhard were guided into the provincial Triples sphere by coach Amy Hogemann. Muggli says the events, scattered throughout the province, offered a chance to play against new players and test new skills and strategies. Its appeal has spun down to Payton’s younger brother, Cooper Muggli, who hopes to get involved in the upcoming U12 Humboldt event.
“I’m feeling excited for it - I’m really ready for it.” Cooper said when asked about being part of the inaugural event in Humboldt.
Cooper’s sister agrees that there are advantages in competing on home ground.
“It’s going to be really good because we know the ice, we know what to expect, so it’s going to be great.”
The Triples format youth strategy is having a definite impact on participation, says Mikush, as events have taken hold in locations like Humboldt, Estevan, Prince Albert and other centres.
“We have noticed an increase in our youth numbers. We had a couple of spiels last year, and they were actually cancelled because of no entries. This year we ran a Triples format, and we had nine teams. Another in PA had two entries last year and this year it increased to ten. We’re seeing the growth and excitement in the U15 numbers.”
That energy has already translated to increased U18 participation in spiels and provincials. It’s seen the emergence of new regional teams like local contenders Team Luciano, helmed by Ashton Luciano of Watson. With the help of coach Kal Lefebvre, members Ethan Fleischhacker of Humboldt, Hudson Ilg of Muenster, and Reid Hoppe of Bruno, along with skip Luciano, have coalesced into a team of note. Luciano talks about his engagement with the sport and his new team.\
“One day I was watching curling (on TV), I thought, I want to do that. I talked to coach Kal (Lefebvre), and he said we could probably start up some curling, and I jumped right on that. Then last year, one of my buddies from Humboldt (Fleischhacker) and I wanted to get a competitive team going, so we hunted down a few kids who wanted to go competitive too, and we started building our team to where we are now.”
Where they are is in the midst of a competitive curling renaissance among youth in the province, all looking forward to developing skills and testing themselves against other like-minded enthusiasts. It’s new events like the Triples Cup in Humboldt that are helping to do that, along with the support of everyone involved, including team sponsors like Grey Barn Handwerk.
“We did get team hoodies and team water bottles made by Loriann Wuchner at Grey Barn Handwerk,” said Payton Muggli. “It was very special to us because then we were known and we have the symbol that we did this.”
The great feature of the new Triples format is that players can enter as teams or individuals, and organizers will make efforts to find single players a squad. Registration for the Humboldt events is on now until February 27. All the information and registration links for the event are at CurlSask.ca.